TAOS, N.M. – The leader of an apocalyptic religious sect testified Thursday that he lay in bed with and touched the sternums — but the not the breasts — of naked 14- and 16-year-olds.
Wayne Bent said he was careful that the healing exercises with the two sisters on separate occasions in 2006 were not of a sexual nature.
"I never touched any fleshy part of the breast," Bent said during about one hour on the witness stand during the fourth day of his trial.
Bent, 67, a self-described Messiah and leader of The Lord Our Righteousness Church, is charged with two counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for separate incidents 2006.
He said he was very cautious to avoid any sexual activity with the girls. They were unclothed "because that's what they requested of me," he said.
Bent, who calls himself Michael Travesser, said the 14-year-old came to his house late at night after he was already in bed and "asked to be skin-to-skin with me." But Bent said, "There was a space in between us."
He also said he "could have" kissed the 16-year-old because it's something he does with church members.
On Wednesday, the two sisters testified that they had lain naked in bed with Bent on separate occasions and that he had kissed them.
Bent's attorney, Sarah Montoya of Raton, told jurors in her opening statement Monday there was no sexual contact and no crimes were committed.
The girls' parents are former followers of Bent. At the time of the allegations, the daughters were living in Strong City but the parents, then still church members, had moved out of the compound.
The defense rested its case Thursday and closing statements were expected Friday.