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'Killers for Christ'


Sheila's deposition came next, a few days after John's.  It's a strange feeling watching someone whom you grew up believing was almost a goddess trampling all over your faith in her.  Every time she opened her mouth, her credibility plummeted further in my estimation.

At the start of the deposition, Sheila talked about my clothing during a visit I made to the house on May 9, 2006, a few days after the attack on Reinhard.  It gives a vivid insight into how far a person will go to see evil (and 'weird-ness') where it does not exist, if that is what they are looking for.  It is also a powerful illustration of just how meaningless the word 'cult' is.  Was the attack on Reinhard really justified on the basis of the fact that I wore an orange T-shirt!  Here is the dialogue as it appeared on the deposition transcript between Gary and Sheila.  Gary's questions are in bold, and Sheila's in italics.  

Gary:  What was he [Joe] wearing [when he came back home on May 9, four days after the incident]?

Sheila:  He was wearing some weird clothes.

Gary:  Would you describe them for me, please?

Sheila:  It was like a cult shirt.

Gary:  Would you describe it for me, please?

Sheila:  I just remember the color. It was a bright orange.

Gary:  What else did you see about it besides bright orange?

Sheila:  That was the main thing that kind of startled me, the fact that he was wearing a bright orange shirt that looked like a cult shirt. Like a Hare Krishna-type shirt.

Gary:  Are you saying that because of the color?

Sheila:  I'm saying that because of the color and the type of shirt that he was wearing.

Gary:  When you say 'type' are you referring to the design, the shape or something else?

Sheila:  Just the whole shirt itself, the way that it looked. It looked so weird.

Gary:  Well, I'm trying to get you to articulate some details, Mrs. Johnson. So if you would please, I understand the color was orange.

Sheila:  Yes.

Gary:  What about the shape of the shirt, can you describe that for me?

Sheila:  I don't recall anything about that shirt, other than it was a weird shirt. It was orange and it looked like a cult shirt, and I think I commented to him about that. "Why are you wearing this weird shirt?"

Gary:  Did it have short sleeves or long sleeves?

Sheila:  I don't know for sure whether it had long sleeves or not.

Gary:  Was it tucked into his pants or draping over them?

Sheila:  I don't recall about that shirt.

Gary:  Did it have buttons?

Sheila:  I don't know. It just looked a weird shirt. I just hated it.

Gary:  Did it have a collar?

Sheila:  I don't know.

Gary:  Did it have any particular pattern to it?

Sheila:  Pattern? It was just an orange, bright shirt that looked strange. It wasn't a typical shirt that someone his age would be wearing.

Gary:  Was it a solid color?

Sheila:  It was a solid color, yes.

Gary:  Did it have any words on it?

Sheila:  It didn't have any words on it.

Gary:  Did it have any pictures on it?

Sheila:  It didn't have any pictures on it.

Gary:  So far what I've learned from you is that it was a solid colored bright orange shirt and we have no further description of the details of the style of it; is that correct?

Sheila:  That's correct.

Gary:  Was there anything else that you recall about what he was wearing?

Sheila:  It seems like he was wearing some weird brown pants.

Gary:  And with regard to these pants, were they a dark brown, light brown, or some other shade of brown?

Sheila:  I'm only guessing on the color of the pants. I'm not absolutely sure.

Gary:  So you're not sure of the color of the pants. Something about the style of the pants that you recall?

Sheila:  Not really. It just looked like the clothes had come out of a rummage sale.

Gary:  Were the pants long pants, as contrasted to shorts?

Sheila:  I don't recall that much about the outfit. It just looked like an outfit that could come from maybe a used store.

Gary:  Was he wearing shoes?

Sheila:  I believe he was wearing some weird looking shoes as well.

Gary:  Do you recall any description about the shoes?

Sheila:  No, but I remember asking him about those shoes. "Why are you wearing these shoes that look like they came out of a trash can or something?"

Gary:  Anything else about his attire that you can recall?

Sheila:  His whole outfit looked like it had just come from some type of either trash can or rummage sale or something like that. It looked awful.

Gary:  Did you ever in the course of your contact with him that morning ask him where he got his clothing?

Sheila:  Yes, I did.

Gary:  What did he tell you?

