Aug 28, 2018

Suspect In Slaying Related To Brother Julius Cult Pleads Not Guilty

Rudy Hannon, 72, left, pleaded not guilty to murder charges in Paul Sweetman’s death. Sorek Minery, 42, of Burlington, right, is also charged with murder and felony murder. New Britain police (New Britain police)
David Owens
Hartford Courant
August 28, 2018

One of the men charged with murder in the 2004 slaying of the self-proclaimed “chief apostle” of an infamous religious cult led by Brother Julius Schacknow on Monday waived a preliminary hearing and pleaded not guilty.

Rudy Hannon, 72, is charged in the killing of Paul Sweetman, who was the No. 2 in the cult known as “the Work,” which was active in central Connecticut from the 1970s through the 1990s.

Schacknow parlayed his claim of divinity into a multimillion dollar business and real estate empire that crumbled in the late 1980s. He also was accused of sexually abusing female members of the cult, including those who were under the age of consent. Although no criminal charges were ever filed, Schacknow paid a civil court settlement. Schacknow called himself the ”sinful messiah,” telling followers he had to sin to know what it was like.

Sorek Minery, 42, of Burlington is also charged with murder and felony murder in the death of Sweetman, who was 70 when he was killed.

Defendants who face the possibility of life in prison are entitled to a probable cause hearing, where the state must present enough evidence to convince a judge that it is more likely than not that the defendant committed the crime. It is not unusual for defendants to waive the hearing.

According to the warrants for their arrest, both men worked together in killing Sweetman, but each has pointed the finger at the other in statements to New Britain detectives. Sweetman had been reported missing by Joanne Sweetman, who purportedly was his wife, on July 24, 2004. She reported having last seen her husband on July 21, 2004.

Joanne Sweetman was also a top cult leader and was known to members as the “holy spirit.”

According to the warrant and people familiar with the investigation, Paul Sweetman was killed at the behest of Joanne Sweetman in what was a struggle for control of the cult after Schacknow’s death in 1996. Joanne Sweetman, who was previously married to Schacknow, died in April 2011.

Minery, of Burlington, told New Britain police that in the months leading up to Sweetman’s murder, he and Hannon were members of Brother Julius’ cult. Minery said Hannon worked for months to convince him that Sweetman “needed to be killed because he was hurting his wife, Joanne Sweetman and that God would have wanted them to kill Sweetman,” the warrant reads.

During those conversations, Minery told police, he and Hannon decided the “murder should not involve a gun or knife because it was too messy,” according to the warrant.

Minery said he respected Joanne Sweetman and “looked up to her as a high religious figure” and that “because of this, he began believing Rudy Hannon and believed Paul Sweetman needed to die.”

Minery told police he arrived at his business, Blue Ridge Construction in Plainville and discovered Hannon standing over Sweetman’s body. Minery said Hannon, who had a key to the shop, asked for his help in disposing of the body.

They stripped Sweetman down to his underwear then loaded him into a freezer. Three to four days later, Minery told police, he returned to his shop to dismember the body.

“Minery stated that he used an electric saw and dismembered the body while it was still in the freezer,” the warrant reads. “Minery stated he remembers cutting off the head easily and cutting off both legs.”

He then put the body parts in garbage bags and placed them back in the freezer, he told police. He said he buried the head and legs in a shallow grave on land near the New Britain reservoir, and buried the torso and arms beneath the shed of his New Britain home, then poured concrete over them.

The case may not have been solved had an animal not dug up one of Sweetman’s legs and left it on Shuttle Meadow Country Club property. That got New Britain police involved in the case. In 2016 detectives matched the leg to Paul Sweetman after obtaining a DNA sample from his son, Kenneth Sweetman.

Hannon told a different tale. Initially, he told police he delivered Sweetman to Minery’s shop and that Minery killed him. He claimed he thought Minery was only going to beat Sweetman, but admitted he helped put the body in the freezer.

Hannon, in an interview with New Britain police at the Nevada prison where he was serving a violation of probation sentence, eventually admitted that he watched Minery severely beat Sweetman until Sweetman vomited a large amount of blood, then fell back flat on the floor and folded his arms across his chest.

No comments: