Strong City posts its video of “Esther” interview with KOB-TV

When KOB-TV sent reporter Jeremy Jojola more than 300-miles for an exclusive interview with a woman who’d been fasting for nearly a month, his station would not have the only camera in the room. Members of Wayne Bent’s “Strong City” also videotaped KOB’s unfolding interview with Aquinnah O’Keefe (aka “Esther”).

Today, Strong City published its video of the interview on its Web site,  The video runs nearly 7-minutes.  But it’s not unedited, as it does include a single dissolve.

When asked about the edit this afternoon, Bent’s son declined to comment.  However, Jeff Bent added that an explanation might come at a later time.

27 thoughts on “Strong City posts its video of “Esther” interview with KOB-TV”

  1. Mark, it was quite perceptive of you to be able to detect that dissolve (evidencing an edit). Good eye! Can you now go to Jeremy Jojola and take a look at the raw footage to find the missing bit?

    — Sam

  2. Hanifa wrote (3 February):

    If there is anything that reveals, clearly and succinctly, that the abduction of Esther was a flagrant violation of her personal rights, this quote from New Mexico’s own state constitution does:
    Sec. 11. Every man shall be free to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and no person shall ever be molested or denied any civil or political right or privilege on account of his religious opinion or mode of religious worship.

    EMC replies:

    In reality, the NM Constitution, adopted in 1911, is preceded by Reynolds v. United States, a US Supreme Court ruling in 1878 that read in part:

    Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship, would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice? Or if a wife religiously believed it was her duty to burn herself upon the funeral pile of her dead husband, would it be beyond the power of the civil government to prevent her carrying her belief into practice?

    So here, as a law of the organization of society under the exclusive dominion of the United States, it is provided that plural marriages shall not be allowed. Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? The permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances….

    98 U.S. 145
    OCTOBER, 1878, Term

    Esther, Wayne and the other citizens of Strong City seem to perceive the First Amendment as some sort of carte blanche, permitting any actions they feel compelled by “Father” to take (the “law unto himself” mentioned above.) In fact, long before New Mexico achieved her statehood, the SCOTUS had made it clear that beliefs are fully protected, but actions are simply not. Actions that jeopardize the persons of others, or one’s own health, have judicial remedies as we have seen. Notice also that ritual suicide is specifically mentioned as an example in the SCOTUS ruling.

    In an earlier post, Mr. Sam Redman analyzed the elements which could have lead to the judge’s ruling. To his elements, I would add, that it was irrational of Esther to expect Wayne’s release. The idea that he could be released based upon her behavior simply is illogical. Since the judge knew the outcome she demanded was impossible, he also knew that she would only get sicker.

  3. If Esther was standing on the ledge of a 20 story building and saying that God told her to step off, would her mother still want her to follow “the voice”?

  4. On SC website, Hanifa posted:

    “Sec. 11. Every man shall be free to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and no person shall ever be molested or denied any civil or political right or privilege on account of his religious opinion or mode of religious worship.”


    Esther was not in worship, she was in protest. She herself said that if Wayne were released she would eat. This is quite simply an ultimatum. Is this the behavior LOR calls “worship?”

    And meek little Esther has not had the opportunity to develop the most basic critical thinking and reasoning skills of even an eight year old, in fact, quite the opposite, so she probably actually believed this ultimatum would be effective. Of course, she had mentally ill and severely deluded adults manipulating her inept mind.

    That would be you, amoung many others!

  5. I’ve been following this story for quite awhile and there has been a verse in the back of my mind all of this time that is in direct contrast to the way they act and talk. I just looked it up today and I wonder what the people at SC’s response to it would be?

    Romans 13:1
    Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

  6. I’m not saying our government or authorities are perfect because they are run by men and men are not perfect but this verse plainly says that we are to be in subjection to the governing authorities and that God Himself established it that way or it wouldn’t exist. So the people at SC are basically calling what God set up of “THE BEAST”.

  7. Facing reality

    EMC’s excellent reference to the landmark Reynolds v. United States 98 U.S. 145 (1878 ) Supreme Court ruling should hopefully provide the people of Strong City some clarity about errors in the logic of their conclusions about religious freedom. The excerpts which EMC cited were superb. In addition, the following snippets (from the same ruling) are also quite specific for more instruction about the law:

    From Supreme Court ruling Reynolds v. US
    A party’s religious belief cannot be accepted as a justification for his committing an overt act, made criminal by the law of the land.

    …when the offence consists of a positive act which is knowingly done, it would be dangerous to hold that the offender might escape punishment because he religiously believed the law which he had broken ought never to have been made.

