HOUSTON -- James Todd thought he found heaven on earth. He had a wife, four kids and a high-paying job as a computer programmer.
After nine years of marriage, however, he still worried something was missing.
“We were hungry, we wanted more,” he said.
He and his wife, Jennifer, feared they were not living their faith to the fullest. Both Christians, they had become disenfranchised with their church.
Then one night, while searching the Internet, they discovered a YouTube channel for a community called the “Fellowship of the Martyrs.” It was founded by a man named Doug Perry.
“My first impression was, believe it or not, was like I don’t like this guy,” Todd said.
Perry founded the Fellowship of the Martyrs in 2004 in Liberty, Missouri, which is located about 30 minutes outside of Kansas City.
According to its website, they operate like a co-op, with about 70 members sharing apartments and often praying together.
But Todd now chooses another word.
“I consider it a cult,” he said.
Drawn by the appeal of ministry, the family moved in nearly two years ago. After a few months, Todd's life began to fall apart.
He said the fellowship allowed addicts and former criminals who could be dangerous and unpredictable.
One in particular, Greg Weiler, was arrested and charged in a plot to blow up churches in Oklahoma.
Then, Todd said his wife started hearing voices telling her to leave him to be with another man. She listened to them.
It was the last straw.
Todd says he packed up his kids in the middle of the night while his wife was asleep and eventually brought them to Texas. Not long after that, she filed charges alleging kidnapping and he was arrested.
That was more than a year ago. Today, Todd is back in Texas fighting for his marriage and the custody of his children.
A Missouri court found he had reason to take them and the charges against him were dropped. Yet he still worries the Fellowship of the Martyrs may be growing dangerous.
“Nobody seems to want to label an organization as a cult until the disaster happens,” he said.
He is still hoping his wife has a change of heart and that his children come home.