Yahweh ben Yahweh's 'Temple of Love:' Coded messages and missing ears
It's the 80s and mysterious Yahweh Ben Yahweh is buying up hotels, opening schools and grocery stores, and cleaning up rundown apartments. When he takes over a complex in Opa-locka, six miles from the Temple of Love, two residents resist leaving. Twenty-four hours later, the residents are shot dead. Found hiding in the bushes, sniffed out by a police dog, is Neariah Israel, a member of the Nation of Yahweh. He is arrested. Miami detectives find a link between those murders and several homicides where the victims' ears are severed and taken. Police say all the cases have another link – the road leads back to Miami's Temple of Love.
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After he creates the mother church, the "Temple of Love," Yahweh ben Yahweh is a colorful fixture in the Miami community. His disciples are familiar on the streets, too, dressed like their leader, in white robes and turbans. When not canvassing local neighborhoods passing out literature and collecting money, the Yahwehs travel together in a fleet of buses emblazoned with the name "Yahweh" on the sides.
There are members who have elected to give up their jobs and homes and live and work to become full time Yahweh followers in the "Temple of Love," the sprawling warehouse they have fixed up in the heart of the riot zone that takes up an entire city block of Miami's Liberty City.
During one of his sermons, Yahweh ben Yahweh tells his audience: "So, if you're tired of suffering in America and you're ready to return to your own God Yahweh, you are ready to submit to Yahweh as your god and be a part of the Kingdom of Yahweh, then I invite you to come over here to my right up on the stage and I will shake your hand and welcome you into the Kingdom of Yahweh."
Former Nation of Yahweh member Khalil Amani, the former Lloyd Rodney Clark, was asked to be one of the full-time workers at the "Temple of Love" by Yahweh ben Yahweh. He gave up his birth name and became Yehudah Israel. His daughter was the firstborn in the Nation of Yahweh.
"Yes, Yahweh ben Yahweh delivered her himself," he says.
At the time, he and his wife were living in a house with some other Yahweh members. They hadn't yet moved into the temple. Yahweh and "a few midwives" came to the house and delivered his daughter in 1980.
But, two years later, in early February of 1982, they move in with Yahweh and other followers.
"We gave up our jobs, school, whatever we had going on," he says. "At that time there were 40 or 50 of us that became full-time workers."
Amani remembers that he had several jobs. One was in the print shop, "because Yahweh ben Yahweh wanted to print his own literature, bibles and stuff instead of having other people do it for him."
So, during the day, he put together books in the print shop.
At night, however, he did guard duty.
"Every man had a two-hour guard duty that they did around the clock seven days a week," he says. "When people would go to bed at 10 or 11 o'clock at night, you were obligated to get up out of your bed and do a two-hour guard duty. You just sat at the front of the temple in the foyer, and you watched the street for two hours. You worked 16 hours a day and then with the two-hour guard duty, you worked for the temple 18 hours a day."
Publicly at his "Temple of Love," Yahweh ben Yahweh teaches peace and morality.
"We love all moral men and I teach you to be moral," he tells his followers in a sermon entitled, "What is the Duty of the Followers of Yahweh." "To be blessed, you must be ethical: and the definition of ethics is a system of moral principle. A system means an order, a method, a truthful mathematical sequential fact. Ethics deal with the rules of conduct that all civilized people of the earth recognize."
But Amani says that the spiritual leader's preaching contains cryptic messages that are understood by members of the Nation of Yahweh.
"Yahweh ben Yahweh used coded words," he says. "He used a word called Azazel, which in Hebrew means scapegoat. And he basically taught that, in our own land, we'd have these goats that we would bring once a year and we'd kill them for the sins of Israel. But he took it further and he'd say, 'White people are the new goats.' And he said that proof of a kill is to bring back the head of the Azazel, and we knew that the Azazel was not a goat, because we weren't in our land with goats. The Azazel was the white man. So the language was coded, but we clearly understood what he meant when he would say those kinds of things. He said ears and heads and all that kind of stuff."
During another sermon, Yahweh ben Yahweh tells his followers: "You can't leave the west without the white man's permission. Oh, no, you try it. Jump on up and leave America without the white man's permission. You won't get back in. What is white people's permission to leave America called? Passport. Visa."
Yahweh ben Yahweh proves at another sermon that he is, indeed, the son of God. He tells them he fits qualifications that are in the Bible: "The garment down to the foot and wooly hair."
But there is something else: "Something funny about his eyes, his eyes were as a flame of fire. Come look at my eyes. When you get a chance, come look at my eyes you will see every color in fire there is. My eyes are exactly like this book says. Now I fit three descriptions that are mine to perfection."
As he proclaims his power, some members are growing disillusioned. More than a dozen members decide to break off and create a temple of their own. Amani says the former members return frequently to the temple to taunt Yahweh and the members of the church.
"Yahweh ben Yahweh had talked voraciously about killing people," the former cult member remembers. "He talked about 'the hypocrites' and they got to die. I just didn't believe it was going to be a literal thing that happened. One night they came by with guns, and they stopped and pulled into the parking lot, and one of the guys says, 'Where's Ock Moshe? Bring that faggot out!' And, believe it or not, Ock Moshe did come out and we kind of grabbed him and pushed him back inside the door. And they started shooting up in the air. They weren't actually shooting at us. They just wanted us to know they had weapons."
He believes that those are instances that led to the murders of dissidents Aston Green and Carlton Carey.
"They weren't all together blameless themselves," he says. "I know that doesn't come out in the media like that, but that's what it was. It was kind of a war. They brought it to us. We just so happened to get the best of them."
Former Local 10 News reporter Mel Taylor reports about what's happening around Miami.
"Publicly, Yahwehs were noticed in their white robes. They carried canes, but privately residents and police investigators are hearing horror stories about the Yahwehs."
Taylor interviewed one woman who said she was attacked and her boyfriend shot to death by the Yahwehs. She spoke exclusively to Local 10 News, five years after she and Carey were ambushed at their Carol City home.
"I remember two shots ringing out and I screamed," Mildred Banks tells Taylor.
In 1981, her home became a house of death. She tells Taylor she still carries a bullet in her side from that night.
"I remember saying to myself, 'They are going to cut (Carlton's) head off,'" she says.
She is also attacked by a machete. She says she tried to call for help but someone had cut the telephone lines. So she crawled to a neighbors to get help.
Carey, an accountant, and Banks, a postal worker, had gone to the police to tell them that they knew who was responsible for the beheading of their roommate. Green was found dead and dumped in the Everglades. His head was severed by what police say was a dull machete.
Mildred Banks survives
Miami-Dade police Detective Steve Roadruck goes to interview Banks at Miami International Hospital shortly after she is shot. She, too, has machete wounds.
"It was about 1981 or 1982 when the murders first occurred," Roadruck says. "I was in homicide and (another detective) John King had that first homicide and interviewed roommates of his homicide victim (who was Aston Green). Then when they went home, Carlton Carey was killed and Mildred Banks was severely injured. Mildred was very injured, but I wanted to get to interview her right away. I remember being there in the emergency room and they showed her neck and it was almost completely chopped off and she was shot. An emergency room doctor poked something in her ribs, which saved her life because she was drowning in her own blood."
Roadruck says they were concerned about someone possibly coming to kill her, so they assigned uniformed police officers to stand guard outside of her hospital room.
"When she was able to speak with us, we interviewed her, but she couldn't remember what anyone looked like," he says. "They were wearing masks. But we knew it came out of the temple."
Roadruck says Banks did give them information about what was going on behind closed doors at the "Temple of Love."
Banks told the detective that there was sexual abuse, possibly of young girls, inside the temple by Hulon Mitchell.
"The indoctrination, the tapes, the media stuff that he would hand out to his followers, preaching the hatred of white men. We were trying to grab everything we could about him and what he was espousing at the time," Roadruck says. "We tried to build a case. We tried to get a search warrant. We did go into the temple with some building inspectors, but Hulon Mitchell and his cronies weren't cooperating or talking or anything."
Telltale green carpet
When Roadruck and King go inside the "Temple of Love," they notice green carpet. It is the same green carpet that is found at the scene of Aston Green's beheading.
Amani says as he is on guard duty, he had seen the Yahwehs wrap Green in carpet the night that they beat him and put him in the trunk of a car.
"They have his head wrapped up in carpet, some extra carpet that we had in the temple, and they had masking tape around the carpet," Amani says. "Basically he was suffocating. But I could hear him still mumbling. I could hear his moans under the carpet, so I knew he wasn't dead yet."
