VIDEO: Starving woman’s removal from “cult” compound

Update #6: 6:17pm (PST): KOB-TV 6:30pm news story from reporter Jeremy Jojola

Update #5: 1:30pm (PST): This is another video produced by Strong City today.  It features additional footage of O’Keefe/Esther as she’s taken to an ambulance.  This video shows a closer shot of the court document deputies presented to O’Keefe/Esther.

Update #4: 12:45pm (PST): O’Keefe’s/Esther’s “heart-to-heart” comments to KOB-TV investigative reporter Jeremy Jojola. Last night—in an audio interview with Beyond90Seconds.com—Jojola spoke about this moment. The video is shot by members of Strong City. Jojola was wrapping-up his interview with O’Keefe/Esther for his TV station.

esther_ambulance_pics_2

Update #3:  10:56am (PST): “Cam 2” video just posted:

Update #2:  10:48am (PST):  Strong City has titled this first youtube video, “Esther Taken By Sheriff Deputies – Cam 1 – Part I”

Updated 10:45am (PST), January 29, 2009

On Wednesday evening, law enforcement executed a court order and removed 24-year-old Aquinnah O’Keefe (aka “Esther”) from a compound in the remote area of northeastern New Mexico known as “Strong City”.

The video featured on this post was shot by members of Strong City/the Lord Our Righteousness Church. It’s just gone up on youtube, but has yet to be published on strongcity.info.

O’Keefe/Esther had reportedly been fasting—taking only water and a little salt—since the December 30, 2008 prison sentencing of Strong City’s leader, Wayne Bent.  Last month, a Taos jury convicted Bent on one count of second-degree criminal sexual contact of a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

O’Keefe/Esther had recently proclaimed on strongcity.info that she was fasting to protest Bent’s imprisonment, and would continue to do so until his release—or her death.

Shortly after authorities removed O’Keefe/Esther Wednesday evening, Beyond90Seconds.com spoke with Wayne Bent’s son.  Jeff Bent witnessed O’Keefe’s/Esther’s removal and provided a detailed account in a recorded interview.

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23 Responses to VIDEO: Starving woman’s removal from “cult” compound

  1. avatar
    Jeff Bent January 29, 2009 at 11:07 am #

    strongcity.info is down at the moment. Our hosting provider is looking into the problem. Will have an update when we come back up.

  2. avatar
    Beyond90Seconds January 29, 2009 at 11:09 am #

    Jeff,

    Thank you for that update.

    Best,
    Mark

  3. avatar
    Jan January 29, 2009 at 12:08 pm #

    There are actually a couple more videos on their You Tube account michaeltravesser.

    Thanks again Mark for your updates.

  4. avatar
    Beyond90Seconds January 29, 2009 at 12:13 pm #

    Jan,

    Thank you.

    Best,
    Mark

  5. avatar
    ron January 29, 2009 at 12:57 pm #

    I had a young lady that worked for me for 7 yrs that came from a Penticostle Holiness background, who was obsessively in love with a man everyone knew was gay. He even got asked to leave his family church over that. She was told by everyone that he would never marry her. But she has pined after this guy for 14 years now. She was young and pretty, but now she has wasted what could have been the best years of her life. You can see the loss and pain in her eyes, but she would not or could not admit she has a problem. When I look at Esther, I still see her.

  6. avatar
    Dr. Cult January 30, 2009 at 1:12 pm #

    I knew that girl, Its such a pity what she is putting herself threw. And she really believes its whats right. So many of them are putting themselves threw such mental and physical torment for no reason at all. I wish they really understood how great “real” life is.

  7. avatar

    On my personal blog, I posted an article, which I wrote about a very strange circumstance. While the people at Strong City are saying that the “State” has acted to deny Aquinnah O’Keefe (also known as Esther) her constitutional right to Freedom of Religion, actually there is a more valid argument that those people, led by Jeff Bent and the young woman’s mother, appear to be guilty of the more serious charge (which can be punishable by death) of conspiracy to deprive Ms O’Keefe of another constitutional right, which is protected under the Civil Rights Act of the United States. To read the article click on the link to the right. –>

    — Sam

  8. avatar
    Diane January 31, 2009 at 7:06 pm #

    Why isn’t God telling them where Esther is?

  9. avatar
    Casidi January 31, 2009 at 11:53 pm #

    In response to the latest post on strongcity.info (Open Letter To Lorraine Irwin ) because I know they won’t post it there(I submitted it to their site… lets see if they can address it):

    Hanifa,

    The hypocrisy that spews from your mouth is appalling. You say “or to bring a baby into the world without the safety and protection of a God-given holy union in which to honor the child with stability?”. Excuse me, but didn’t your community DISSOLVE all marriages? Weren’t there still children there when these dissolution happened? WEREN’T THEIR PARENTS SEPARATED AND THE WIVES GIVEN TO THE LEADER??? How do you dare speak of stability when you show children that one man can have MANY wives and there their father is dissolvable. You are a HYPOCRITE! There is no stability. Marriages happen and then dissolve on the whim of some mere man when he’s tired of his last conquest. Stop the lies.

    No need to sign this… you won’t post it anyway because you are too scared to be shown your own hypocrisy and lies. You are scared of the truth.

  10. avatar
    Casidi February 1, 2009 at 12:04 am #

    I also posted this… lets see if they can stomach it:

    [quote]This situation of Esther’s arrest begs the question of whether anyone has the right to override another’s conscience and personal autonomy in making decisions. Imagining that someone is emotionally distraught or spiritually deluded is no legal, moral or spiritual ground for doing what you, Lorraine, have done.[/quote]

    So in this respect MY GOD has told me to abort every single fetus that shall come upon me because the world is over populated. From your statement you support this because I believe God told me this. You also support me putting a gun to my head because I oppose the slaughtering of innocent animals. I am making a statement that I will shoot myself in the head until all animals slaughtered for food stops. You support this by supporting my right to religious beliefs and what I think God told me.

    So you support murder and suicide. Good to know.

  11. avatar
    Stephanie February 1, 2009 at 1:54 am #

    After viewing that movie of Esther being taken from SC it appears as if she’s relieved someone showed up to end her fast!! Her tears seemed to be of relief not sadness. Then later in the film where she’s dressed and waiting, she’s actually smiling and it seems as if she’s happy her fast is done.

  12. avatar
    Search for Truth February 1, 2009 at 6:18 am #

    There seems to be quite a difference of opinion as to the events regarding the “taking of Esther.” If I am reading all of this correctly the Strong City folk believe that Esther was kidnapped and they are crying about religious freedom.

    But, when I read Sam Redman’s blog post, he very clearly spells out that what actually was happening is Esther was being deprived of her Constitutional rights by her mother and Jeff and others that were letting her fast til death. Now this sounds much more serious to me.

    It would seem if the latter is true, and I for one am convinced that it is, Hanifa and Jeff better be getting some good lawyers lined up for themselves and stop with their whining and posturing on that Strong City site about where Esther is and boo whooing about Lorraine. What they were allowing that poor woman to do was not only sinful but obviously a serious crime.

    And I am with Stephanie on this too, that video was just strange. Those crazy people in that room were even making jokes about her fast. Esther was in fact smiling and laughing. This is one cooky group living behind those gates and perhaps one by one they can be led out of there to sanity.

    In the mean time those that are left need to get some good attorneys because if Sam is even a tiny bit correct they are going to need them.

  13. avatar
    Sam Redman February 1, 2009 at 8:42 am #

    The judge acted responsibly

    Judge Paternoster would have never acted without the evidence being significant and convincing that several alarming circumstances were in play.

    Esther was on a very severe fast, about which she had pointedly stated, she would continue until her death (in a document, published on the internet and in a similarly published video). The nature of the fast was defined; that she was only taking water with a small amount of salt. The length of the fast was also defined; that she was already at 28 days. Her physical state was defined; she was apparently so weak that she could only speak in a weak voice and walk with a faltering step. Medical information was accessible; which the judge could study (also readily available to her fellow residents), defining that continuing such a fast from the current stage might be fatal within a few days. It was further apparent from the website’s internet postings (and from a video of the deputies’ visit) that no one there was acting to prevent the fast or to encourage her to stop it.

    In fact, the opposite was true; there were many indications (and actions), such as their preparation of the “do not resuscitate” instructions from those whom she regarded as her leaders (including her own Mother), which showed that she was being encouraged and even being intimidated to continue it.

