Monday marked an important day in the trial of the remaining three accused in the Krugersdorp murders as Judge Francis Jacob delivered his judgment, reports the Krugersdorp News.
During the 37-day trial, many witnesses took the stand to tell a story of theft, fraud, racketeering, intimidation, manipulation and, eventually, 11 murders over a four-year period.
And yesterday, the judge found the remaining three accused persons, Zak Valentine, Cecilia Steyn and Marcel Steyn, guilty on almost all the charges brought against them.
In order to convict the accused on charges of racketeering, the State had to prove that the group was managed and run as an enterprise, with Cecilia as the manager of this enterprise.
This was one of the big issues during the trial, as the accused disputed that their group was ever a ministry or an enterprise.
Judge Jacob explained how organised crime works as a business and how the roles in business sometimes change.
He went on to say that this case was a matter of religious manipulation, murder and lies, a matter of evil against good, a matter of a supposed 42nd-generation witch who manipulated people to believe her religious ideas.
The judge said this case was just a reminder of the dangers people face in religious cults these days.
“It is almost like this witch cast a spell to get innocent people to follow her. I cannot understand how they could kill and then carry on with their lives,” he said.
He explained that almost all of the witnesses believed Cecilia when she said she had spiritual problems and all of them had heard about the orphanage.
During high nights, the group from the Know Your Enemy course would pray and help prevent spiritual attacks on Cecilia, and Judge Jacob said this constant spiritual protection eventually became a ministry on its own.
He said it became apparent that Cecilia had not only grown dependent on the income she received from members of the group, but had become used to the lifestyle.
“I am satisfied, based on the evidence before me, that the Electus Per Deus group fits neatly into what an enterprise is. They were given a specific name and purpose,” Judge Jacob said.
He added that feedback meetings held by the group after their crimes were the only way some of the witnesses could have known about incidents they were not involved in. Some of the threatening messages also contained intimate details of the crimes and could not have been sent by someone who did not know what was going on.
Cecilia was found guilty on 31 charges brought against her, while Zak was found guilty on 23. Marcel was declared guilty on 19 charges. These included racketeering, managing an enterprise, 11 murders, conspiracy to commit murder, theft, fraud and possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.
Judge Jacob said although Marinda pleaded guilty, she was called by Cecilia to testify and it was clear from this testimony that Marinda was the type of person who would not shy away from lying under oath to see Marcel and Cecilia freed.
He explained that there was sufficient evidence to show that Marinda was lying to get Cecilia and Marcel off. This was further corroborated by Marcel’s testimony. This plan, unfortunately for her, backfired.
He went on to say that it was evident from the evidence that Le Roux Steyn and John Barnard took full responsibility for their actions and he found them to be honest, truthful witnesses.
He explained that Zak was a poor witness and made a bad impression. Except for a bad denial, his version of events was never put to the other witnesses to corroborate or dismiss. His excuses included acting under hypnosis or a supernatural spell.
“The evidence against Zak is simply overwhelming,” said Judge Jacob.
He explained that, during her testimony, Cecilia denied everything. She even said she’d read about the murders in the newspaper and that was how she knew of them.
“She aimed to create the impression that she was an innocent law-abiding person who had for no reason been implicated in these awful murders,” he said. He explained that her evidence amounted to a bad denial.
“It is clear Cecilia had lied to and manipulated all the people around her. It is indisputable that she is a pathological liar and a skilled manipulator,” Judge Jacob went on.
According to him, she was an evasive witness who had abused the generosity of others.
“I accept that satanism is not an offence in this country, but she used it to her benefit,” he explained.
He said this was a religious scam like so many others seen in the country and, in order to make it believable, Cecilia had to play the part, and, to keep up appearances, huge amounts of money were needed. He said her actions could only be compared to that of a religious cult.
He said that in June 2012, Marcel was already 14 years and seven months old, which meant she was aware of what she was doing.
The evidence reveals that she had a tattoo and lived with Cecilia. She was aware of meetings and planning sessions. She committed some of these crimes, starting in 2012.
“She might have been young and naive, but the killing of innocent people can never be condoned this way,” he said.
He described her as highly intelligent and said the timing of her testimony was extremely suspicious and appearedto be a tactical manoeuvre.
The sentencing date would be determined soon.