Green is killed on Nov. 12, 1981. On Nov. 14, 1981, Carey and Banks go to the police, saying they fear for their lives. Early the next morning, they are ambushed. Amani says followers at the temple and Yahweh ben Yahweh now know they are being watched after the two incidents.
"It was kind of a weird time," he says. "We saw helicopters and police undercover driving by (the temple) slow."
Shootings at Opa-locka
It's just before noon on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 1986. Two white limousines, several cars and the now-recognizable Yahweh Greyhound buses pull up to a rundown apartment complex in Opa-locka, a city in northwest Miami-Dade County, six miles from the "Temple of Love."
Residents of the complex tell the news media that about 75 Yahwehs descend on the apartments. They are there to clean out the building that the Nation of Yahweh has purchased, and they are going to do whatever it takes to evict anyone who won't leave.
It turns into a tense two-day standoff, with 22 Yahweh members standing guard with 6-foot-long wooden staffs and walkie-talkies. Two residents interviewed on television are defiant. They get into a confrontation after the Yahwehs enter one of the men's apartments and carries out a refrigerator. The men struggle with the Yahwehs until they get the refrigerator away from the sect members.
Danny Borrego worked in the homicide division as an investigator for the Miami-Dade Police Department. He responds to a call of shots fired at the apartments on the second day of the standoff.
"So, we get a double homicide in the city of Opa-locka," he explains. "What happened was the Yahwehs had purchased an apartment complex. It was a rundown building. The Yahwehs, at the time, were in the process of a major fix-up, buying dilapidated apartments, then cleaning them up. They were in the process of doing that here, but there were people still living in these apartments. They used less-than-legal means to evict the people out of these apartments, even though the apartments had been condemned."
Borrego says there was an uproar when the Yahwehs came.
"They had large containers and they were just emptying out apartments whether someone was living there or not," he says.
Former Local 10 News reporter Vickie Frazier reports from the scene that's now become a double homicide: "The victims are Rudolf Broussard and Anthony Brown, who witnesses said apparently argued with Yahweh members just hours before they were found shot. They were shot within close range in the head and back. Witnesses say sometime after midnight, a green car entered the complex, there was a confrontation and shots rang out. Broussard died at the scene. Brown was heard pleading for his life as he tried to escape. Sources say he was shot once in the back, then three more times in the head. He died two hours later at Jackson Memorial Hospital. The green car was impounded with several white robes in the back seat. At the scene, Metro Dade police found an unidentified man hiding in a field close by. He was wearing the familiar white turban worn by Yahweh members."
After paying half a million dollars for the complex, the Yahwehs wanted everyone to go. Broussard and Brown were two residents who verbally refused to go, Frazier reports.
Linking lopped-off ear cases
Borrego says there other recent killings had police puzzled, but now the Opa-locka shootings might hold the answers to those crimes, too.
A gun found at the scene of the apartment complex shooting is linked to one of Borrego's cases, where a man sleeping in a car behind a bar is found dead. His ears are cut off and one of them left behind. The other one is missing.
"A victim named Raymond Kelly was found murdered outside of the Teepee Lounge in South Miami," Borrego says. "He was found in the back seat stabbed to death. He was sprawled out, as if someone had fallen asleep in the back seat of the car, his legs hanging out of the rear door. The door was open. He was found there by some passersby. He was stabbed multiple times, but what made this murder different is that both his ears had been severed. One of the ears was found on the scene, outside the car, and the other one was missing."
Borrego says he had never come across anything like it.
"I used to hear about things like this," he says. "In Vietnam, to prove that you had killed someone, you would cut someone's ear off. This is just stuff that I had heard about. Usually it was indicative of a ritualistic-type of killing or as a souvenir of some sort from a serial killer as proof that you had gone out and killed someone."
Borrego says Kelly was apparently drunk and was "sleeping it off in his car." The killing was random and that the man was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"We were told that Kelly had kept a gun in his glove compartment at all times. Right after the shooting incident at Opa-locka, a guy took off running and was hiding in some bushes. What we did find in the area where he was apprehended were two weapons that were disposed of right near where he was hiding. One of them was the murder weapon used to kill Broussard and Brown, and the other weapon was Raymond Kelly's gun from the murder a month before in South Miami."
They compared the fingerprints of the man that they had apprehended in Opa-locka and fingerprints lifted from Kelly's car.
They positively identify Robert Rozier at the scene of the murder and in possession of the guns.
"So we have a good circumstantial case that he and the Yahwehs are possibly involved with these ear cases," Borrego says.
