Don't talk to strange preachers

garrdiomugshotThe arrest of Phillip Garrido last month left a lot of questions unanswered. How had he kept the 11-year-old girl he kidnapped captive for 18 years? How had he fathered two daughters with her and why had his wife agreed to keep the three in a backyard shed? And what was the role of religion in all of this? That last question was raised by a few articles, chiefly the first report from The New York Times. As I argued then, the Times wasn't quite diligent enough in reporting that Garrido was involved with the God's Desire church -- in fact, he created it -- and was maybe a bit indiscriminate when it lumped Garrido in with people who claim to follow God when, in fact, it seems like he just hears "God's" voice in his head.

But, thanks be to God, the Los Angeles Times has provided a lot more details about Garrido's demons. It's a powerful narrative from veteran NorCal reporter Maria L. La Ganga; it opens with the eerie testimony of a girl Garrido raped in 1976:

"He talked a lot about Jesus on our ride, telling me about how he was going to turn himself over to God next year because Jesus was the way," Callaway told police on a cold November morning in 1976 after Garrido raped her repeatedly over 5 1/2 hours.

Thirty-two years later, Garrido claimed he was transformed. Days before he was arrested on charges of kidnapping and rape in the 1991 disappearance of Jaycee Lee Dugard, he handed Cheyvonne Molino, who runs a Pittsburg auto wrecking yard, a four-page manifesto that he said was going to shake the world.

With God's help, he wrote, he was able to overcome "aggressive sexual behavior" and "God willing, I will be able to teach this and other skills Christ is providing for me in the prisons through out the U.S. and over seas."

Well, this is unfortunate. It looks like Garrido wasn't just some vaguely religious nut. He thought of himself as a Christian nut, so nutty that people who frequented his print shop -- out of his home, of all places -- thought he was a fanatic.

Now, "religious fanatic" is an incredibly inexact term. It's on par with "devout;" the definition is just too subjective. But what I'm more concerned with is what Garrido believed God was calling him to do -- and how he justified his lifestyle as something any god would find acceptable. That's missing from La Ganga's article

The headline was "Pursuing God and Sex." But the focus really is on Garrido's history of sex crimes. Mixed in this are the drugs that may or may not have led him off the straight and narrow and the commitment to turn his life around after finding God that he couldn't follow up on. Or at least, in Garrido's mind, not until recently:

Like many print shop customers, Gomes said Garrido's religiosity began to deepen. Last October, he came to their offices, especially excited, waving a document.

"When the FBI reads this and this comes out," he told her, "this is going to be a beautiful story. It's going to be worldwide. It tells how God healed me from pornography and prostitutes."

He handed Gomes the papers. She threw them away.

"He's so happy right now," Gomes speculated. "This is the worldwide thing he's talking about."

I'm still not sure what that is.

An old mug shot. He's a sex offender. With a record.

Please respect our Commenting Policy