On January 7, 2005, Rick Rodriguez slit the throat of his former nanny and then, on a lonely desert highway, killed himself.
Hours earlier he'd videoed his suicide note, the rambling 60-minute tape giving a remarkable insight into a deeply damaged life. Broadcast for the first time on television, it also lifts the lid on one of the most notorious religious cults to emerge from 1960s American counter-culture.
Aged 29, Rick was heir apparent to one of the most outrageous sects in America. Founded by Rick's adoptive father David Berg, The Family, formerly The Children Of God, promoted a bizarre blend of messianic Christianity and free love.
However, the truth was a sorry tale of physical, sexual and psychological abuse.
Raised to be crown prince of the cult, Rick was a guinea pig in his father's quest to break almost every religious and societal taboo. But five years [earlier] the leader-in-waiting broke with the cult, and with other ex-members became a vocal opponent.
Increasingly desperate and angry about his childhood, Rick's thoughts turned to revenge. In his video he loads bullets into his gun while vowing terrible violence on those who abused him, in particular his mother who, after Berg's death, took control of the sect.
Despite the savagery of his end, his friends (including two British members of the cult), family and wife say Rick was no psycho but a gentle and caring person driven to violence by his dark past.
In Cutting Edge, those closest to him recount the story of a man seemingly doomed from childhood.
Be sure to watch this documentary with an old CRT monitor so you wont be so out of pocket when you kick the screen in in frustration.
The suicide note video that Ricky leaves is really the backbone of the documentary. Without it you would still have a horrific story, but the lucid, coherent manner in which Ricky discusses his plan to murder his mother, King Peter, and finally himself, is unbelievably chilling.
The documentary also talks about the Story of Davidito ,the cults 762-page book detailing Ricky's childhood within the Children of God. 2700 copies were printed and distributed to Family Homes around the world. It is worth reading the dislaimer on the hyperlinked page before clicking on any of the pictures.
Finally, although not a believer in fate, the feeling of Ricky being doomed from the moment he was born is palpable. David Berg and Ricky's mother declared him a divine prince from the moment he was born, destined to lead the Children of God through the biblical end-time. The aforementioned book of his life was read around the world. Through no fault of his own, he was seen, and promoted, to be the natural successor to lead the family. After he left the baggage was still with him. Who else would or could bring the Children of God, now lead by his mother, to justice?
An article in the New York Times, talking about the suicide video, said "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." It makes me think of the words of Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg, who once said "With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion."