Let us prey? Religious group defector says he escaped a cult

Fox 2, Detroit/March 1, 2021

By Rob Wolchek and David Komer

"I'm a very intelligent man. I'm a very intelligent man."

Craig claims he's not the leader of a cult, even though he has been accused of that, for years.

This is Joel.

"There's a lot of fear involved in it."

Rob Wolchek: "You got out of the cult - and you call it a cult right?"

Joel: "Yes."

Wolchek: "Is it a cult?"

Joel: "Yes it is."

And here is the reason Joel says he left - his daughter.

Wolchek: "Tell me about your daughter. What's her name?"

Joel: "Eliana."

Wolchek: "And you love her, and you love being a dad?"

Joel: "Oh yeah. I do."

Joel had a baby with Lizzie; a woman he says is still in the cult.

"I did not want a baby, I could not handle a baby," said Lizzie.

But Joel claims Craig Stasio is keeping Lizzie away.

Wolchek: "He convinced you to break up with her?"

Joel: "Yeah."

Wolchek: "Even though you love her and want to be married to her?"

Joel: "Yeah and have a family, and raise our daughter together, and yeah."

Craig says none of what Joel says is true.

"How is it I am in control of these people when they're out banging each other, living an adulterous life," Stasio said. "If I'm really this brainwash control guru, they're not living that way under my watch."

In 2014, Wolchek introduced you to a group of parents who said their young adult children had joined a Christian cult run by chiropractor Craig Stasio. 

The parents said their kids wouldn't talk to them anymore, had quit their jobs and colleges to live and work communally giving massages at Stasio's chiropractic office.

"There's a lot of speaking in tongues," said one of the member’s fathers at the time.

Wolchek tried to talk to Craig Stasio back then, but he didn't have much to say.

Craig Stasio: "You can talk to my attorney."

Wolchek: "Do you lead a cult?"

Craig Stasio: "Like I said, you can talk to my attorney."

Stasio was an unlikely Christian mentor. He had been married three times, filed bankruptcy twice and was found in violation for an incident where he admitted to the state licensing board sexual misconduct with one of his female employees.

The state disciplinary report said, "Respondent, Stasio, asked ‘WW’ to give him a massage so he could critique her technique. Stasio, respondent admitted once he and ‘WW’ were in the massage room together, respondent engaged in a sexually explicit conversation and sexual activity with ‘WW’ which resulted in respondent ejaculating on the floor."

The parents in Wolchek’s story were heartbroken.

"I want my daughter back," said Rich Fisher, one of the members’ fathers.

So imagine Wolchek’s surprise when one of the followers of Stasio he tried to talk to back in 2014, Joel, contacted Rob to tell him he had left the cult and he wanted to tell him his story. 

"There would be times when I'd see my parents and they'd be crying like, ‘What you doing there?’ and you just push it down," Joel said. "You see it with everybody. You see the flat, emotionless faces, it's because you're pushing those reactions and emotions down."

Joel says many of the same Stasio followers in Wolchek’s first story are still involved, now working together at a dental office owned by another follower of Stasio. This is video taken a couple of weeks ago.

Joel and Lizzie worked there, worshipped with the group, started dating, and Lizzie got pregnant.  

Then, he says Craig Stasio, who remember, has been accused of breaking up families for years, convinced Joel he had to break up with Lizzie.

"He'll take scripture out of context, and kind of say 'See these people gave up everything for God, so that's what you need to do.’ and ‘if you're not doing that, you're not following God.’"

But once his daughter was born, Joel bailed on Stasio and the group. He is raising the baby on his own and says Lizzie has not seen the girl in months - choosing the group over her own daughter.

"Now I'm like, forget it," Joel said. "I'm done and I'd say even more so, because I don't want my daughter in there. That is a huge thing for me too. I want her to have a normal life. I want me to have a normal life, not being brainwashed in a cult."

Wolchek called Stasio and told him of the allegations from Joel.  Stasio said he would sit down with Rob, Lizzie and Joel, but said Joel didn't "have the guts" to face him.

A week later, Joel proved him wrong.

Stasio talked about how immoral Joel and Lizzie were.

"Your lives reflect the great amount of listening you've done to me over that last ten years," Stasio said. "Your life shows how much you listen to me. Her life shows how much she listens to me. Let me show you what someone who listen to me, they don't look like you, and they don't look like her."

Craig Stasio says he denies telling Joel to break up with Lizzie, but clearly doesn't condone what they've done.

"So how is it when they want to live like animals, its okay," Stasio said. "But all of a sudden when they want to be Godly, then Craig's the bastard.

"She was promiscuous. She was flirting with every man on the planet. And would it have shocked me if the baby wasn't his? No.

"If (Joel) claims to be a Christian which he is not, he would know this. He would know that scripture says specifically you cannot claim to be a believer of God and live this lifestyle, you deceive yourself."

Wolchek: "You’re very judgmental Craig."
Craig Stasio: "I'm just quoting scripture. God is judgmental."

Wolchek: "Okay, maybe your God is judgmental."

Craig Stasio: "My God is the God of the bible."

Craig says he's not the leader of a cult, but he seems to be in command.

Wolchek asks Lizzie, "Are you following Craig right now? Are you …"

Craig Stasio: "’Are you following Craig?’"

Lizzie: "I make decisions on my own. I don't follow anyone except Yahushua."

Craig Stasio: "She means Jesus - in Hebrew."

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Wolchek: Do you consider Craig to be a prophet?"

Lizzie: "He's a minister. He's a pastor to me. He helps me read the bible but that's it."

Lizzie has another daughter from a previous marriage and says being with Joel was a big mistake.

Lizzie: "When I dated Joel he was very aggressive and intimidating to me."

So if Joel is such a bad guy, why is she letting him take care of the baby?

Lizzie: "I'm a single mom; I have a 7-year-old. To work full time, to have a 7-year-old and an infant on top of that, I don't know who could handle that."

Joel says he loves Lizzie and regrets letting Stasio talk him into breaking up with her, which Stasio denies.

"I would love for these two to reconcile their differences, to be Godly people, to get married, and to raise that child in a Godly home," Stasio said.

Wolchek: "I think that's what Joel wants."

Stasio: "He's not a Godly man, Rob."

Craig, who Wolchek guesses is a Godly man, now tries to humiliate Joel.

Stasio says to Joel, "Are you telling me that you didn't break up with her because you were afraid of her cheating on you?"

Joel: "That's what I'm telling you."

Craig Stasio: "All right, I'm going to prove you're a liar."

Craig has copies of text messages from Joel to Lizzie. Stasio hands Wolchek copies of texts between Lizzie and Joel.

Craig Stasio: "There's Joel's text, why don't you read the yellow highlighted part out loud, Rob."

Wolchek reads the text: "’I broke up with you because I didn't want you to cheat on me.’"

Wolchek: "What do you say Joel?"

Joel: "That was one of the things that you told me."

Craig Stasio: "Oh I did it now."

Joel: "You told me a bunch of things."

Craig Stasio: "Oh now he's a retarded brain kid who can't speak for himself."

Joel: "And now he's calling names. This is what he does."

But Stasio keeps up the attack on Joel.

Craig Stasio: "Did you accuse me of fathering your child?"

Joel: "I said I wasn't sure."

Craig Stasio: "Did you come after my wife and try to seduce my wife?"

Joel: "No."

Craig Stasio: "I've got a hundred people that will tell you to your face you're a liar."

Wolchek has more questions for Craig, but …

Craig Stasio: "So before you read your barrage of accusations from him. I'm really not interested."

Joel's accusations are the same as the parents about control and breaking up families.

Craig Stasio: "For you to read a laundry list of Joel Nicholas' accusations right now, Rob, I'm not interested."

Craig's explanation for those who don't like the influence they believe he has on people is what Joel told Wolchek in their meeting in a park. Craig and his followers believe he's been chosen.

"They consider what he says, as directly from the mouth of God," Joel said.

"Let's say I'm actually walking as a believer," Stasio said. "Let's say I'm actually a minister which I am, Let's say I'm a minister that God himself actually called me to be. And then you are persecuting me falsely with a bunch of pretentious garbage that none of it is true, who do you think you're attacking?" 

God? Or maybe just a very intelligent man.

Craig Stasio: "I'm a very intelligent man; I am a very intelligent man. I'm well-spoken. I'm well versed.

Wolchek "Let me tell you something. Someone who says I'm a really intelligent man ... well, I don't know ..."

Craig Stasio: "Well, I'm an intelligent man."

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