    — Sam

  14. avatar
    Diane February 1, 2009 at 8:46 am #

    Great posts Casidi!!
    Under the Strong City mirror site, there is a video called “The Finished Work”. It’s a follow up to the BBC program and in their own words. It’s 115 minutes long and it made my stomach turn. I couldn’t watch the whole thing. In the video, Bent was reciting Isaiah 4.1 about the 7 women and I find it interesting that it’s not how it’s written in the bible. Has anyone seen this video??

  15. avatar
    Jan February 1, 2009 at 9:17 am #

    Diane, Yes I have seen that video several times. It is a very disturbing presentation of what was in fact happening between Wayne and these 7 women/girls. Each one of the 7 tells in her own words why she loves Michael and how deeply she loves Michael. Very little is left out of their descriptions. It really is difficult to watch, but reveals so much, therefore important.

    What is ironic is that they proudly made this video at Strong City. Why would they put something this damaging on the Web? They really do feel some compelling need to flaunt their bizarre life style.

    For any of you that have not seen it here is the link:

    http: //strongcity2.info/videos.html
    It is the first video at the top.

    I have broken the link because sometimes links get hung up in wordpress.

  16. avatar
    Betsy February 1, 2009 at 10:42 am #

    I’ve echoed these thoughts as well and posted the same at Sam’s blog. He’s asked me to post it here as well, so some of it is out of context unless you go to his blog and read his post “Deprivation of constitutional rights…” but it is remarkable how similar my post is to Casidi’s above. This certainly must be God talking through us?

    “Yes, Sam. This continues to amaze me the blatant classical transference they practice and the contradiction in their communications. In a post today Hanifa makes a passive/aggressive attempt to deflect the blame from herself by focusing on the “evil” of another she refers to the, ” protection of a God-given holy union in which to honor the child with stability?” I’m sorry, is she consummating joking? She couldn’t possibly be talking about marriage could she? Or, motherhood and fatherhood? The very God-given holy unions that Wayne Bent made believe that if you were totally devoted to God (him) then those holy unions would be dissolved?

    Unbelievable how deluded these people are. Truly unbelievable! And this from someone who agrees with the ideology that we are all human and divine combined. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that truth is me alone, oh, I also believe that God so loves the world….ah well, not much to build a cult on I suppose.”

  17. avatar
    Sam Redman February 1, 2009 at 10:44 am #

    To Diane and Jan –

    It is noteworthy that the video, “The Finished Work,” was taken down from the web by Wayne (and Jeff) Bent, along with all of the other myriad documents, describing Wayne’s sordid sexual “ministry,” masquerading as the “Messiah.” This was done so that they could clear the decks (of evidence) to be able fabricate a new explanation (it was only a little underage naked healing ) and launch their defense strategy for the trial; that there was nothing at all sexual in anything Bent was doing with the virgins (of course, they all knew that was a prevarication). It is very typical of their approach to literally, point-blank lie about any misdeed and then say that they have a right to do it under religious freedom (like trying to say now that Esther’s fast wasn’t suicidal and that the government is attempting to attack their religious rights). You might think they just can’t face reality (because you know they are aware such is not the truth)… but, I think that they have been trained that it’s ok to lie when it has a higher purpose (taught that way by Bent).

    Of course, we used other means to grab that “Finished Work” video and over one hundred of the documents which expose their lies that this “ministry” was not “about sex.” Now you can study them all at your leisure on the mirror site

    — Sam

  18. avatar
    Diane February 1, 2009 at 11:25 am #

    Thank you Sam! I have been poking around the mirror site and it’s quite interesting and stomach turning.
    There was something else I thought funny about Jeff and I can’t put my fingers on it at the moment but Jeff claims he never said the world was going to end. In the BBC documentary, Jeff said, “We are done and you can take that to the bank”. So yes, he really did say it.
    It will be interesting to see what unfolds tomorrow.
    -Diane

  19. avatar
    Moriah February 1, 2009 at 12:09 pm #

    In response to Eileens “Open letter to my mother!”
    ~They would not post it on their site…

    Eileen,
    You are such a hypocrite!
    You also had children out of wedlock,
    one of which was “Esther”!
    You grew pot and slept around.
    You suffocated me when I was a baby,and showed no remorse! Correct me if I’m wrong but you said, “that’s a rebellious child.”
    So, before you go saying these things about my mother. I ask you to not forget who you once were ,and still are… Eileen O’keefe!
    My mother loves her Sisters very much and wouldn’t waste her time and money on this if she didn’t! I may be a young mother and not be married,but I would never watch my daughter starve to death! You are the jealouse one, living the life you covet through your daughter! When you are busy pointing your finger at people, look and see how many of your fingers are pointing back at you!
    Have you lost your bible or your mind?
    Are you one of gods people?…

    “And God spoke all these words, saying: ‘I am the LORD your God…

    ONE: ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.’

