DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — In 2017, Velvet Marquez was in college, just 20 years old, and trying to find her "truth and spirituality." She came across a Facebook post from a then-member of the so-called "Carbon Nation" cult.
She then started video chatting and texting this member and realized she had fallen for him. That spark prompted her to travel to Costa Rica where the group was living at the time.
"Little did I know, the cult member at the time was teaching me everything that I needed to know before coming to the cult, so that I wouldn't get in trouble," Marquez said.
The two dated for nine months. However, Marquez said their relationship came to an end because Eligio Bishop - also known as Nature Boy and Chief - the reported leader of the cult.
"[Bishop] asked me if I was sure that I wanted to be with the cult member and I told him that I was sure," Marquez said. "So, the entire time that I was with the cult member, he'd plot it to take me away and to love by me and romance me and to make me his wife, so that he can make me queen of Carbon Nation to pretty much abuse and manipulate everybody else in the process."
Marquez said she needed space after the break-up but Bishop insisted on pursuing a relationship with her.
"As a young girl at 21 years old, I'm like, 'okay, well, you love me this much and you're this consistent,' and he is telling everybody else - which is 15 to 20 people - that he is in love with me, then I'm gonna give you a chance," she said
In 2018, Marquez found out she was pregnant, which she said came with mental, physical, spiritual, and sexual abuse.
"I was forced to engage in sexual activity that I did not want to do. I was still strangled on multiple occasions. I had to willingly engaged in these sexual activities to keep myself safe, pretty much," she said.
Marquez said Bishop enjoyed having polygamous relationships, and would often force her to have sexual relations with multiple women.
"There were times when I told him, 'I don't want to be with her, I don't want to be with you.' And he would say, 'You don't have a choice. You do what I say to do,' and then it turned physical because I was in such resistance," she recalled.
During her time in the cult, Marquez said Bishop had at least four children, including her daughter.
"He stated to me that the reason why he wanted all of the wives was that he wanted to impregnate all of us, so that we can have his children, so that he can meet his children together, so that he can inbreed," Marquez added.
While she gave birth to her daughter in Jan. 2019, she said she never received the necessary medical attention.
"I had to be rushed to a hospital two hours away from where we originally stayed. And I was so incompetent, that I couldn't even make a decision for myself to either get a C-section or her be pulled out with forceps. So I allowed the living God to do whatever it did whatever was gonna happen, and by the grace of the Lord, she was able to be delivered safely and I was able to make it through the delivery process as well," Marquez recalled.
On August 2020, she said Bishop forced her to marry him at a Las Vegas chapel.
"He stated in front of us that if anything happened to him, then I would be able to bail him out of any jail or prison, or anything like that. And that was the reason for him marrying me, other than the fact that he wants to completely destroy me as a person," she said.
With her daughter born, Marquez realized she didn't want her near Bishop. She tried running away three times unsuccessfully.
"I willingly kept going back to him because he would offer false pretentions telling me we're going to be monogamous, that we're going to keep our family together," she said. "I thought 'we're going to allow the other people to have a voice in the camp, we're going to be a group instead of a cult.'"
Three months later, in Nov. 2020, Marquez said she was finally able to run away from Bishop - on her fourth try. She planned this escape for three months and had to sneak around and grab her passport and social security card. All other identification was left behind.
“He literally held me hostage, he took all of my identification, my passport, my birth certificate, my social, my bank cards, everything, you name it, medical documentations," she explained.
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Marquez grabbed her daughter and left with no money, but a lot of hope. The coming months, though, were not easy either.
"I'm actually going to counseling, taking my time to heal because it's so much trauma," she said. "I got into my Bible and I started reading it and my entire life changed and so now I am a testimony for a living God."
Months later in April 2021, Marquez said Bishop showed up to her family's house in Louisiana.
"I have death threats, multiple videos of death threats that he has made against my life and my child," she added. "I have evidence of him threatening to kill us."
Marquez filed for a protection order in September after getting those threats but once it expired, the threats started again.
She said throughout her time at the cult, Bishop lived off of other members’ PPP loans and life savings. She even gave him her $3,000 college fund, while others gave tens of thousands of dollars.
Another former cult member, Treasure Young, who is now 21 years old, sad she gave Bishop her unemployment money while being part of the group. She joined the cult while the group lived in Puerto Rico, around April 2021.
"The second day, they had me running all rocks. I was running on rocks barefoot and I was confused," Young said. "We’re running laps after laps. I'm like, when are we gonna be done? It felt like glass and they hurt."
A few months later, she remembers waking up in her tent to screaming.
"It woke me up on my sleep," Young explained. "They were so loud I felt like someone was trying to kill somebody. That night I cried because I didn't know what to do. I was confused. I didn't know what to do. I was like, 'How can you be this person?'"
Young was part of the cult for four months. Before leaving, she remembered a Facetime call with Bishop.
"He said, 'You got to whip your woman with a belt. You got to beat your woman until she's almost about to die.' Then he said it turned him on when the women were hitting each other," she added.
For both Marquez and Young, the news about Bishop's arrest last week came with a sigh of relief.
"I left because I was worried about my safety and I was worried if I was going to harm someone because I wasn't going to keep allowing someone to slap me or disrespect me to the extent that they were," Young recalled.
Marquez's main concern was always about the children, and making sure they were protected. Her biggest fear was that they likely weren't while living near Bishop.
"Because I had a child, she became the number one priority in my life. And outside of me, she is in danger. That is her father, if I was to allow him to be anywhere near her or him just be in society, she's a target for the devil to consume, and to manipulate and destroy as a person - I will not let that happen to my child, or my children for that matter. I want to save other people's children," she said.