Sheila:  He said he got them from a used store.

My mother had discovered elsewhere just how much power there was in using the word 'cult', but suddenly it was not working.  Gary wanted more than that.  She wanted him to believe that the Jesus Christians were a dangerous group without anything more than her own testimony that I was wearing 'cult clothes'.  

Gary asked Sheila what the word 'cult' actually meant.  Sheila gave her answer:

Sheila:  They use mind stopping techniques, mind control techniques, brain-washing... their leader becomes their God.

It's as though cult-busters want the world to believe that there is a secret school somewhere, teaching people how to control minds; and the leaders of every new religious group have attended and graduated from that secret school.  Of course there was not a scrap of evidence in Sheila's testimony (nor anywhere else) that such techniques even existed, much less that the Jesus Christians had used them on me.  It was all a part of the paranoia.

What Sheila did present as evidence, however, was reference to a book on training dogs, that she claimed was written by Dave McKay.  We searched the Internet on that one, and found that, in 1977, a guy name Delmar Smith wrote a book on how to train dogs, which was published by the David McKay Publishing Company... no relation to the Dave McKay from the Jesus Christians... and it was about hunting dogs anyway, not about leading a religious community!  

Sheila's testimony shows how such facts can easily become distorted when someone is trying to conjure up false evidence.  

Gary had been trying to determine whether Sheila had read even a single article by the Jesus Christians themselves in order to decide for herself whether what they said was right or wrong.  It appeared from her testimony that she had not.  She relied almost entirely on her imagination and the hate sites for her information.

Gary:  Did you read any book?

Sheila:  There was a book, seemed like that John got me on Dave McKay, where he was training humans like dogs.

Gary:  Was that written by him?

Sheila:  It seems like it was written by him, but it was written a long, long time ago.

Gary:  "Seems like" means what?

Sheila:  Per my recollection it was written by David McKay, and it was talking about obedience training.

Gary:  So you read that book?

Sheila:  I read part of it. And that part in particular where he's referencing how he trains dogs... humans similar to the way you would train a dog or something like that.

Gary:  Who gave you that book to read?

Sheila:  John. He got it from the library.

It is doubtful that John showed her the book, that it came from the library, or that she had read anything from it.  The book, it seems, is quite rare, with copies selling on the Internet for as much as $300.  

We were convinced that Sheila was being fed false information by Rick Ross, an American cult-buster whom her lawyer had listed as a witness, to appear when the case came to court.  In fact, all of us were looking forward to that moment, when a colleague of Gary's would take his place and ask Rick Ross a lot of questions about his nefarious past, his lack of any professional qualifications, and his role in the plot to kidnap me and kill Reinhard.

The Jesus Christians knew, from past experience, that a strategy had been developed by cult-busters, both in the United Kingdom and in the U.S. in relation to themselves, to get relatives to falsely report members as having been kidnapped, as a way of scandalizing the community, but also as a way of getting the member (myself, in this instance) to turn up at a pre-determined location, where the family could take further steps to have the member forcibly detained or 'deprogrammed'.  (See the previous chapter, where John said that Sheila had discussed traveling to Kentucky to have me deprogrammed after I reported to the FBI there, showing them that I had not been kidnapped.) 

Gary questioned Sheila on how and when she had arrived at the conclusion that I had been kidnapped.  She admitted that she had found my note on the same day that I had left, explaining why I had left, but she never said exactly when she had contacted the FBI.  Our theory was that she had never even thought of such a ridiculous idea until days later, after she had first made contact with Rick Ross, whom she did admit to having been in contact with sometime after I left home and before I returned. 

Here is an exchange between Gary and Sheila.  Notice how she prevaricates about when she contacted the FBI.

Gary:  So when did you first contact the FBI?

Sheila:  I believe after we got that letter. I believe I put a call in.

Gary:  Was it that evening?

Sheila:  I think it was.

Gary:  What did you tell the FBI?

Sheila:  I told them that my son had been kidnapped and that we had found a letter.

Gary:  When you use the word 'kidnapped', what was your meaning? What was the intention you were communicating?

Sheila:  My intention was that my son was being held somewhere against his will.

Gary:  Upon what fact or facts did you base that statement on the evening of April 24, 2006?

