Cult pastor dictator

Late cult pastor Kevin Smith ruled his Pathways International Kingdom Restoration Ministries with such an iron fist that he would project death upon congregants and their families who refused to pay him money upon demand. And among his dictates, they had to seek his permission to go on vacation.

Those were among the allegations documented in witness statements read out by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn yesterday in the Supreme Court as the State opened its case against Andre Ruddock, the man accused of killing one of two people whose throats were slit at Smith’s church on October 17 in what is believed to have been a human sacrifice ritual.

A third congregant, Kevaughn Palmer, was shot dead by the police as they entered the building, while another of Smith’s followers was stabbed, shot in his back, and an attempt made to cut his throat during the mayhem inside the building in Albion, St James.

Yesterday Ruddock, who has confessed to killing Pathways member Tanika Gardener on Smith’s command, was ordered by the judge to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and to return to court on December 7 when outstanding evidence, such as post-mortem reports, should be ready.

The recommendation for the psychiatric evaluation was made by Llewellyn.

In laying the prosecution’s case, the DPP said that Ruddock was employed by Smith to take care of his animals, including 17 goats and three head of cattle, and to perform other jobs around the church.

She said, according to witness accounts, Smith was addressed by the titles “His Excellency”, “Daddy”, or “Father.” He later asked to be addressed as “His Majesty” because he believed himself to be the king.

“It is alleged that if he believed a particular member had money and didn’t want to give it to him, he would indicate that the reluctant member was going to crash and die, and he would send out his wrath on the member and their family,” the DPP said, adding that the witnesses claimed that, “Smith would allegedly use threatening terminology to get the money, and his method was described as dictatorial.”

She added that if a particular member of Pathways and his/her family wanted to go on vacation, they would have to first seek permission from Smith, who “said that without his covering, the member and his/her family would not pass through Immigration”.

The DPP said witnesses claimed in their statements that the church operated in the customary way for most members, as Smith presided over marriages, baptisms, deliverance services and the ‘sowing of seeds’. They also said that Smith “would prophesy or get a vision about people’s deaths”.

According to the account of one witness, about two weeks before the day of the ritual incident, Smith had started to act in a ‘strange’ way and changed what he was teaching in the church.

“Smith said that Selassie I was God and told his congregants that they could listen to secular music from persons such as Sizzla, Capleton, Buju Banton, Beenie Man, Queen Ifrica, and others,” the DPP said the witness stated, adding that Smith also “told his congregants that they could smoke weed [ganja] because it can carry them to a higher level of consciousness”.

The witness statements also said that on October 12, 2021 Smith said that the people in the church who took the vaccine would be singled out and put out of the church. He did not believe in the vaccine and said it was the mark of the beast. He further said that anyone who took the vaccine had no share and part with God and would be cut off from “the light”.

In relation to the day of the incident, the witness statements said that about 2:35 pm a male witness saw Smith arrive on the church compound and began shouting that he is God in the flesh and they should “come into the ark before it closes”.

His reference to the ark was the church building.

The witness also said that people were allowed to enter the building after Smith called their names from a list he hand in his hand and upon entry they signed “999” beside their names after which Smith signed “999” beside their names.

One of the witnesses claimed that Smith told members of the church to throw out all tissue, wipes and soap. While the congregants discarded the items, a bottle of wine broke.

“Approximately 20 minutes later, Smith told the now deceased Kevaughn Palmer that whoever was in front of the wine, he [Palmer] should cut that person’s throat so that they can enter into the kingdom. Smith instructed the now deceased Kevaughn Palmer to cut the throat of Witness A and other persons. Witness A said he went to the ‘safe side’,” according to the witness statement.

The DPP said Smith told Witness B that in order for him to enter into the kingdom, Palmer would have to cut his throat. Witness B knelt down in front of Smith and handed the knife to Palmer. Witness B subsequently ran outside along with another person but Palmer chased Witness B and the other person and stabbed them in their backs.

“At this juncture the other members of the church lay down on the ground and covered themselves. Smith then began to destroy the glass on the altar, the window and other items,” the DPP read.

Sometime after, Smith is alleged to have given a knife to Witness A and told him that he was Michael, the archangel. Smith also gave the accused Ruddock a knife and told him that he [Ruddock] was the archangel Gabriel.

The witness statements also related the events leading to the death of Michael Brown, a member of the church who was suffering from a health issue which resulted in tubes being attached to his body.

Smith, the witnesses said, told Brown, “You have to die, but you will rise again, because I am the resurrection and the light.” Thereafter, Smith pulled the tubes from Brown, who then bled to death.

The witness statements also related the allegations as to how Tanika Gardener was killed, saying that Smith asked her, “Do you believe that I am the resurrection and the life?” Gardener replied “Yes”.

Smith then asked her: “Do you believe I can raise you from the dead?” She replied, “Yes”, to which Smith responded, “Your blood have [sic] to be cleansed. I will have to cut your throat,” and Gardener said “Yes”.

Said the witness statement: “Smith instructed Witness A to cut Ms Gardener’s throat; Witness A said no. The accused Andre Ruddock walked to where Ms Gardener was located. When the accused Andre Ruddock got to where Ms Gardener was located, she knelt down before him. At this point the accused Andre Ruddock used a knife to cut Ms Gardener’s throat. It is said that the deceased Tanika Gardener did not make a sound or scream, but Witness B heard a gargling sound.”

The events shocked the country and led to Smith being arrested. However, he died in a motor vehicle crash on the Linstead bypass in St Catherine, October 25, while being transported from Montego Bay to Kingston to be charged with two counts of murder, two counts of wounding with intent, and illegal possession of a firearm.

Police Constable Orlando Irons also died in the crash and two of his colleagues were injured.

Ruddock was being transported in the same convoy but was in another vehicle.

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