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'I'm the return of Christ' | Alleged cult leader arrested on charges including rape in DeKalb County

Eligio Bishop and his followers have a winding reported history that goes back several years.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Eligio Bishop, also known as "Nature Boy," reportedly the leader of a cult with a winding and sometimes convoluted history, was arrested in DeKalb County and faces charges including rape.

According to DeKalb County Jail records, Bishop was arrested this week and faces five charges: rape, false imprisonment, and three counts of "prohibition on nude or sexually explicit electronic transmissions" — under Georgia law, a violation of sending nude or explicit communications of someone "without the consent of the depicted person."

DeKalb Police said in a statement that they initiated an investigation on March 30 following a complaint against Bishop and that the department executed search and arrest warrants on Wednesday.

RELATED: 'It was mental and verbal abuse' | Former cult member speaks out after leader's arrest

According to police, he was arrested at an address in an upscale cul-de-sac outside Decatur.

Bishop and his followers have a reported history that goes back several years. 

At one point the group appeared to be centered around sexual and naturalist themes, though social media accounts indicate more recently it has reoriented around Bishop's own messianic self-image and Black liberation messaging. Posts are heavy on the number 3 and ancient Egyptian iconography, with Bishop referred to as "Th3 3God" in the accounts. 

Bishop has maintained a robust social media presence, with an Instagram account with nearly 25,000 followers and a YouTube following with more than 90,000 subscribers to his channel. His most recent video was posted Wednesday — the day of his arrest — at Pasha restaurant in Atlanta's Lindbergh neighborhood.

His followers posted a pair of videos running more than an hour long to a separate Instagram account on Thursday in which he said over a phone call to the supporters that, "I know that I've scared a lot of people," but "truly I'm a sweet person." He said in part he was "trying to help people" and "misunderstood."

The call also touched on his messianic messaging.

"They want to crucify me, they want me dead, there's hate that surrounds me, you can feel it, just like any other prophet — only me, I'm the return of the Christ," he said.

Credit: DeKalb County Sheriff's Office

The group's history includes, according to The Costa Rica Star newspaper, being thrown out of at least three Central American countries.

That newspaper reported in 2019 that when the group was thrown out of Panama, it consisted of about 15 members, several of them children, as well as three group leaders who were detained.

Bishop, according to that account, "calls himself God" and "allegedly requires cult members to surrender all their money, credit cards, bank accounts, and pin numbers, in order to worship with the group."

"The cult believes in nudism, polygamy, and refraining from bathing. They promote eating only a vegan diet, and defecating only at the base of trees," The Costa Rica Star reported.

It's not clear from recent social media posts that those remain central components of Bishop's ideology.

The members of the group, according to the Costa Rica report, said they were "people of faith, who had voluntarily renounced their biological families to join the family of 'God' Eligio Bishop." 

In 2017, a Canadian woman's involvement with the group made news in that country when she reportedly left home to join them in Costa Rica. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported at that time that Bishop was a "former model, stripper, prostitute and barber" who went by the alias "Natureboy" - many of his YouTube videos are branded with "Natureboy TV."

The CBC reported corresponding with Bishop, and that he told them, "I am a cult," while also "accusing Canada, the United States of America and CBC of also being cults."

In 2020, the Associated Press reported Bishop and his group — 21 people at that time in all — were arrested in Hawaii for breaking COVID-19 quarantine restrictions. In that instance, he pleaded no contest to violating the quarantine guidelines and left the island for California.

The group has in the past been reported to be called Carbon Nation, though that no longer appears to be a significant part of its identifying themes.

11Alive obtained arrest warrants for Bishop in which much of the specific information is redacted, but the rape and false imprisonment charges stem from an incident on the afternoon of March 24.

Bishop appeared in court on Friday for a first appearance and the judge explained in a brief proceeding that she could not set a bond for him because of the nature of his charges. She told him his attorney would follow up with him about filing a motion for a bond hearing in Superior Court, and that was "all we can do for you today."

"Outstanding," he replied.

Credit: WXIA