A 16-year-old homeschooled Christian boy and his 13-year-old brother were arrested in Elverta, California, last Monday for attempting to murder their mother and 10-year-old brother, who have been hospitalized and are in critical condition, police say.
Limited details on the attack, which has left the family’s church and neighbors in shock, have been released by police because of the suspects' ages. Deputies received their first call about the attack about 10:45 a.m. on Sept. 27 from one of the brothers.
A recording of the call published by CBS13 revealed shocking details about what happened.
“… a male says he 187’d somebody and he wants to turn himself in …” the dispatcher said.
“… then said he hurt his mother and she was losing a lot of blood … the male gave the phone to a female who said her son stabbed her … and beat her in the head and she has to go to the hospital …” the dispatcher further noted.
The mother was transported to Mercy San Juan Hospital and the brother to UC Davis Medical Center after the attack, the sheriff’s office said.
The mother, who has five children, was at home with three of her sons at the time of the attack. Neighbors told CBS 13 that her oldest child, a son, was away at college and the father was off at work with his daughter.
“It’s so hard to tell what the triggering episodes are or what the problem is. It’s just devastating that this kind of thing happens … that we have kids who are troubled enough to be violent in their homes,” neighbor Linda Hargreaves told the news station.
Hargreaves said she saw the father and his young daughter pull up to the crime scene in his semi-truck then quickly left in a car.
“He just jumped out, the little girl jumped out the same side, they ran back to a car and got into a car,” she said. “[It’s] devastating that something like this happens anywhere, but also in our quiet neighborhood here.”
The 16-year-old son, who was identified by CBS13 as an award-winning pianist, was also active with his family at Grace Valley Christian Center in Davis, as well as a Christian home school speech and debate club.
He reportedly messaged a member of the debate club about the attack on his mother on the morning it happened. The father of the debate club member then called the family’s church.
Grace Valley Christian Center did not immediately respond to a request for an interview on Monday, but the Rev. Gregory Broderick, an ordained minister with the church who's also an attorney, told CBS13 that the church is “praying for everyone involved.”
“Like many in the community, we were shocked and heartbroken to learn of this terrible tragedy. We don’t yet know what happened, but we are praying for everyone involved, and especially for the full recovery of mother and son,” he said in a statement.
Grace Valley Christian Center is described on its website as “a church where God is moving in the power of the Holy Spirit and transforming the lives of young and old alike. We proclaim the orthodox faith of the Holy Bible, in the Reformed tradition of the apostle Paul, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and others.”
In the wake of the attempted murder charges against the two brothers, former members of the church told The Davis Vanguard that they believe the church is a cult.
Several hundred people are said to attend the church weekly, and many are connected to an elementary school, a middle school and an online high school operated by the church.
The church was reportedly founded by Indian-born senior minister P. G. Mathew and a group of college students in the 1970s. It was originally part of the Shepherding movement, created in response to concerns that American churches were straying from tradition and lacking discipline.
Unidentified ex-members told the Vanguard that the church has devolved into a movement of abuse.
“Former members of GVCC detailed stories of authoritative control, verbal harassment of adults and children, sexual assault, emotional manipulation, and drug abuse. Multiple people referred to it as a ‘cult’ and one referred to it as a ‘dictatorship’ with Pastor Mathew at the center of it all,” the publication added.
Among the methods of control reportedly employed by the church is a requirement of weekly reports from members on intimate details from their daily life.
“They keep a filing system on everybody. One of the moms told me that her daughter was having a horrible period, and she talked about it in a report and the elders spoke about it in a meeting,” one unidentified source said.
“Every week I was supposed to report on how my week went, what I struggled with that week. They would give me feedback or tell me what to do. If I didn’t do it I would get in trouble and they would talk to my parents,” another added.
At a recent court hearing, an attorney for the 16 year old called for a December delay to give doctors time to evaluate his fitness to stand trial. Sacramento Juvenile Court Judge Michael Kenny and prosecutors agreed to suspend criminal proceedings against him, but are pushing for his case to be moved into adult criminal court. The 13-year-old brother will face juvenile court hearing on Oct. 29. The brothers remain in the custody of Sacramento County juvenile hall.