Sheila:  I'm not sure.

Gary:  Did anybody tell you to think that he was kidnapped on April 24, 2006?

Sheila:  I don't know.

Gary:  Anybody put that thought in your mind that you're aware of?

Sheila:  They may have. I don't recall.

Gary:  So you called the FBI. You talked to somebody in intake and you told them that your son was kidnapped?

Sheila:  I'm not absolutely sure if it was that day that I said he was kidnapped, but somewhere in between those ten days I got the impression that he was kidnapped. I'm not absolutely sure it was on that very day.

Gary:  So at some point during the ten days you reached the conclusion that your son was kidnapped, correct?

Sheila:  That's correct.

Then the questions switched to my mother's association with Rick Ross.  Gary was looking for information on how much this notorious self-professed 'cult-expert' had been involved in the events leading up to the murder attempt. 

 
Gary:  Did you contact Rick Ross before May 5, 2006?

I don't know if it was before Joseph left for the ten days that he was missing, because I was calling every cult person at that time that I could, because Joseph had been kidnapped, in our opinion, and we didn't know where he was. At first we didn't even know he was with the Jesus Christians.

Note that she cleverly says that she doesn't know if it was before I left home that she contacted Rick Ross.  Of course not.  The real question is how long after I left before she contacted him and before she came up with the kidnap strategy, since we were pretty certain that the two events were linked.  

Something Sheila was probably not aware of at the time was that during a deposition, lawyers do not pursue a point to its conclusion, but rather, they watch for hints that the witness is hiding information, and then they back off, waiting for the actual trial before they get really pushy about details that the witness is obviously prevaricating about, as was happening here.

Gary:  Did Mr. Ross tell you that he was an expert regarding the Jesus Christians?

Sheila:  He told me he was an expert. I don't know if he said, per se, on the Jesus Christians, but that he was an expert on cults.

Gary:  Did Mr. Ross give you information about the Jesus Christians?

Sheila:  Yes.

Gary:  And did that information influence your thinking about how to act in the situation that ultimately occurred on May 5?

Sheila's lawyer could see that she was dangerously close to revealing a connection between Rick Ross and her decision to falsely report me as having been kidnapped, so he interjects, doing what he can to "nicely guide the witness" as Gary put it:

(Sheila's lawyer) Objection, based upon the fact that Ms. Johnson cannot remember whether or not she's...

Gary:  Guiding her so nicely, Counsel, in the middle of the question, ain't fair.

(Sheila's lawyer) No, it's an improper question assuming facts not in evidence, because you're asking her...

Gary:  No, no, not 'because...' because that's guiding the witness in the middle of a valuable question. Why don't you take a break and [just] tell her what to say? The lawyer is not supposed to be the one feeding the information to the witness in the middle of a question. Please refrain in the future from doing this. We get along so well, but this is out of bounds.

Gary:  [to Sheila] Mrs. Johnson, I'm going to ask the question. Did Mr. Ross's information influence your behavior on May 5, 2006.


(Sheila's lawyer) Same objection.

Gary:  We work hard. We get along with each other.  [to Sheila] I'm going to scold him more outside of the presence of the court reporter.

Sheila:  I'm not sure, sir. The reason why I say I'm not sure is because I'm not sure if I spoke with him on or before May... do you see what I'm saying?

Notice how she stops short of giving an exact date.  Remember that I left home on April 26, and I returned on May 5.  Somewhere in those ten days, Sheila got the idea to report me as being kidnapped.  Gary persists:

Gary:  Did any person who represented to you that they were a cult expert or an expert on cults influence your thinking on May 5, 2006?

Sheila:  I'm sure it did have some influence, the information I was gathering, even if it was just information I was getting myself or information someone else was telling me.

Gary:  Who had you spoken to that you recall who held themselves out to be a cult expert and you spoke to them before May 5, 2006?

Sheila:  Well, like I say, I spoke with Rick Ross...

Conversation shifted over to her contact with Prince Sullivan, the Long Beach cult-buster who said he would have shot Reinhard had he been Sheila.  Sheila asserted that she had only met Prince by coincidence, shortly after I left home to join the Jesus Christians.  Our theory was that Rick Ross had directed her to Prince, and that she was covering for Rick.

