Former cult member says he stood watch at beheading


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A former Yahweh follower testified Thursday he participated in the beating of a dissident member of the sect at the cult's Temple of Love and then stood guard as the man was beheaded in a remote area.

Former sect member Ricardo Woodside, 30, testified against his brother, Maurice Woodside, sect leader Yahweh Ben Yahweh, and 14 other co-defendants on trial for murder conspiracy, racketeering and extortion.


Ricardo Woodside said he, his brother, defendant John Foster and other sect members beat dissident member Aston Green with a tire iron and their fists in a back room at the temple in 1981.

'Any available spot that was open on his body was beaten,' Woodside said. 'He looked horrible. Blood was on the floor and all over his face and he was moaning and groaning.'

Green was one of 14 victims prosecutors contend were slain by followers of the all-black Hebrew-Israelite sect, who claim they are they only true Jews and that Yahweh Ben Yahweh is the son of God.


Woodside said he stood guard in a remote area west of Miami as Foster and Richard Ingraham decapitated Green, who had been taken from the temple in the trunk of Foster's car.

The slaying occurred in November 1981 after Yahweh had preached 'the hypocrites must die,' Woodside said. Yahweh praised the men for slaying a hypocrite, but chastised them for not leaving Green's car with his body. The men had hidden the car a few miles away from the body, Woodside said.

Yahweh 'said we should have left the car and the body together so the hypocrites can see what Yahweh (God) did,' Woodside said.

'He said when we take the next head, we're going to put the head in a basket and hang it on a post so the whole city can hear Yahweh and fear Yahweh,' Woodside said.

Yahweh Ben Yahweh, whose given name is Hulon Mitchell Jr., smiled during Woodside's testimony.

Woodside said when the slaying was finished, Yahweh told him, 'There's no reason to be shaken up because when warriors come back from war, they have a feast, so go get something to eat.'

After the ambush-slaying of Carlton Carey and the attempted killing of Mildred Banks, Yahweh told his congregation that those two hypocrites had failed to get protection even from the police, Woodside testified.


'He said as soon as they left the police department, Yahweh (God) killed them,' Woodside said. 'So you can't even go to the police for protection from Yahweh.'

Carey was killed in 1981 but Banks survived an ambush in the apartment she shared with Carey. She is expected to testify in the case.

Ricardo Woodside was named in the 1990 federal indictment charging Yahweh and his followers with murder conspiracy in 14 slayings, racketeering and extortion.

He pleaded guilty last spring to one count of conspiracy in a plea agreement with prosecutors. He was sentenced by Judge Norman Roettger Jr. to five years in prison. He faced up to 20 years for the conspiracy conviction.

When he pleaded guilty, Ricardo Woodside admitted to participating in the beheading of Green.

Earlier, the trial was interrupted when defendant Maurice Woodside stood up and emotionally accused his brother of lying on the witness stand.

Ricardo Woodside testified Yahweh Ben Yahweh ordered him and his brother, Maurice Woodside, to retaliate against a dissident follower, Eric Burke.

Yahweh 'instructed us to go to Eric Burke's house and to take him out,' Ricardo Woodside testified.

At that point, an emotional Maurice Woodside stood and said: 'You're going to lie on me? Your brother? You're going to lie on me? You're going to kill me, your own brother?'


Four U.S. marshals hurried to the crying defendant, sat him down and firmly held him by the shoulders.

Judge Roettger quickly sent the visibly shaken jurors to lunch.

Defense attorney Alcee Hastings, who represents Yahweh, immediately requested a new trial.

'I don't think my client has to be in a position to be forced to put up with that kind of conduct,' Hastings said.

Roettger denied the motion.

'My gut feeling is that if it cuts any way it cuts in favor of the defendants,' the judge said of the outburst.

Richard Gagliano, the defense lawyer for Woodside, said, 'How unfortunate,' as he left the courtroom.

'This whole trial has been an emotional roller coaster,' said defense attorney Steven Cassner.

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