Suspected Kenyan Cult Leader Facing Charges in Connection with the Deaths of More Than 429 People

Paul Mackenzie reportedly told his followers to starve themselves to death so they could meet Jesus

<p>Simon Maina/AFP via Getty</p> Paul Mackenzie

Simon Maina/AFP via Getty

Paul Mackenzie

A suspected Kenyan cult leader and 94 other defendants have been charged with murder and cruelty, among several other charges, in connection with the deaths of more than 400 people, according to multiple reports.

In a statement posted on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday, Kenya’s Office of Public Prosecutions says 95 people were also charged with child torture and terrorism-related offenses, in addition to murder.

Paul Mackenzie, the head of the purported Christian doomsday cult, has been in custody since last year, the Associated Press, CNN and the BBC report, citing authorities,

CNN reports that at least 429 bodies were exhumed from the Shakahola Forest where Mackenzie and his followers lived, according to investigators. Many of the bodies found were children, the BBC reported, and they reportedly showed signs of starvation and strangulation.

The AP reports that Mackenzie moved to the forest in 2019 after his church was closed after allegedly preaching that children should not go to school. The outlet also reports that survivors told investigators that Mackenzie instructed them to fast until death so they could meet Jesus.

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.

Mackenzie is currently in prison after he was convicted of illegally operating a film studio, the BBC and AP reported.

K24 TV, a Kenyan television station, also reports that Mackenzie’s wife is among the 95 suspects facing serious charges.

The Office of Public Prosecutions did not name the defendants in its press statement, but says they are set to be arraigned.

If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.