    From the postings on Strong City, it seems apparent that they are operating under the delusion that posing their group is a religion gives them the ability to break any statutes (such as laws against suicide, religiously motivated or otherwise) which they think should never have been made. If they persist in the position that what was underway was not suicidal (in the face of overwhelming indicators and the pointed threat statements by the victim), then they really are being dishonest or they are delusional. What is most surprising to me is that there are not some voices on “the land” who could provide some counsel to those who are saying such nonsense. If they operated from the position of making credible statements, they could publish pleas which might be taken seriously by those in a position to respond. As it is, each time one of these erroneously based conclusions goes up, they just make themselves look more like they have lost the ablilty to face reality (which is how insanity is sometimes described).

    — Sam

  8. I try to see the fairness in the situation to Esther’s personal freedoms… Sam you have addressed that even Wayne had a right to an appeal.
    As much as I believe Esther is all the better for being taken out of there…. I also believe it is wrong for her to not be able to contact her family and let them know she is safe…. or OK. I do disagree with the fact that she cannot do this basic thing.

    Someone also made the point that what would Esther’s sister hope to accomplish now that she has guardianship over her… I don’t believe for a moment that the sister can change Esther and make her believe another way… I do hope she gets nuturients and proper care that will keep her alive. But I cannot see how taking her out of her home is going to make her turn her back on SC. Any thoughts about this?

  9. Stephanie wrote:
    As much as I believe Esther is all the better for being taken out of there…. I also believe it is wrong for her to not be able to contact her family and let them know she is safe…. or OK. I do disagree with the fact that she cannot do this basic thing.

    Since the court orders and processes are sealed, we cannot know who has said or done what. Contrary to the SC opinion, however, I believe that Esther’s removal and subsequent treatment are being done with careful attention to her civil rights and her health.

    I have to believe (given the length of time now) that the Judge has ruled that SC has an undue influence over Esther and that her isolation is being done with intent to protect her from said influence. I don’t think she has been held this whole time without additional court proceedings.

    But, then, I would never see the need to teach my 8-year-old to be fearful of the government coming and taking her away.

    The snatch-and-run approach to cult exit has generally proven unsuccessful – but in this case, circumstances were so extreme that I can think of no other option.

  10. It surprises me, although I guess it really shouldn’t, how uninformed SC is about legal matters. They seem to have focused solely on religious freedoms and neglected to research other areas that directly affect them. Just a short amount of time spent researching other areas of the laws of New Mexico and Federal law would have shown them that what they are doing is against the law in several different ways. But I guess like Sam said they are operating under the delusion that as a religious group no one can bother them.

    They’re wrong, but since only people who agree with them are allowed to post on their website (and I don’t agree) I’m certainly not going to point out to them where they’re wrong. They have the same access to the internet that I have and can spend their days (since they don’t work) researching for themselves. As well, their claim of religious freedom doesn’t extend to people of other faiths as evidenced by their snide little comments thrown in here and there about the Papacy and the Roman Catholic church (and probably other faiths) so I’m sure they wouldn’t want my opinion anyway.

    Stephanie and EMC, if I read the law right, anyone involuntarily admitted to an evaluation facility has a right to a hearing within 7 days of admission. While we don’t know if she was taken to a mental health facility I’m sure she was taken to a hospital for her physical condition and considering what she has written and said on camera a mental health facility seems like a reasonable place for her to get help either at the same time or after her physical health has improved. After that hearing we might hear something about where she is but maybe not depending on what happens at the hearing.

    It’s obvious Judge Paternoster felt she was being unduly influenced by her “family” at SC since he sequestered the entire proceeding. If they knew where she was they would show up and cause a scene or write letters to her reiterating everything she’s been taught over her short lifetime causing Esther to become even more confused than she already is. Right now she needs time to recover physically from her prolonged fast. She also needs time to reflect on her life and decide for herself if she wants to continue to be involved in SC. She doesn’t need to have people coming at her from all directions telling her what to think or say. Hopefully she is enjoying a little peace and quiet from the last month of being in the spotlight and I sincerely hope she is recovering physically and getting any help she needs to sort things out.

    It’s a little strange to not hear any comments from WB or about WB through his son. It’s like they live for one crisis after another and WB isn’t causing enough interest right now. Of course if you read the comments on KOB’s website, the majority of the people who post there are done with Esther’s story and ready to move on.

    Enough drama for me too! I’m ready for another video of some of the beautiful areas Mark is surrounded by. 🙂

  11. Give me a break!

    They believe that religious freedoms should allow them to do anything and everything and that includes breaking the law. They always cry poor me whenever they feel thier religious freedoms are violated but in reality they are not.
    They control all comments on thier website yet feel free to voice thier opinions on other websites and quick to say they are right and everybody else is wrong.
    Wayne Bent is still in Jail and will remain in Jail no matter how many of them try to starve to death!

