No charges for Twelve Tribes member kidnap suspects

The patio at Valley Center's Yellow Deli, operated by the 12 Tribes.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced recently no charges would be filed against three people accused of kidnapping a relative from the Twelve Tribes Community Church compound in Vista. A spokesman said kidnapping charges couldn’t “be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The relative was Robert Martinez, 23, who joined the church in 2010. He and his wife, also a tribe member, were expecting their first child, according to a Twelve Tribes spokesman.

Andres Martinez-Manso, 51, Eliza Martinez, 25, and Robert Harry Matthew, 25 said Robert Martnez had been brainwashed by the group and they wanted to de-program him.

A fourth man whom Twelve Tribes members referred to as a “cult expert…known to prey on the fears of families of those who get involved in new religious movements,” escaped without arrest during what deputies initially thought was a hit-and-run accident gone wild.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Patrick Yates said the three suspects were arrested after deputies performed a high-risk traffic stop to end a high-speed chase with a vehicle pursuing two vans just outside the Twelve Tribes compound. The chase stopped in the 1500 block of Foothill Drive around 5 p.m. Friday, June 5.

A tan van contained Martinez who had been forcibly removed from the commune by his father, Martinez-Manso and the others. They had been followed by a red van and a car driven by Twelve Tribes members. Tribe members said Martinez-Manso recently had attended a church function and seemed displeased with the group’s behavior.

The Twelve Tribes at Valley Center and in general

Reya Burns, a Yellow Deli manager at its Lilac Road location.

Reya Burns, a Yellow Deli manager at its Lilac Road location.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Yellow Deli on Lilac Road is a fabulous getaway for breakfast and lunch. The food is fresh, most of which was grown just across the street at Morning Star Ranch, and healthy. Service is great. The huge patio and expanding facility is rural chic and wonderfully interesting.

However, the group is controversial to say the least.

The group that operates the Lilac Road Yellow Deli, and a larger 24/7 Yellow Deli at Vista is part of a national movement that began in 1972 at Chattanooga, Tenn. Their leader who calls himself Yoneg led the group away from the Jesus Movement group.

They call themselves the Twelve Tribes. Locally, members live together at a Vista commune and on the Lilac Road 66-acre avocado ranch. They also sell fresh fruit, vegetables and green drinks at area farmer’s markets.

Devotees share an outward kind of dress and grooming code. Many male members sport full beards. Women dress in plain old-timey dresses. Children are homeschooled.

In an emailed statement to journalists, members of the Twelve Tribe who follow certain Biblical scriptures closely and don’t consider themselves Christians, said, “”We live as a big, extended family because we love one another.”

Twelve Tribes members added: “We love to work together in our Yellow Deli, where many, many people in Southern California come and continually witness our life and our relationships,” they said. “We are not hidden or inaccessible.”