MALINDI, KENYA – The Malindi High Court in Kenya charged Christian cult leader Paul Nthenge Mackenzie and 29 additional suspects on Tuesday for the murder of 191 children. The prosecution is in response to the grisly discovery of children’s remains within the Shakahola forest in eastern Kenya last year, at an alleged death cult site run by Mackenzie and his followers. Over the course of several months, authorities exhumed more than 400 bodies in the extensive woodland region.
Upon being charged, Mackenzie and the 29 other suspects pleaded not guilty. One among them was declared mentally unfit for trial. In addition to the murder charges, Mackenzie faces accusations of terrorism, manslaughter, and child cruelty.
As leader of the Good News International Church, Mackenzie is believed to have instructed his large follower-base to starve themselves and their children to death in preparation for doomsday, promising that doing so would ensure their passage to heaven.
Investigators state that Mackenzie’s cult was readying itself for the apocalypse under his command. Since last April, he’s been in custody as investigators underwent an exhaustive search of the forest for evidence. Autopsies of the exhumed bodies revealed multiple causes of death, including starvation and injuries indicating blunt trauma and strangulation.
The court threatened to release Mackenzie last month unless the state prosecutor issued charges against him. The prosecutors explained that the process of victim identification through DNA was lengthened due to the advanced decomposition of most of the bodies.