There had been numerous cases of many homeless and vagrant men who were stabbed to death and their ears taken.
Roadruck says law enforcement was suspect of the Nation of Yahweh for five years, even before the Opa-locka apartment murders.
But was it true what some say that Rozier was acting alone and was just a psychopathic serial killer using the "Temple of Love" as a cover?
Roadruck quickly dismisses that notion.
"Personally, I think that's stupid," he says. "We knew where it was coming from. We knew Hulon Mitchell ordered the homicides. There was no doubt in our minds at all. From what Mildred Banks told us and what we gathered and what happened after that, there is no doubt in my mind 100% that Hulon Mitchell ordered these hits."
Delray Beach neighborhood firebombed
Six months before the Opa-locka incident, there is a firebombing in a black neighborhood in Delray Beach. The Nation of Yahweh is tied to that. On May 18, 1986, a street brawl involving the Yahwehs and some neighborhood kids leave some of the "Temple of Love" members bloodied and beaten. About 20 members, mostly women and children, had been preaching and knocking on doors when they were attacked. Witnesses told police that two nights later, Molotov cocktails were thrown through windows, burning a half of a dozen homes on May 20, 1986.
After Opa-locka and Delray Beach, Yahweh ben Yahweh know he's under scrutiny. He gets high-powered lawyer Ellis Rubin, who creates a media blitz. The once-quiet spiritual leader is now giving interviews on radio and television, and inviting people into the temple and into his private office.
Yahweh ben Yahweh tells reporters of instances when Yahwehs were attacked, but the Yahwehs were blamed.
"We have past instances when one of our sisters was attacked with a machete, her neck was cut. She had to be put in the hospital. Her arms were cut with a machete," he tells reporters as Rubin sits nearby.
"This woman was trying to decapitate her without cause. We called the police, and the state attorney's office we filed charges, the state attorney's office said you don't want to bring charges against this old lady. They wouldn't bring it to court. Nothing has been done, but we have no justice in the case. If we were violent people, she certainly wouldn't be here. She would have had her own head cut off with her own machete."
Is the Temple beginning to crumble?
It appears that the Nation of Yahweh is beginning to split at the seams. Residents of the Opa-locka apartments win in court when a judge rules that the sect had waged a campaign of extortion and terror against them. They have to sell one of their properties to pay the judgement. Meanwhile, city of Miami inspectors are finding ways to crack down on the "Temple of Love" for code violations.
The most damaging to Yahweh ben Yahweh will be the man police find hiding in the bushes at the Opa-locka shootings. It's Neariah Israel, a Yahweh member whose real name is Robert Earnest Rozier. He's charged with involvement in a number of crimes, including Broussard's and Brown's murders and Raymond Kelly's stabbing.
Most likely, under the counsel of his attorney, Yahweh ben Yahweh calls a press conference. He is going to publicly announce that he is excommunicating Robert Rozier from the Nation of Yahweh.
Here is part of his speech. Yahweh refers to Rozier as "he" throughout:
"We welcome you here to the Temple of Yahweh. These headquarters have been the target with the threat of extortion and blackmail. He says that the state has been making him offers. And they believe that he has a lot of things locked up in his head. They want bigger fish and feel that he can give them bigger fish. He said Rubin was given at a higher price and he picked an attorney at a cheaper price. The state feels that he has enough in his head where he could buy his life. (He says) if he goes into court and is given a public defender that means the 'Temple of Love' does not care. The temple would then prove that they have disassociated themselves from him. (He says) if his rock turns into a sponge, he too will become a sponge. He said Yahweh is a man of war and that he wants to see war. He said that if Yahweh is faithful then he will be faithful. Robert Rozier's efforts to extort and blackmail us to furnish him another attorney to bow to his will or else he will make up fictitious charges against us is criminal in the sight of god Yahweh and in the sight of all moral men of the Earth, and has been reported to the state attorney's office this day, June 10, 1987. I hereby excommunicate Robert Rozier, also known as Neariah Israel, and take the Lamb's Book of Life in the sight of the world and blot out Robert Earnest Rozier, also known as Neariah Israel, out of the Book of the Living. So be it. I thank you the members of the press that came to get the truth today."
Up next on The Florida Files: Is the "Temple of Love" responsible for multiple missing ear cases, a former member talks about Yahweh ben Yahweh's circumcision ritual and who put out a hit on Hulon X?
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