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Apocalyptic Church Leader Arrested for Failure to Appear in Court

The leader of an apocalyptic sect who is accused of sex crimes against underage female followers has been arrested for failing to appear at a court hearing.

State District Judge Gerald Baca had asked Wayne Bent, leader of The Lord Our Righteousness Church, to attend a hearing after Bent promised to stop cooperating with court proceedings. Baca issued a bench warrant when Bent did not show up.

Union County sheriff's deputies arrested Bent on Thursday at his compound, which sect members call Strong City, in northeastern New Mexico.

Baca ordered Bent taken to a medical center in Clayton for evaluation before going to jail.

Bent was indicted last spring on two counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He has contended that the touching was nonsexual and a "healing" measure.

Bent and his followers have been fasting to protest the charges. Bent hasn't eaten since Oct. 16, and he started his "no water or food" fast Thursday as he was taken away from the compound, according to the group's Web site.

"His fast will continue until he is delivered. The fast at Strong City will continue until our deliverance," a posting on the site states.

In a telephone interview Thursday with the Albuquerque Journal, Bent's son, Jeff Bent, said: "We don't anticipate any future beyond Oct. 31." He said the group is expecting God to "deliver" them "free from earthly claims."