  12. It would seem that the justification those from Strong City give for their beliefs is that their religion gives them the ability to break any statutes which they think should never have been made in the first place. It does seem that they have a total disregard of not only the State law, but also the Constitutional law. But let’s not forget they also have a disregard for religious law, as there have been a number of the 10 Commandments which have been broken too.

    I wonder now as so many are pointing out to them here and elsewhere, the error of their thinking, that some remaining Strong City members with a capacity to fully grasp what has been said and might in deed begin to counsel them. Is there really “No One,” at home on that land that still has all their faculties?

    They go on and on with tirades of words that basically look very pretty and sound very holy but they are empty platitudes really because they are all based on lies and deception. Over and over they are throwing their religion out as an excuse for and a reason for everything they do. But if they continue down this road their legal problems could surely mount.

    We know you all read here from Strong City, I would most sincerely suggest you start paying attention to the advice that is being given.

  13. My best friend in high school had a sister that ran away from Wisconsin and ended up in Oregon with a religious cult. After two heartbreaking years her dad hired two professional “de-programmers”, met them in Oregon and they kidnapped her. They drove til they hit
    Idaho and spent the next few weeks locked in a roadside motel until they eventually broke her. That was 30 years ago. Last year she celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary and has 3 kids. Miracles do happen and people can be helped.

  14. I had a friend that I worked with for several years join a cult called the Twelve Tribes also known as “the community”. You can find them listed on the Rick Ross site. They moved into our town, bought up a few homes for their families, and opened a cafe.
    They methodically manipulated people into joining them by presenting themselves as an extremely peaceful people who was always smiling and happy. They played their musical instruments live at the dinner hour in their cafe which always drew in a crowd as people enjoyed the atmosphere provided. However, at the same time, they set out to create relationships with customers, with alot of kindness they drew them back again and again. I knew something was not right when I noticed how reverant the women were and how quickly they were to obey the men working the cafe with them. There was a repressive feeling about what was happening if only those would open their eyes to see it, they could.

    My friend wanted to go for the lunch hour and so I went with her. It so happened that day that they were playing for the crowd that day. The energy was up, the well placed kindness was evident, and it wasn’t before too long my friend began to buy into what she was seeing.

    When we left she admitted that she too wished she could feel that way each day. That she could wear long dresses and be among real men who loved their women. She wanted whatever it was that these people had and the next thing I know she told me she had gone to their house on a saturday evening to meet with the people. Each Saturday night they held open house for visitors to come share food, music, and conversation.

    It only took this one night for them to sink their hooks into her. They “wined and dined’ her. That’s my best explanation for it. The men had already found a partner for her to marry. There was this period of what I’d call a romance period where the wonderful kind and peace loving people come across as such. They talked her into marrying one of their men in their group as they claimed God brought her to the group for that purpose. She was married the next week.
    I was invited to this ceremony where she was instructed to run in and throw herself down on the floor and bow in submission to this man and there was so much more I haven’t the time to go into. She was instructed during this ceremony that she was property of her husband, that she must procreate with him at his discretion, and that she must have children right away. She agreed to these things as she saw this all so romantic and wonderful. They made her feel extra special, beautiful and wanted.

    About a few weeks after the wedding the ugly truth about this group emerged before her eyes. She had been forced to sell her home she spent her entire life working for. She had to sell or turn over what property she had to the group including her money she got for her house. Sold her car and turned that money to the group. Rid all of her clothes because now she had taken a different form of dress. Sold off all jewelry that had belonged to her great grandmother and turned that over to the group. inch by inch all traces of her former life had vanished.

    She was given a different name before she married as well, and would not let me address her by her old one.

    After the wedding, I was no longer welcome to come see her because the women told me that I was there to try and talk her into coming back into society. Which was not true. I loved my friend and only wanted to see how she was. Never did try to persuade her to leave what happiness she found as I did not feel it was my place. Each time I came to visit the rest of the women would make me feel uncomfortable. It became a little game where it was more and more intense each time. They were outright rude to me. The stares, the treatment, etc.

    The last time I saw her was in 2000. I had gone to visit and was stopped at the drive way and informed that she did not want to see me anymore. I was told that if I did not want to join their group that they felt uncomfortable with me being there.