    TWO: ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.’

    THREE: ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.’

    FOUR: ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.’

    FIVE: ‘Honor your father and your mother.’

    SIX: ‘You shall not murder.’

    SEVEN: ‘You shall not commit adultery.’

    EIGHT: ‘You shall not steal.’

    NINE: ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.’

    TEN: ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.’


    I think you can answer that for yourself!

  20. avatar
    Search for Truth February 1, 2009 at 1:00 pm #

    Moriah

    Hard to believe until one actually sees the list of Commandments before our very eyes, just how many of them have been broken by the Strong City folk. I cannot believe these people actually call themselves religious. Their religion is hypocrisy, manipulation and lies.

    That was quite a post Moriah and I thank you for it. You have many people that feel your pain and hope this all works out for the best.

  21. avatar
    KM February 1, 2009 at 3:20 pm #

    A couple of points I’d like to touch on.

    #1, Esther was not arrested or kidnapped. While it is true that the court order forced her to go with them, she was not arrested and would not be held in a jail cell except in an emergency where there was no safe place arranged prior to a pick up. if SC wants to call it something besides what it really was (an emergency court order for some type of evaluation) it would be something similar to Protective Custody. If in the first 72 hours she was found healthy both physically and mentally she probably would have been allowed to return to her home. As that seems not to have happened it’s likely a Doctor or Psychiatrist feels that she is still in need of medical or mental health care and they will keep her until her health is back to normal and they’ve ascertained that mentally she is able to make her own decisions and is not vulnerable to suggestions or exploitation by others. During this time there will be a court hearing as to why or why not a legal guardian should be appointed for the time being. While her cooperation would help her prove that she is capable of making her own decisions, her actions up to this point show that her decision making skills are lacking.

    Jeff slipped up when he was talking to her, saying you don’t have to eat their – then he paused and said to just go where they want to take you. She asked him if by cooperating she had to talk to them and he said Father will tell you. I think he remembered the camera was on him recording what he was saying. As well Hanifa said to Esther while they were still saying their goodbyes “See we talked about this when you were 8 years old” and Esther turned and stared at her for a second. At the time I didn’t understand what she was referring to but after reading her post to Ezra today she wrote something that makes her statement to Esther the other night clear. She said “When my children were younger, I used to talk with my daughters about the possibility of the state coming and taking them away”. They were afraid even back then that the state might find a reason to take the children away. How incredibly sad to put that fear in a child! That is not something I have EVER said to my children, they have never lived in fear of the state because there was and is no reason to fear.

    Esther will be having one on one meetings with many different people to determine if she has the ability to speak and reason for herself. In the interviews posted by SC, I have not seen her speak entirely for herself, she’s not been alone to have the freedom to say what she wishes and it’s always filmed. That by itself would be intimidating. Maybe she would say the same thing anyway but it’s only prudent to allow a grown woman to speak for herself and if all she knows is how to parrot words and phrases that she has been spoon fed since she was little that is going to be apparent to trained professionals.

    #2. While she didn’t look as ill as some think she would have after such a long fast, keep in mind she was taking water with some kind of electrolytes mixed in. While not ideal, it was probably keeping her alive. But, she was turning a corner towards complete body shutdown. She had trouble retaining heat in her body. This was apparent in what one of the women told the EMT’s (which was unnecessary as they are trained for these types of issues). The woman on the video said to make sure they give her warm liquids, the EMT said they had everything ready and would be sure to treat her properly. The other thing the woman was concerned about was the sensitivity of her ears. That was just a stupid thing to say. Many of her major body organs were on the verge of shutting down and they were worried about her ears. She was taken from the house in an evacu-splint. It’s a full body air mattress that forms to the body, cushioning it, helping to prevent bruising and pain on rough roads. You’ll notice in the video the ambulance was driving very slow. Dirt roads are rough on anyone but someone whose skin is breaking down would be even more affected by washboard roads. I noticed the EMT speaking with her and it looked like she was doing a simple type of test called tenting (it was hard to tell in the video but that is something that an EMT would check first in this type of situation). It gives you a rough idea of how hydrated a person is. You gently pinch up the skin on a forearm or back of the hand and then count how long it stays tented. On a well hydrated person the skin goes right back to normal. On an extremely dehydrated person it remains tented for several seconds and that is not a good sign. If she was severely dehydrated which I would suspect to be the case, she probably got an IV of some type of fluid. If the transport time to a hospital was short they might have waited but since it was at least 30 minutes to the nearest hospital it would be standard protocol to start an IV. She was also at risk of seizures and even heart failure so establishing an IV line (very difficult on a dehydrated person) through which other medications could be given if necessary was probably a high priority.

