Head of religious sect charged with bigamy

Associated Press/February 13, 2008

Clyde Texas - The founder of the House of Yahweh religious sect remained jailed Wednesday on four counts of bigamy, officials said.

Yisrayl Hawkins was being held at the Taylor County Jail, with bail set at $10 million.

Bigamy involves having more than one spouse at the same time. Additional information about the charges was not immediately available.

Hawkins, who founded the sect in 1980 after leaving the Abilene Police Department, was arrested in Callahan County on Tuesday afternoon.

It was unclear if Hawkins had an attorney. A message could not be left at the House of Yaweh's office in Abilene on Wednesday morning.

The House of Yahweh is an Old Testament-based group with a 50-acre compound near Clyde.

Several hundred of its followers changed their last names to Hawkins in honor of its founder. Hawkins changed his name from Bill to Yisrayl in 1977.

Police have investigated members of the group before.

In July 2006, Abilene police investigated the death of a 1-month-old boy. The infant's death and burial had not been reported to authorities and an autopsy indicated the child died of malnourishment and traumatic asphyxiation. No charges have been filed in the death.

A sect member pleaded guilty to injury to a child by criminal negligence in October 2006 for performing surgery on her 7-year-old daughter, which authorities said led to her death.

Last year, another group member, Yedidiyah Hawkins, was arrested on suspicion of the sexual assault of his 14-year-old stepdaughter.

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