    After this day I learned that the group had suddenly shut down the cafe, sold their houses, and moved on to another town to set up shop and she had gone with them. She did not ever call to say goodbye. I let her go and moved on…

    In 2003 I got a call in the middle of the night. It was her on the other end of a payphone calling collect. She was crying and scared. She also had a baby. She asked me to drive almost 500 miles to come get her because she said she had left the group.

    I came immediately. Met her at a motel room, where she had been staying. Everything about this group began to unravel. They mistreated the children, locked them in basment rooms, beat them with paddle boards, worked them from sun up to sun down, the mothers were encouraged to separate themselves from their children after birthing them and hand them over to other women because they did not want children to be close to the mother. They threatened to take her baby away. Her husband was beating her. And now she was on the run.

    I offered to help her by giving her some start up money and helping her find a place to live. She agreed and felt desperate. Once I got us back home, she began to talk herself out of it. She became frightened. Despite my offering to house her, she still felt a strong pull to go back to this group.
    After five days in my house, she bought a greyhound ticket and left to go back to them. I have not heard from her since.

    I never tried to talk her into staying. I basically listened to her and supported her. She was well aware of the abuses she lived with but she still lost her strength to stay out of the group. She didn’t know how to function anymore without them.

    I will always wonder what happened with her.

    If Esther is a cradle LOR she will return to SC as soon as she humanly can. There is nothing that no one can do to break her now. The attachments are way too psychologically deep. She will resent anyone who tries to pull her away from SC. It’s too late. I think her sister Loraine is doing a good thing but it is too late for this now. This should have been done many years ago…. if they wanted Esther broken away from LOR.

  15. I’ve been thinking the same thing. Esther may never break free completely. Lawmakers need to pay attention and get help from sociologists and psychologists to learn how to deal with cults.

  16. Search for Truth

    I have no experience with cults or people that have been brainwashed by others. All I know is what little I have read on the subject and it would seem that the prognosis is not good for Esther.

    The fact that she is 25 years old and has spent almost her entire life under the influence of “Michael,” does not bode well for her future outside the cult.

    I also sense that Esther is much more seriously in love with this man than the other women. Why was she the only one that was willing to die for him? Not one other person on the land seemed so inclined.

    To me the length of time she has been there plus her love, might make it much harder to deprogram her. Sometimes even non cult females have a hard time giving up on a lost love.

    I hope they find the best medical staff available to get this man out of her mind and heart and she can find out what a beautiful world is out there for her.

    I too am hoping for a miracle.

  17. Dr. Phil told Lorraine and Bambi at the end of their segment that if they needed any help, he would provide them the expert resources needed, Rick Ross and Dr. Lawlis included. He said he will do anything and everything to make that transition stick. I’m hoping he has kept his word and maybe we will see something about it on another show.
    I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

  18. Any word on the whereabouts of Esther? In the past I have noticed diligence posting information with beyond90seconds so I thought maybe there was some investigation regarding where the mob had taken her. It was remember when the children will kidnapped, then Michael, now Esther. For those interested there is some talk about an informant on talking about deprogramming. I know, sounds like something from a black and white WW2 flick. There is a quote on that says, ‘One attorney told me a few days ago that Esther “may be in for a rough ride.”’ How rough? Can you tell us anything Mark?

  19. It appears they have only consulted with someone who knows about these situations… not an informant, per se.

    SC knows nothing on her whereabouts….from what is mentioned in their blogs.

    It has been over 7 days now… don’t you think they would be allowing Esther to some phone time?

    This is starting to seem really strange. Maybe Esther has woke up and decided she doesn’t want anything to do with the people at SC?

  20. I don’t know what to make of it but I sure hope it’s a good sign. I can’t even begin to imagine what she is going through and I only hope that she is doing well and getting healthy, body & soul. She’s a beautiful young girl and I have a daughter the same age, who by the way will be making me a grandma for the first time in July.
    I hope we hear some news very soon and hope that its good news!

  21. Diane, congratulations! I just found out last night that my son and his wife are expecting. It will be my first grandchild too!

    As for Esther, it’s anyone’s guess where she is. No one is telling. I think the first order of business would have been her physical recovery from a month of fasting. By now there has probably been a hearing on her capacity to make rational decisions and since she hasn’t been heard from it seems likely that she is still under conservatorship.

    As far as deprogramming goes, it was a big deal back in the 70’s and was usually involuntarary. Today it is referred to as “Exit Counseling”. Wikipedia says “It is distinguished from deprogramming by the fact that it’s a voluntary procedure, that the follower is treated with respect, can leave any time, and that the decision to stay with the group or leave it is wholly up to the follower and will be accepted as it is by the exit counselor. Generally, the person is presented with information about the group in question or other groups, including especially information which is usually not available to followers, testimonies from former members of this or other cults, along with information on the nature of mind control theory. The conviction of the exit-counselor is that once the member is aware of the logical flaws in his belief structure and his allegiance, as well as the emotional factors binding him to the cult, he will not feel comfortable remaining in the organization.

    In Esther’s case, if she is under a conservatorship, she doesn’t get to decide what to do. This is all speculation but if she is in a mental hospital and/or undergoing some type of psychological treatment she won’t be allowed to call or write until she convinces the person in charge of her to allow her to contact SC or she convinces the court that she is able to think and act in her own best interest and the court releases her from whatever was decided about who should make decisions for her.

    It all boils down to this – you can’t kill yourself in New Mexico and you can’t assist someone to take their own life. Although it doesn’t seem fair for her family not to hear from her they gave up that right when they stood by and watched her not eat and even helped her make a right to die document. Yes, people kill themselves everyday but when you broadcast destructive behavior (I’m going to fast until WB is released even if it means I die) on the internet, to the news media and write letters to the court you are asking for someone to step in and take charge of the situation.

    She, and I suspect the others at SC, were trying to manipulate the justice system and failed. Now, not only is WB paying the price for what he did but Esther is paying the price for trying to fix it. In what I see as a deluded state of mind they see everyone but themselves as evil and those who saved Esther’s life didn’t save her, they only took away her religious freedom. But this case from the beginning has not been about religious freedom, it’s been about doing things supposedly in the name of God that were immoral and against the law and they got caught. Cause and effect is what SC calls it when anyone else does something and something bad happens to them. For some reason they don’t see what’s happened at SC as the same principle. In their minds it’s them against the world.

    I sincerely hope Esther is getting better physically. I hope that she is starting to realize that she has a mind of her own and doesn’t have to parrot everything she’s been taught since she was young. She might decide to return to SC and if/when the court decides she has the capacity to make her own decisions that will be her right but I know many of us hope that she decides not to return.

    It was interesting to read the spin that Hanifa put on the end of Esther’s fast and how it showed how evil America is. “At the very time when Esther’s body was in need of ending the fast, God, Himself, arranged the event that would reveal both the extent of her faithfulness to His personal instructions to her, and at the same time reveal the spirit of forcefulness and complete intolerance of sovereignty of conscience that now possesses America as a nation”.

    Maybe next time they’ll do a little better research and pick a country to live in where the things their messiah wants to do aren’t illegal and where it’s legal to kill yourself or someone else. And they can use that country’s monetary assistance instead of living off the taxpayers in the country they hate so much.

  22. I see Esther is on her way home. Did her fast change the world? Did it do any good to save her from herself this time? These questions and more in our next episode!

  23. I just saw that. Jeff is making Lorraine return her. If I were Lorraine, I wouldn’t budge regardless. This is very sad news to me. I hope Esther doesn’t start this whole fasting episode again!

  24. Well, having been in a hospital she should be physically stronger. And her sister has at least tried to help and that’s all anyone can do.

    I really hope Esther and all the people at SC realize there are better ways to fight for what they believe in than fasting from food. A word fast and waiting for the appeal process seems more productive and will keep the beast from breathing down their necks.

    I’m not holding my breath on that though as they seem to have a tough time not broadcasting their current drama.
    As Ron says “more in our next episode”.

  25. Hey Mark! Is there a way to post before, during (towards the end) and after pictures of Esther to compare the physical difference. I noticed her face looked fuller in the pictures today. I just wonder if she would see the difference and have a better understanding of why so many of us were concerned for her.

  26. “I just saw that. Jeff is making Lorraine return her. If I were Lorraine, I wouldn’t budge regardless”

    As much as I wanted Esther to never go back to SC, I do feel it is fair for Lorraine or the state to return Esther home. They chose to take her from there, and they should be responsible for the cost in returning her.

    Can I ask if Prudence’s mocking of her on her page is a necessity? “Queen Esther”? I suppose I don’t understand the childishness of this…

    I tend to get annoyed by these things. It was highly obvious that Esther would return home as soon as she could… and I believe Lorraine did this out of her heart to save her sister. I see no need to mock Esther for wanting to go home…

    Aside from this I hope as KM put it that the seed was planted and that Esther will begin to see that there is a world outside of SC for herself. But knowing that she has been indoctrinated in LOR since childhood the likelyhood of that happening is zip zero.

    Looking back on how all of this has been handled I don’t think Esther is going to feel very trusting of her sister…. I wish there could be a better way of pulling someone away from a cult.

    Let’s hope Esther will not fast again because her color looks so much better in her recent pictures.

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