    #3. Lastly and simply put, DNR orders are meant for the terminally ill or for a person who is traumatically injured and is being kept alive by machines. A DNR order is not for a healthy young woman attempting to kill herself for her lover. Judge Paternoster had plenty of evidence from Esther’s own words that she intended to die unless WB is released from prison. As well, there is plenty of evidence that she was being exploited by others at SC for the purpose of gaining WB’s release. That evidence is present in videos, written words and the obvious support of her “supposed” loving family and religious community in helping her write a document that she hoped would allow her the right to kill herself.

    But, they all forgot one important fact – In New Mexico, in fact I think in every state but Oregon, assisted suicide is illegal. And Assisted Suicide means someone is helping you to end your life. There are many ways of assisting someone to die; providing lethal doses of medication, giving them a weapon, turning off a machine that’s keeping them alive AND encouraging someone to starve themselves. Sadly people kill themselves everyday but they don’t normally broadcast it on the internet. When you call a suicide hotline, or write about it on the internet or tell someone in person it’s considered a cry for help and you WILL get the help, whether you really wanted it or not.

    So aside from what Sam brought up about basic Civil Rights, there is the small fact that regardless of religious freedom, assisted suicide is against the law. Period!

  22. avatar
    Stephanie February 2, 2009 at 2:36 am #

    I have always believed these women , especially the ones who groomed the younger girls and women to be naked with WB were getting away with wayyyy too much. I pray they open an investigation on them. They were a part of the molestation. A crucial part if you want my opinion. The women HAD to have encouraged the younger set to do WB’s bidding. It wasn’t just WB doing all the leg work there. I wonder if these things will start to come out the more Esther remains in the spotlight.

    KM, I don’t know of any particular religion that has any doctrine stating you may starve yourself unto death. So I don’t understand how they are going to fight this fight by saying it’s a religious belief. It may be a protest or a statement but religion?

    Yes and again they were giggling and I seriously DO NOT get that. Sometimes it appears that they put on these grandiose shows which will get attention from the outside. When watching them laugh it’s almost as if they knew that they have authorities playing into some plan of theirs. I don’t know, just theorizing.

  23. avatar
    KM February 2, 2009 at 9:08 am #

    Stephanie, the only religion I know of is Jainism.

    These are quotes from the Jain religious community.
    “Jainism is an ancient religion from India that teaches that the way to liberation and bliss is to live a life of harmlessness and renunciation. The aim of Jain life is to achieve liberation of the soul”.

    “Santhara is a procedure in which a Jain stops eating with the intention of preparing for death. This is different from suicide as it is not taken in passionate mood of anger, deceit or other emotions, but is undertaken only when the body is no more capable of serving its owner as a instrument of sprituality and when inevitability of death is a matter of undisputed certainty”.

    The practice is highly debated in India where Euthanasia and Suicide are a crime. It looks like most of the people who use Santhara as a means to die are elderly. And again, the reason it gets in the news or debated is because it’s announced that they are using Santhara as a means to die.

    As in our country, when you announce to others that you are in the process of killing yourself, someone is going to try and stop you.

    And I agree with you, it sure does seem like an act put on for the benefit of whomever will pay attention. And I’m guessing here but I think it’s their way to try and keep WB and SC in the news. Not exactly front page news around the world, but maybe they are satisfied that at least a few of us still watching.

    What a sad existence! They should be enjoying life. The young girls should have a chance to marry (for real) and know the love of one man and children. And the older ones should be enjoying time with the person they married instead of divorcing and marrying some old guy who claims to be the messiah.

    They are missing out on the beauty God put in our world. Most especially they have renounced many of their family members who want to share their lives with them. What a waste of precious life!

Thank you for visiting.