SUICIDE MISSION? Inside apocalyptic cult where followers were urged to kill themselves and leader abused virgin teens in desert

The US Sun/August 7, 2022

FOLLOWERS of an apocalyptic desert cult run by a man who claims he is the Son of God could kill themselves at any moment and no one could stop them.

The religious community lives in the remote and isolated valleys of the New Mexico desert, about 50 miles from the nearest town along a dirt track.

They are led by Wayne Bent, 82, who was jailed for 10 years for the sex abuse of "virgin" teens.

Bent, who changed his name to Michael Travesser, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after he was found guilty of lying naked in bed with two sisters, ages 14 and 16, in separate incidents in 2006 at his Strong City compound outside of Clayton, New Mexico.

A former church member revealed Bent had told his followers that God had ordered him to "sleep with seven virgins."

Bent has also openly admitted on camera to having sex with his son's wife multiple times because "God forced me to," saying that God made him fall to the floor and start rocking back and forth over his daughter-in-law.

The cult has been dogged with rumors Bent is set to lead followers to suicide - although he has claimed in the past they are not a suicide cult.

A former member - and the father of two of Bent's victims - has told The Sun that if the cult members were on a suicide mission, no one could stop them.

"If they all want to kill themselves they are going to do it, it doesn't matter if they are out there [pointing to the desert] or somewhere else," he said.

"If they want to do it they are going to do it. Anyone who wants to kill themselves and go to Heaven - or go on a comet somewhere - if they want to do it they are going to do it.

"When I was there he thought the end of the world was going to happen but I don't think it was a suicide thing at that point - at least it never came across to me as that, we never went down that path of like 'let's drink Kool aid.'"

He added that Bent attracted him into the cult because he was "very convincing," but now he has no contact with Bent or any of his followers.

"We haven't talked to any of them since the trial. We're out of it. He can do whatever he wants," the father said.

"They're doing their thing we're doing our thing, just letting them do their thing.

"It is what it is. Pretty much all the kids have left it's all adults out there now. 

"I learned a lot from the experience, it opened my eyes to myself so that's what I'm taking from it.

"It taught me to think for myself and not just follow what other people are saying.

"He's pretty convincing on a lot of things and lot of them [his followers] are fanatics so if they find something that goes along with what they believe already, they are going to follow it. You can make yourself believe whatever you want.

"The ones that didn't leave, it was all a decision on everyone's part.

"If you want to go down that path, you'll do it."

The cult has been the topic of many documentaries, including National Geographic's Inside A Cult: Messiah on Trial and The End of the World Cult.

In May 2007, Bent sparked fears of a mass suicide after writing on his website: "I am ready to go" and "I want to take all of my children with me."


One of his followers spoke out about her death wish in 2009 to news outlets, saying she had gone on hunger strike and did not want medical treatment unless Bent was released.

A judge later interceded and ordered she got into an ambulance and received medical attention.

The Sun revealed he had recorded a chilling video of "final words" saying he is the "Son of God" and the world will pay for how he has been treated.

In the long and rambling recording, eerily titled "Messiah's Last Words," posted online by one of his followers, Bent professed his innocence before saying: "I'm finished ... It's time for the dead to be judged."


After making derogatory comments about other churches and giving his opinions on gay marriage - which he calls an "abomination," he says: "I was put in prison and charged with crimes I didn't commit...

"I'm going on 82 years old my eyes and hearing are not strong and my brain is really not strong either.

"So with the last of my energies I want to comment on all that's happened.

"I was put in prison for a crime I didn't commit which was touching the sexual parts of minors.

"Those two minors were in court and testified that I had not committed that crime but the court lied and the prosecuting attorneys, the judge and the jury all lied.

"They gave me an 18-year sentence and suspended eight of it. I was put in prison for seven years and 42 days and it fulfilled the prophecy.

"Before that time while I was sitting in here in my home God told me I was the Messiah... but just as Jesus was crucified for his testimony I was crucified for mine...

"The world has judged itself by judging me.

"I've told people for a long time what they do to me will be done to them and so it has been.

"The government is destroyed, no president will ever be accepted, the presidency is destroyed, congress is destroyed, Washington DC is destroyed all because they destroyed me and my children and my city.


"I'm not part of them anymore, I'm not taking their shots, voting for their false prophets and fake kings. No more, I am finished.

"The devil can have it, if those people want the devil let them have it, it's ok I won't intercede any more.

"But some of you who see this video will awaken to life everlasting you won't be sleeping in the dirt anymore. Time for the dead to be judged and that judgment is now occurring. Those of you who come alive are raised from the dead."

During his trial, Bent denied the charges against his underage victims, insisting that he only placed his hands on the girls' sternums, not breasts, as part of spiritual cleansing rituals.

The younger girl said that lying naked with Bent was a "religious healing experience."

However, he was found guilty of criminal sexual contact with a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and sentenced to 10 years in prison.


He managed to secure an early release seven years into his sentence after becoming ill with skin cancer and went back to his Strong City compound and carried on preaching to his followers.

When The Sun attempted to visit Bent and his followers, the property was inaccessible to outsiders and surrounded by "No Trespassing" and "Keep out" signs.

About a dozen trailers and temporary homes could be seen setback far from the road.

Attempts to reach Wayne Bent at his two addresses in New Mexico were unsuccessful.

The Sun reached out to two of his followers, including Gabriel Travesser - who appears in the video with him - for comment, but received no reply.

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