Gary:  When did you first meet Pastor Prince?

Sheila:  I actually met Pastor Prince between April 24 and May of 2006.

Gary:  Where did you first meet him?

Sheila:  I went into his cleaners and put something in there to be cleaned.

Gary:  Is it a place that you commonly used prior to April 24? 

Sheila:  No, it isn't. In fact, I think that was the first time I had gone in there.

Gary:  Did somebody direct you...

Sheila:  No, it was a coincidence.

Gary:  So you went to get your clothes cleaned, and then how did you find out that he was a Pastor, for example?

Sheila:  Well, I was real upset. I didn't know where Joseph was. I didn't know who he was with and that kind of thing, but I knew he was probably with the cult or something like that, so I brought it up to him and I told him what happened.

Gary:  Wasn't he a stranger to you at that time? 

Sheila:  Yes, he was.

Gary:  So you simply opened up to him spontaneously?

Sheila:  Yes.

Sheila's story was a bit unbelievable, but she makes it clear that when she met Prince, she "knew that [I] was probably with" the Jesus Christians.  Gary decided to leave it at that, and move on to his next point.

Now we come to Sheila's version of what happened when we came to the house on May 5.  

Gary:  When Joe showed up at your door the morning of May 5, ... when the bell rang, did you get out of bed?

Sheila:  Yes. It seems like I just sort of fell to my knees. It seems like when [my husband] did get to the door and opened the door, it was not what we expected.

Gary:  Is that why you fell to your knees?

Sheila:  I believe so. Sort of like a fearful response I guess. I believed Joseph was at the door, but some people... it sounded like had come in and were creating some chaos.

Later testimony and evidence showed that Sheila and Jared were both fully dressed, not in their sleeping clothes.  It was not 6:30am but 7am, and she was quite capable of coming to the door with Jared at that time.  Nevertheless, by her own admission, instead of rushing out to greet me, she phoned John, even before we had entered the house.

Gary:  What did you hear?

Sheila:  I heard, "We're Jesus Christians. We're killers for Christ," and I think at that point I had dropped to my knees and just called my [other] son right after that.

Yeah, sure!  Instead of just killing them (as she is trying to imply) we come in and announce loudly enough for her and anyone else in the vicinity to hear, that we are 'killers for Christ', and then she drops to her knees.  Or was it when the bell rang that she dropped to her knees?  She cannot seem to decide.  In either case, she did not rush out to greet me, her supposedly 'kidnapped' son.  She knew that I was coming home, and she had other plans for my arrival.

Gary:  Why did you decide to call John?

Sheila:  I'm not sure. I think that John had been warning us that this cult might come by and do something crazy.

Here she is pushing the blame onto John, when information from all three testimonies suggests that Sheila was the one directing the whole show, and telling both John and Jared what was wrong with the Jesus Christians and what needed to be done to stop them.  Jared and John both pleaded ignorance, and said that they got their information almost entirely from Sheila.

Gary:  Had you and John and your husband, at any time prior to May 5, gotten together to discuss the Jesus Christians?

Sheila:  Yes, it seems like during that ten-day period when we were all ... assuming he's kidnapped. We had many discussions and what I was learning about the group, I was giving that information to both my husband and John.

Gary:  So as you learned something, you'd pass it on to your husband and your older son, correct?

Sheila:  That's correct.

Gary:  Why didn't you call 911?

Sheila:  I probably didn't call 911 right at that instant because I could hear Joseph was there and I could hear... it sounded like him saying that he was Jesus Christians, killers for Christ. So it was sort of an awkward situation.

Gary:  I want to understand, Mrs. Johnson, at 6:30 in the morning, approximately, calling John and perhaps momentarily thinking about calling 911. What flashed through your mind might happen if you called 911?

Sheila:  I'm not really sure. My instinct was to call John. I'm not even 100 percent positive why I called John. 

Gary:  When you called John, what did you say?

Sheila:  Well, I just said, "I think the cult is here with Joe and I think that they're robbing the house or doing something." Something to that effect.

First the Jesus Christians are kidnappers for Christ, then 'killers for Christ', and finally they've changed to being 'robbers for Christ'.  She cannot seem to make up her mind.

