Yahweh Ben Yahweh
Sect leader Yahweh Ben Yahweh dies at 71 BY AMY DRISCOLL May. 09, 2007 Miami Herald
He called himself the Black Messiah. Federal prosecutors had a label of their own for him: the most notorious criminal in South Florida, head of a killer cult. Yahweh Ben Yahweh, the Miami sect leader whose black supremacist teachings drew his followers into a web of racism, murder and terror in the 1980s, died Monday in Miami. Yahweh, 71, died of prostate cancer in his sleep, his lawyers said. He had preached racial and religious separatism from his fortress-like Temple of Love in Liberty City, once telling his followers that white people were terrorists and that unbelievers were devils. Yahweh was suspected in 20 homicides but convicted only on a single conspiracy charge. He served 11 years of an 18-year federal prison sentence. At his death, his lawyers had succeeded in throwing off the final constraints of the prison system -- his parole term -- because his cancer had metastasized. ''He died a free man,'' said lawyer Jayne Weintraub. Born Hulon Mitchell Jr. in Oklahoma, the preacher and activist moved to South Florida in 1978 and changed his name to Yahweh Ben Yahweh, translated as ``God, son of God.'' According to a book on Yahweh written by former Miami Herald reporter Sydney P. Freedberg, Yahweh was the oldest child of a minister. He joined the Nation of Islam, then turned up in Orlando as ''Brother Love'' and finally found fertile ground among Miami's poor and black. Charming and well-spoken, Yahweh opened his temple in 1981, as racial tensions simmered from riots a year earlier that had been triggered by the police-beating death of a black motorcyclist. Yahweh provided a progressive new voice, promoting self-reliance to blacks and offering them an economic path to prosperity within the brotherhood of the temple. Turbaned and bejeweled, with flowing white robes, Yahweh won thousands of followers nationwide as a modern-day prophet who said he would lead Hebrew Israelites to the ancient Promised Land. And he made inner-city Miami the center of the Yahweh universe, with Yahweh markets, hotels, restaurants, apartment buildings and beauty parlors -- most painted pristine white, his signature color. The Yahweh temple, a massive 15,000-square-foot building on Northwest 62nd Street, included a school, restaurant, boutique, beauty salon and food cooperative selling fresh fish and vegetables. Yahweh followers sold Yahweh baby shampoo and Yahweh cocoa butter, door-to-door.
For much of the '80s, the sect flourished, despite escalating suspicions of a terror-stricken atmosphere within the temple. Estimates of the Yahweh real estate empire reached anywhere from $8 million to $100 million. The Yahwehs also owned a fleet of white buses, cars and vans. The group found favor with prominent local politicians, too, who considered Yahweh a positive force for blighted neighborhoods. Just a month before Yahweh's indictment in 1990, then-Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez declared Oct. 7 as Yahweh Ben Yahweh Day. Federal prosecutors, however, accused him of plotting 14 Miami-Dade County murders and two attempted murders and of ordering the firebombing of a Delray Beach neighborhood in 1986 to further his religious empire. They said Yahweh ruled with terror, demanding utter obedience from members, down to their clothing, food and choice of sex partner. Prosecutors said he dispatched murderous ''death angels,'' preached violent propaganda and exploited his followers. Federal and state investigators spent millions of dollars and more than a decade tracking 20 homicides they believed were connected to the Miami-based religious sect. But Yahweh's only conviction came on the federal conspiracy charge. He was acquitted in state court in 1992 on murder charges of killing Cecil Branch at his northwest Miami-Dade County home in 1986. Robert Rozier, a former football player for the Oakland Raiders, was a star witness in the state's murder case. Rozier, who joined the Yahwehs in the 1980s and changed his name to Neariah Israel, testified that Yahweh once tossed around a severed ear that one of his disciples had brought him from a ''white devil'' victim.
Rozier was convicted of committing four murders under the orders of the cult's leaders: the shootings of two apartment residents who fought a takeover of their building and the stabbings of two Miami residents. He later admitted to seven killings. In a 1996 federal court ruling upholding Yahweh's conviction, the court described Yahweh's role as an all-powerful cult leader who was protected by a ''Circle of 10,'' men armed with six-foot wooden staffs. At times, the ruling said, Yahweh dispatched ''death angels'' to kill his enemies. In 1986, Yahweh sent a band of followers to firebomb a Delray Beach neighborhood. ''Yahweh ordered the arsonists to stand in front of the residences and use their swords and machetes to murder anyone who tried to exit the burning houses,'' the ruling said. ``The residents were too terrified to come out and face Yahweh's death angels.'' Yahweh lived alone in Miami after his release from prison, according to his lawyers, Jayne Weintraub and Steven Potolsky. He avoided former followers, though Nation of Yahweh faithful continue to follow his teachings, Weintraub said. She called Yahweh ''a very charismatic man'' who should be remembered for good as well as bad. ''He helped to clean up the city and employed many people who would have been on the streets otherwise,'' she said. Trudi Novicki, a former prosecutor on the case and now executive director of Kristi House, a center for abused children, said Yahweh's conspiracy resulted in terrible wrongs. ''His crimes were horrific. He was a very dangerous person when we prosecuted the case,'' she said. Herbert Cousins, the FBI's lead agent on the Yahweh case: ``Our prayers will always be with the victims.''
