EATONTON—Members of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors appear to have left the land the group occupied in rural Putnam County and in Athens.
Friday, no members of the Nuwaubian group could be seen at the group’s 476-acre compound on Ga. 142 near Shady Dale. Members of the sect disappeared, probably Wednesday, and left behind their collection of monuments, faux pyramids, totem poles and some cats and fish.
As many as 500 people lived on the property at the compound’s peak in 1999, said Putnam Sheriff Howard Sills, but fewer than 50 had been living there recently.
“Most folks in Putnam County don’t even know they’re gone,” said Deputy Sheriff Richard Herren. “But I bet when they find out, a lot of people will want to come out here [and] look.”
The leader of the sect, Dwight “Malachi” York, was sentenced in April to 135 years in prison for racketeering and child molestation.
After his sentencing, a dispute arose over whether York owned the Putnam County farm and a $750,000 home in Athens.
Both now are in the hands of the U.S. Marshals Service after a federal judge ordered them turned over to the government. “There was a forfeiture of property and the marshals service took it over,” U.S. Attorney Max Woods said.
Red, white and blue “No Trespassing” signs were posted on both properties last week.
The faux stucco buildings and monuments looked like giant papier-maché creations crumbling in the heat and humidity.
“The whole place, like York himself, was nothing but a facade,” Sills said. “You can see that now. They sort of destroyed some things. It’s a surreal environment with junk, clothes scattered around and statues about to fall down.”
U.S. District Judge Ashley Royal will decide this Friday whether to order a new trial for York, Sills said. An attorney from New York, Jonathan Marks, now is listed as York’s attorney of record. Sills said York has used 13 different attorneys since he was arrested almost two years ago.
“He’s changed attorneys often,” Woods said. “It is my understanding that the hearing is still set. We are ready to go.”
Friday afternoon, officers from the Putnam County Animal Control office were at the property rescuing cats. Workers also were draining a decorative pond and collecting the fish.
Sills has posted officers at the property while work is being done.
A barricade prevents vehicles from entering the former dairy farm.
Sills said the property has been assessed at nearly $1 million, “but I could go to the bank now, get a million, buy it and then sell it for a nice profit. It’s pretty land and, really, only about 19 acres are developed.”