Gary:  The robbing the house part, what led to that remark?

Sheila:  Because I could hear Jared telling them to get out of the house. "What are you doing?" And I could hear him saying they were killers for Christ, and Jesus Christians, something like that.

Now Sheila is saying that she heard Jared saying that we were killers for Christ and Jesus Christians, after which she assumes not that we are killing Jared, but that we are robbing the house.  Weird.

Gary:  When you called John on the morning of May 5, 2006, what did you anticipate he would do?

Sheila:  I really didn't know what John would do.

Gary:  Well, you're calling a son. He's a young man. He's about 250 to 270 pounds, am I right?

Sheila:  He's a big guy, but I don't know his weight.

Gary:  He told me he was a bouncer. Did you know he was a bouncer?

Sheila:  I think he may have mentioned doing some kind of bouncer work before.

Gary:  When you called him, did you expect him to come out there and be of physical assistance to your husband?

Sheila:  I don't know what I expected from him.

Obviously, you don't call a night-club bouncer if your son has been kidnapped by a group of killers (as she was suggesting), and been brought back to the house by the kidnappers themselves.  If anything, you call the police.  It seemed clear to anyone looking on that she had called John over to do exactly what they had planned to do in their little family meetings during my time away, i.e. kill anyone associated with the Jesus Christians (as Prince Sullivan had suggested), and snatch me away from them.

Sheila's phone call to John had apparently lasted several minutes while Reinhard, Jeremy, and I had waited outside the house to be welcomed in.  It doesn't take five minutes to say that someone is robbing the house or 'doing something'.  She, Jared, and John had been planning something before Jared would even open the door and let me in.

Sheila proceeded to paint a picture which put all of the blame on John, like he was the cause of any wrong thoughts or actions on her part or on Jared's part.  John was the expendable fall guy.

Sheila:  John had told us several times he had his fears as well, his concerns, and one of them was that this is a cult and that they are capable of doing anything. And that was why he had hired this private security guard... had us to hire a private security guard when he was at work so that... to ensure they would not come over and harm us. He was very, very concerned, and I only did it to try to appease his frame of mind, and that's why I think he helped influence me to change the locks to the doors as well.

Gary:  When did you first hire a private security guard?

Sheila:  It was during the April 24 to May 5 time frame.

Gary:  How often was that private security guard at your residence?

Sheila:  If I'm not mistaken, he was there a couple of days. I think it was May 4, but I think he also came May 3. I don't know the exact days. I'm only guessing.

Gary:  And where was that person positioned? Were they inside or outside?

Sheila:  Inside the house.

I had told my family that I would be arriving home on May 4, and hiring an armed security guard and changing the locks was part of their plan for my reception.  Why?  I hate to think what would have happened to me if I had decided to force the lock when visiting the house the day before, Thursday, May 4.  Inside was a security guard who had been hired to 'greet' me if I had succeeded.  But, because I arrived a day late, John had to take over and do what they had originally hired someone else to do for them. 

Once again, Sheila puts all the blame on John:

Gary:  Why was he there for the particular days he did arrive?

Sheila:  Because I think John kept pestering us that we better get somebody to protect our house. He wanted me to get somebody 24 and seven so that the cult wouldn't come in. He was telling me all this stuff about Helter Skelter and Tate-LaBianca and giving me a lot of rundown on various things, tragedies that have occurred involving cults. And just to assure him because he kept, you know, being hysterical about it nearly. You know, "You guys better do something." He didn't want to go to work. He didn't want to go anywhere. He wanted to stay over there and protect us. So I finally said "Okay."

Gary:  Was he armed or not?

Sheila:  I don't recall if he was armed or not, but I know he was a security guard.

Gary:  And the gentleman was there, as you've described, but not there on the 5th, and why is that?

Sheila:  Probably because they came so early in the morning and we would have had him there at a more normal hour when you could expect company. I couldn't afford to have somebody there 24 hours either. 

Gary:  Where did you find him?

Sheila:  John found him at the casino in Inglewood. I believe it's Hollywood Park.

Sheila says that she did not know if the guard (Ferris Hissle) was armed, and yet she says of herself that she grabbed a gun before coming out to meet me, and she put it in her pocket.  She did not deny that it was loaded.  If she felt entitled to carry a loaded pistol, surely she would have expected her hired thug to have one as well.

