Kankakee, Ill. -- Deprogrammer Rick Ross sees a number of similarities between the
religious group that broke of numerous Kankakee families 10 years
ago and the cult led by Jim Jones, which committed mass suicide
Ross has been at the Bourbonnais home of Gerald and Sue Gromer
the past week working with Gromer's two sons from his previous
Luke, 14, and Mark, 12, were taken by Gromer;s former wife, Loretta,
after she became involved with a religious group known as His
Gromer spent nearly a decade trying to find his two children.
He had custody of them at the time his wife left Illinois with
the group. They were found in early June, living with their mother
and stepfather, Terry Frey, in Vermont.
The leader of His Community, David Mulligan, now serves as head
of what is called Christ Covenant Ministries, located near where
the Freys were living in Woodbury. In facy, the home is believed
to have been purchased by the financial arm of that religious
Mrs. Frey is currently facing extradition on a kankakee County
charge of child abduction.
The Gromers located Ross after calling an organization known as
Cult Awareness Network, headquartered in Chicago.
According to Ross, that organization is a clearinghouse of information
regarding destructive groups and cults and has about 35 to 40
affiliates throughout the United States.
Ross began working with the boys Monday afternoon and by Thursday
night he felt satisfied about the progress they had made.
"I think the boys have been laughing and acting more like
normal, healthy young boys," said Ross.
Mrs. Gromer said she has noticed a big difference in the boys
since their sessions with Ross.
"They were here and they would go out and ride their bikes
and stuff, but they weren't happy," she said of the boys'
behavior prior to Ross' appearance. "They were scared.
They weren't sure about us at all."
"The past couple of days, we've seen such a turnaround in
them," said Mrs. Gromer. "They don't mind talking with
us now. They don't mind laughing with us. They sit and watch
TV shows with Jerry now."
When he first arrived, Ross said the boys were apprehensive and
anxious and it took a while to build a rapport with them in order
to build meaningful communication.
"After all," said Ross, "for 10 years they were
raised in a cult and for them that was normal life.
"They had no exposure to the information about the group
that other people knew on the outside. They were forbidden to
talk to their father , or have any contact with ex-members, or
families of members who objected to the group and were told all
these people were evil and were afraid to speak to them,"
Ross said the boys did not ask to leave during the sessions, which
involved discussions about the group and other religious cults.
According to Ross, none of the sessions lasted more than six hours
and numerous breaks were taken for pizza, cookies and bike rides.
"They've gotten plenty of sleep and rest," said Ross.
Ross describes the deprogramming as an educational process and
The boys were shown videos documenting many other cult groups throughout the United States in which they have heard testimony from former members of such groups.
Ross said the boys were also exposed to material regarding mind
control techniques and met with ex-members of His Community.
An assistant who traveled with Ross is also an ex-member of what
he calls a destructive group.
The process, said Ross, is a debriefing in which the boys could
explore the issues of the group and its leader and "how it
really is not unique."
The group, he said, for all its claims of spiritual elitism and
uniqueness is very similar and correlates to "many, many
"Really my job is to sit down with people who are involved
in the group and talk to them about the issues concerning and
revolving around the group," said Ross, "and that was
essentially to separate David Mulligan and the group and what
they do from God, Jesus, and the Bible and so forth.
"In other words, though Mulligan would like to cast this
in religious terms and hide behind the facade of Jesus, Christianity
and holiness, the real issue is not faith, or the Bible. The
real issue is David Mulligan and the way he runs his group."
Ross said most people who know him consider him conservative in
using the word "cult" and he said he prefers to call
many groups simply destructive groups.
One reason why he believes Christ Covenant Ministries is a cult,
said Ross, is the "particular practice of this group regarding
complete breakdown of communication with the outside world, especially
people on the so-called black list, which includes many parents
and family members living here in Illinois."
The main reason for calling it a cult, however, is "the obsessive,
intensive focus by the members of this group upon the individual
David Mulligan as their total leader," said Ross.
"What we're talking about is a group that is extremely totalistic
and virtually a spiritual dictatorship in which David Mulligan
makes decisions that cover the day-to-day lives of all the members
and their families," said Ross.
This allegiance is similar to that given to Jim Jones by former
members of the People's Temple or by the Unification Church to
the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
Ross notes there have been a numerous of names changes and marriages
within the group. Mark and Luke are believed to have undergone
four name changes since they were taken from their father on Dec.
Changing the names of people within the group to kill off their
previous identity is a symptom of cult groups, said Ross, and
has been done extensively in the Mulligan-led organization.
Ross said the way the group has interacted with the world around
them is "extremely cultlike."
When the group went to Kentucky, he said, they left the Illinois
area with stories of being persecuted, that God was against them,
that they, were going to the promised land and how Kankakee would
"All of these things fit the pattern of a cult mentality,
a cult leaders jargon and mode of language," said Ross.
The structure of the group and its talk of going to a promised
land in Kentucky, he said, "All fits very closely to the
same history of Jim Jones and Jonestown."
Mulligan went even a step further than Jones, said Ross, in talking
in Kentucky about how the end of the world was coming - that members
needed to isolate themselves and "prepare for the end of
The boys, however, have said there was not that emphasis on the
end of times in Vermont, according to Ross.
But the group, he said, reacted in a "totally cultlike manner"
when other people from Kankakee recently went to Vermont to try
to see their family members. He said group members displayed
an "enormous amount of fear and stress" and were not
allowed to talk to their relatives.
Ross said his fear is that as the outside world closes in and
the media reports about various things going on at Christ Covenant
Ministries - that the group and its leader will develop a "paranoid
seige mentality" and draw in tighter.
"This type of paranoid seige mentality can become dangerous,"
said Ross. "keep in mind that all of the members of any
cult group, such as this one, depend on direction from their leader.
"They think through the mind of their leader and when the
leader is disturbed
and they are dependent on his Headship
to do their thinking for them, then this can become very dangerous,"
Despite Mark and Luke having lived in the cult environment for
10 years, Ross believes they have an excellent chance of a successful
return to a more normal lifestyle. He believes however, that
further counseling will be necessary.
The counseling with a psychiatrist and Ross' bill, which was more
than $2,000, have pput a strain on the Gromers' budget.
Fundraisers have been held in an effort to help the family and
Gromer, despite some reservations, sold his story to the National
Enquirer for an undisclosed fee. Gromer is also having to
pay legal fees to retain custody rights to his children.
Ross believes that for the boys welfare, they should not be returned
to the custody of their mother, Loretta Frey - unless she disassociates
herself completely with Muligan.
"There is no indication that she has any intention to do
that," said Ross. He believes the best that could happen
regarding her status is to allow supervised visitation in the
living room of the Gromer home.