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Severed Leg Leads Police To Connecticut Cult’s “Chief Apostle” Who Went Missing 14 Years Ago — And Murder Charges

By JB Nicholas

Connecticut police say they have finally solved a gruesome murder mystery involving a religious cult that began with the discovery of a severed leg — buried, dug up by coyotes, and dragged across the picturesque greens of a historic, mid-Connecticut golf course in August 2004.

Rudy Hannon, 72, and Sorek Minery, 42, were charged on Tuesday with murdering and dismembering Paul Sweetman 14 years ago, the Hartford Courant reports. Both men are being held, in separate jails, in lieu of $2 million bond each.

Hannon, Minery and Sweetman were all members of “The Work,” a group lead by Julius Schacknow, known to his followers as “Brother Julius,” according to the newspaper. Schacknow told his followers that he was the reincarnated Christ, and they sometimes referred to Schacknow as “Julius Christ.” He died in 2006.

Sweetman called himself Schacknow’s “chief apostle” and his wife, Joanne, was known among cult members as "the holy spirit." She had once been married to Schacknow, and they had three children. It was the Sweetmans, not Schacknow, who managed The Work’s business ventures.

“The Work” was infamous but successful, and attracted hundreds of followers during the 1980s and early 1990s, according to a report from that time. The cult made more than $100 million a year in real estate and construction enterprises, before collapsing under the weight of allegations of sexual and financial wrongdoing.

According to the arrest warrant against Hannon, he and Minery worked together to kill Sweetman at the request of his wife, Joanne. The couple, according to the warrant, were locked in a power struggle for control of the cult, the Courant reported.

Joanne Sweetman died in April 2011. It was Joanne who, in 2006, reported her husband missing to police. The warrant against Harmon details what police believe happened to him.

Minery told police that Hannon worked for months to convince him that Sweetman “needed to be killed because he was hurting his wife, Joanne Sweetman and that God would have wanted them to kill Sweetman,” the warrant reads, according to the Courant.

Minery told police that he respected the woman and “looked up to her as a high religious figure” and that “because of this, he began believing Rudy Hannon and believed Paul Sweetman needed to die.”

Then, one day, Minery arrived at his business and discovered Hannon standing over Sweetman’s body. Minery said Hannon had a key to his carpentry shop. He also admitted helping Hannon get rid of the body, at first storing it in a freezer at the shop, police say.

“Minery stated that he used an electric saw and dismembered the body while it was still in the freezer,” the warrant reads. “Minery stated he remembers cutting off the head easily and cutting off both legs.”

Minnery said he buried Sweetman’s head and legs in a shallow grave near a local reservoir, and buried the torso and arms beneath the shed of his home, before sealing them in a concrete sarcophagus.

But coyotes dug up one of the the legs buried near the reservoir, and dragged it across the historic Shuttle Meadow Country Club, whose 18-hole golf course sprawls across some 400 acres of forests and rolling hills — a golfer’s idyllic dream.

Connecticut detectives have worked the case since being called to the golf course on Aug. 27, 2004, but it wasn’t until April 2016 that they learned of the missing persons report filed in 2004 by Sweetman’s wife. That, in turn, lead to previously undisclosed FBI records.

Why those records, and the information contained within them, were withheld from Connecticut police is not explained in the warrant.

The FBI records reveal that Hannon told the FBI in 2006 that Minery was Sweetman’s killer, according to the warrant. Hannon also told the FBI where Minery disposed of Sweetman’s body parts.

Using DNA obtained from Sweetman’s son, police determined the leg found on the golf course in 2004 belonged to his father, Paul. Then they dug up the ground beneath a shed at Minery’s former home and found a headless torso and arms.

Two gold rings were found with the remains. One was engraved with a name: “Joanne.”

[Photo: New Britain Police]

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