Gary:  Immediately after you called John, what did you do?

Sheila:  I think I put on something.  I believe I put a coat on over my gown or whatever I was wearing.  Then, I believe I got a gun.

Months before the deposition, when I had stated on the Jesus Christian forum that Sheila had held a gun during the attack, she had denied it, claiming that I had been brain-washed into saying such a thing against her.  She tried to say that I could not be trusted for anything.  Now, under oath, she had changed her story to conform with what I had said all along 

Gary questioned Sheila about what she saw when she walked into the living room:

Sheila:  I saw Joseph and the gentleman here and another gentleman saying, 'We're Jesus Christians.  We're killers for Christ.'  And they were saying that stuff, and they were doing some kind of... looked like some kind of martial arts-type activities... all in sync and all in unison.  I've seen a lot of movies, where they do that stuff.  And theirs was a little bit different from, say, Bruce Lee, but kind of still in line.

She testified that the three of us did our unified karate ritual in a 'threatening manner' toward Jared.  She said we directed our judo chops at him.  No contact, mind you, just threatening manners and lots of shouting about us being 'killers for Christ'.

She said that each time she would try to speak to me, Reinhard would interject and yell out, "We're Jesus Christians, killers for Christ!"  She seemed to be banking heavily on that one line to convince the court that we were, in fact, killers, but if one could excuse a pun, her own testimony amounted to overkill and betrayed her dishonesty.

Further on in her testimony, Sheila said that Jared was finally arrested for the attack six months after it happened, in November of 2006, shortly after Fox News released their report on our mock trial in Long Beach.  Following that arrest, Sheila counseled John to 'turn himself in', rather than wait for the police to arrest him as well.  This was further confirmation of the efficacy of the whipping trial, which at least prodded the police into action after six months of them doing nothing.  

Gary surprisingly got Sheila to admit that the Jesus Christians had been a good influence on me between the time when I first made contact with them, at the age of 16, and the time when I left home at the age of 18.

Gary:  During those two years, no signals at all that his interest [in the Jesus Christians] is growing?

Sheila: Not really, because as an adolescent, I couldn't really see very many changes.  A lot of things he was saying were good things. So I thought okay, he's growing spiritually, mentally.  I was really impressed with a lot of things he was saying.

Gary:  Between 16 and 18?

Sheila:  Yes.

Gary:  He was really reflecting a genuinely good soul, wasn't he?

Sheila:  Yeah, because like for example he'd say stuff like, remember when you had hurricane Katrina? He'd say, "I want to give them a donation." I thought, that's great. "I want to get down there and give it to them myself, and I want to give them good stuff that I'm not using." I said "good".  I liked that.

Gary:  So that was part of the time period between 16 and 18?

Sheila:  Right.

Gary finished his questioning with queries about remorse (or the lack of it) in relation to what happened to Reinhard.  He wanted to get an insight into just where this woman was coming from in relation to the attack.

Gary:  Have you ever expressed openly any remorse for what happened to Reinhard Zeuner?

Sheila:  Well, I think that they're all victims, all of them, even their leader.

Gary:  When did you ever openly express remorse for what happened to Reinhard Zeuner?

Sheila:  Well, when I found out what happened to him.

Gary:  Who did you express it to?

Sheila:  To the family.

Gary:  Your family?

Sheila:  Yes.

Gary:  And to your knowledge, has your husband ever openly expressed remorse about what happened to Reinhard Zeuner?

Sheila:  Oh yes. Yes, he really felt bad that Reinhard had gotten hurt.

Gary:  To whom did he express that?

Sheila:  To me.

Gary:  And, to your knowledge, did John ever openly express remorse for what happened to Reinhard Zeuner?

Sheila:  I think John also expressed remorse about what happened to Reinhard Zeuner.

Gary:  To whom?

Sheila:  To me.

Sheila had, in fact, several months earlier, asked me to pass this message on to Reinhard:  

Tell Reinhard that we only repent to God, not to man.

In this case, it seems that it would have been more appropriate to say that they only repent to the goddess.

That marked the end of Sheila's deposition.
 
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