Yahweh Ben Yahweh, a preacher’s kid from Oklahoma who grew up to lead a black supremacist group that terrorized South Florida in the 1980s—demanding that his followers kill “white devils” and return with a body part as proof of the kill—died quietly in his sleep Monday, his lawyers said. He was 71.
A few months later, a federal grand jury charged Yahweh and 15 disciples—members of a secret group of deadly enforcers known as “The Brotherhood”—with 14 murders, extortion and racketeering.
Federal prosecutors branded him the most notorious criminal in South Florida, charging he used the Temple of Love as a front for a cult that enslaved its followers, controlling what they ate, who they married, even when and how they had sex.
If anyone defied his authority, prosecutors charged, Yahweh would order “The Brotherhood” to administer justice, often in the form of murder and dismemberment.
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 neighborhood was bombed after residents and Yahweh’s followers butted heads during a recruiting effort there.
In 1992 he was also indicted and tried in state court on first-degree murder charges, of which he was acquitted.
Convicted of conspiracy, he served 11 years of an 18-year federal prison sentence stemming from his role in up to 23 killings, and was released from prison in September 2001. He was never convicted on murder charges.
This year he was released early from parole supervision. His attorneys said at the time that he had advanced cancer and wanted to die with dignity, and his doctor wrote that he was unable to walk as a result of the disease. Prosecutors had argued that even though he was ailing he was still a threat.