MIAMI (AP) - Former cult leader Yahweh Ben Yahweh, who was linked to nearly two dozen gruesome killings in the 1980s and was said to have ordered victims' ears cut off as proof they were killed, has died, his lawyer said Tuesday. Yahweh was 71. Yahweh, who had been fighting prostate cancer, died in his sleep Monday night, lawyer Jayne Weintraub said. The self-proclaimed "Black Messiah" founded the Nation of Yahweh and preached religious separatism for blacks. At the group's height, it claimed thousands of followers in Miami and elsewhere. The group was praised for its rehabilitation of Miami neighbourhoods, promotion of family values and stance against drugs. But Yahweh was later accused of sending close followers to kill "white devils" and bring back body parts as proof. He served 11 years of an 18-year federal prison sentence for a racketeering conspiracy conviction stemming from his role in up to 23 killings and was released from prison in September 2001. He was never convicted on murder charges. "Yahweh Ben Yahweh will always be remembered for the many charitable contributions he made...as exemplified when he received a key to the city of Miami," Weintraub said in a statement. "Yahweh will be remembered and mourned by the millions of people that he touched through prayer and teachings." Yahweh was born Hulon Mitchell in Oklahoma. The eldest of 15 children, he became a preacher in Oklahoma, Weintraub said. He married and had four children but divorced before moving to Miami in the late 1970s, she said. In Miami he changed his name to the Hebrew words for "God, son of God." He also opened a headquarters, the Temple of Love, in the Liberty City area, as well as a nearby education centre, and his followers often dressed completely in white. Ultimately, his group built a modest empire of businesses - motels, restaurants, homes and stores - said at the time to be worth US$8 million. They became known for cleaning up blighted areas, Yahweh was honoured for his work. Miami's mayor declared a Yahweh Ben Yahweh Day in 1990.
But authorities said they uncovered another, violent side to the group. Two residents who resisted the group's 1986 takeover of a drug-infested apartment complex were allegedly shot. Ex-members turned up dead and a Delray Beach neighbourhood was bombed after residents and Yahweh's followers butted heads during a recruiting effort. Prosecutors said Yahweh also had an inner circle of group members called "The Brotherhood" or "death angels" who had to kill someone to join the group. He was indicted with other Yahweh members in 1990, shortly after the day honouring him. During his five-month trial in 1992, Yahweh dressed in white robes and a turban and often quoted the Bible. His sister and nephew testified he ordered men, women and children to join in the beating death of sect member. An ex-member testified he ordered another follower executed for gossiping but spared his life after drawing blood with a machete. Police officers, however, were among those who testified in his defence, Weintraub said. Ultimately, Yahweh and six others were convicted in the case. In 1992 he was also indicted and tried in state court on first-degree murder charges, of which he was acquitted. He was released early from parole supervision earlier this year. His lawyers said at the time he had advanced cancer and wanted to die with dignity and his doctor wrote he was unable to walk as a result of the disease. Prosecutors argued even though he was ailing he was still a threat.
Yahweh Ben Yahweh, Miami's white-robed cult leader who was praised for revitalizing blighted neighborhoods and sent to prison for his role in several killings, died in his sleep Monday night at his Opa-locka home. He was 71. The self-proclaimed "Black Messiah" succumbed to prostate cancer, said his longtime attorney, Jayne Weintraub. He had been released from parole in October because of good conduct after serving nearly 11 years for conspiracy, she said. Prosecutors said he ordered his followers to kill "white devils" and bring back body parts as proof. Born Hulon Mitchell Jr. and raised in Enid, Okla., he was the oldest of 15 siblings. He moved to Miami in 1979, changed his name to Yahweh Ben Yahweh -- Hebrew for "God, son of God" -- and established the Nation of Yahweh. He taught a growing number of followers that blacks were the true Jews and he was the god of Abraham. He advocated separation of the races. Yahweh also opened two hotels for the needy and founded a school. He bought several apartment complexes in Liberty City and Opa-locka for his followers, who numbered in the thousands. He was once given the key to the city of Miami. "He gave hundreds, if not thousands, of people jobs. He was recognized and respected for helping to clean up Dade County," Weintraub said. "That's the Yahweh Ben Yahweh that should be remembered."But it was the brutality of his later conviction that brought him notoriety. In 1992, Yahweh and six followers were convicted of racketeering conspiracy. Prosecutors said that between 1980 and 1986, he directed those six adherents to commit 14 murders and two attempted murders and to firebomb a neighborhood in Delray Beach. Several victims were beheaded, and others had their ears cut off as proof of their slayings. Weintraub successfully defended Yahweh against state murder charges in late 1992. Yahweh was sentenced to 18 years on the federal conviction and was released in September 2001 after serving nearly 11.