|Born||David Moses Zerby
25 January 1975
Tenerife, Canary Islands
|Died||9 January 2005
|Other names||Davidito; Richard Peter Rodriguez; Richard Peter Smith|
|Known for||Son of cult leader who committed murder-suicide|
Ricky Rodriguez (25 January 1975 – 9 January 2005), aka "Davidito" (legal names: "Richard Peter Rodriguez", "Richard Peter Smith" and "David Moses Zerby"), was a former member of the Children of God (COG), now known as The Family International (TFI), who committed a murder-suicide in 2005.
Childhood and sexual abuse
Rodriguez was born in Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. He was the natural son of Karen Zerby and a local hotel employee there whom she "Flirty Fished". He was considered to be the adopted son of David Berg, Zerby's partner and leader of the COG, although no official adoption ever took place. Rodriguez later developed a deep-seated resentment towards Berg and Zerby, due to the sexual abuse he had suffered as a child. His sister Christina Teresa Zerby (aka Techi), whom he grew up with and who is still a member of The Family, does not hold the same views.
The group published a childcare manual called The Story of Davidito in January 1982, which described the education, home life, and care of Rodriguez. The 762-page book also included at least a dozen photographs depicting the child engaged in sexual activity with his governesses, particularly Sara Kelley (also known as Sara Davidito or Prisca Kelley). The COG later ordered this book to be heavily sanitized and, eventually, destroyed completely. In the late 1990s, it was reprinted in heavily sanitized form. Copies of the original still exist in the collections of former members, some of whom have provided them to law enforcement agencies.
Adulthood and murder-suicide
When Rodriguez grew to adulthood, he married Elixcia Munumel, and together they separated from TFI in 2001. Shortly after this, Rodriguez wrote an article on the website MovingOn.org in which he described David Berg's deviant sexual activity involving a number of women and children.
In September 2004, after separating from his wife, Rodriguez moved to Tucson, Arizona, and worked as an electrician. According to accounts by his friends and relatives, he moved there because he heard his mother had visited and he wanted to find her, her location being secret even to him, because he had spoken out about his childhood.
In January 2005, he arranged a meeting with a former associate of his mother's who was involved in his childhood sexual molestation, Angela Smith (formerly Susan Joy Kauten), and stabbed her to death in his apartment. He then drove to Blythe, California, where he shot himself in the head. He released a video to be distributed to friends, family, and former members explaining his actions. According to an article in the New York Times, in the video he said he saw himself as a vigilante, avenging children like him and his sisters, who had been subject to rapes and beatings. "There's this need that I have", he said. "It's not a want. It's a need for revenge; it's a need for justice, because I can't go on like this."
Child sexual abuse
In a 1994 interview with David Millikan regarding the incidents recorded in the "Story of Davidito", Rodriguez, who was still a member of TFI at the time, said, "People feel that the sexual activities I had, occurred so much more than it really did. They believe it had a bigger emphasis and played a greater part than it did. If they think my early life revolved around sex it's going to seem very weird, but I know this wasn't the case, so it was not such a big deal to me". Millikan also writes: "I pointed out to him that under most legal definitions of sexual abuse, Sara and the other women who participated in sex with him would be found guilty".
A book titled Sex, Slander and Salvation Lawrence Lilliston wrote:
The Davidito book does relate David's early witnessing of sexual behavior and encouragement to explore his own sexuality, and while these experiences would be characterized as sexually abusive or neglectful by most child abuse experts, there is no report of his having been actively molested or abused by adults. Moreover, there is no evidence of long-term negative effects on David. The first author, a clinical child psychologist with thirty years of experience, recently administered a psychological evaluation to David, who is now nineteen, and found him to be a bright, well-adjusted, and emotionally strong young man.
[Lilliston's observations of another young man born in the Family] seem to me to be superficial and to lack academic credibility. Likewise his conclusion about Davidito. This was an opportunity to explore exactly what had taken place in Berg's household. He merely touched upon these matters and Davidito made it obvious he was not prepared to talk about it. Nor did they talk about the reasons which impelled that young man [Ricky Rodriguez, aka Davidito] to make attempts on his life said by The Family to have been caused by Satanic influences. Because I conclude that Dr Lilliston was not too concerned critically to examine The Family's past, I cannot be sure I get an accurate picture from him.
- "Story of Davidito". The Family International / Children of God (xFamily.org). 2008-09-01.
- "Christina Teresa Zerby". xFamily.org. Retrieved 2007-06-06.
- "Techi Speaks Out". xFamily.org. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
- Story of Davidito on xFamily.org
- Life with Grandpa--the Mene Story — by Ricky Rodriguez, 2002-06-04; accessed 2007-06-06
- Goodstein, Laurie (2005-01-15). "Murder and Suicide Reviving Claims of Child Abuse in Cult". New York Times. p. A-1.
- "Judgment of Lord Justice Ward". xFamily.org. 1995. Retrieved 2007-06-06.
- Ricky Rodriguez biography on xFamily.org, a wiki about COG/TFI
- Revenge Against Religious Sect: Young Man Commits Murder and Suicide. What Inspired This Extreme Revenge? ABC News 20/20 story.