Nuwaubians appear to have vacated compound

Members of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors have apparently vacated land owned by the group in rural Putnam County and in Athens.

This comes after a federal judge ordered the land, which includes a 476-acre Putnam County compound and a $750,000 home in Athens, be turned over to the government.

At its peak, as many as 500 people lived at the compound in 1999, said Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills. But recently, fewer than 50 had been living there.

And by Friday, no members of the Nuwaubian group could be seen at its headquarters near Shady Dale. Left behind were a collection of monuments, faux pyramids, totem poles and some cats and fish.

Officers from the Putnam County Animal Control office were at the property rescuing the cats. Workers also were draining a decorative pond and collecting the fish. A barricade prevents vehicles from entering.

The religious sect's leader, Malachi York, was sentenced to 135 years in prison in April for child molestation and racketeering. Prosecutors said he recruited older girls to groom younger girls for sex with him and used the sect for his financial gain.

"The whole place, like York himself, was nothing but a facade," Sills said. "You can see that now. They sort of destroyed some things. It's a surreal environment with junk, clothes scattered around and statues about to fall down."

After York's sentencing, a dispute arose over whether he owned the compound and the home in Athens. But both are now in the hands of the U.S. Marshals Service.

The Putnam County property has been assessed at nearly $1 million, Sills said.

U.S. District Judge Ashley Royal will decide this Friday whether to order a new trial for York, Sills said. An attorney from New York, Jonathan Marks, now is listed as York's attorney. Sills said York has had 13 different attorneys since his arrest nearly two years ago.