Demolition begins on land seized from
Atlanta Journal-Constitution/June 11, 2005
By Bill Torpy
Demolition crews in Putnam County have started tearing down the
Egyptian-style structures and housing in what once was the
homeland of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors.
The 476-acre parcel was seized last year by the U.S. government
after Dwight "Malachi" York, leader of the religious sect and a
godlike figure to its members, was convicted of racketeering and
on six child molestation-related charges. He was sentenced to 135
The parcel near Eatonton, a little more than an hour southeast
of Atlanta, was sold Wednesday for $1.1 million to a developer,
said U.S. Marshal's Service spokesman Dave Turner. The new owner,
Milledgeville developer Lawson Lawrence, plans to sell the
property soon. He said the rolling land made up of pasture, woods
and four lakes would be a perfect "retreat" for somebody.
Sheriff Howard Sills, who was York's nemesis during a lengthy
investigation and legal battle, operated a front-end loader and
tore down the arched gate to the compound. It came down easily.
"Typical Nuwaubian style — stucco and Styrofoam," Sills said.
Sills was stationed outside the property Friday morning and
speaking with relish as he watched crews tear through the series
of obelisks, statues, arches and buildings. Many of the dozens of
structures were weathered and in disrepair. He said very few of
the Egyptian structures or objects were worth salvaging.
"It feels good to tear down the SOB myself," he said. "By the
middle of next week, there will be nothing but a couple of
pyramids. This place where so many despicable things happened is
In 1998, Sills and other Putnam officials, who were then
battling the Nuwaubians over a building code violation, received
letters that York was molesting the children of his followers.
But the first victim did not come forward until 2001, Sills
said. York was arrested in 2002.
In January 2004, a stream of witnesses, both female and male,
testified during a three-week trial that York had molested them
repeatedly over the years. One victim said the abuse started when
she was 8.
Prosecutors described a culture in which York was the
unquestioned ruler and was variously called Dr. York, Isa
Muhammad, Baba, the Master Teacher and the Savior. He founded the
organization in a crime-infested area of Brooklyn, N.Y., more than
30 years ago and moved the group to Putnam County in 1993.
The group built a series of pyramids, obelisks and statues and
then got in repeated legal and zoning disputes with county
At least 200 followers lived on the land at one time, with
children separated from their parents. Witnesses said they lived
in dilapidated housing while York lived in relative opulence.
Very few of the Nuwaubians still live in the area, Sills said,
although about eight of them who live in a rental house nearby
dressed in white this week and stood by the shoulder of the road