top of page

Karen Zerby


The current leader of The Family International cult. Zerby is a U.S. citizen and was born in Camden, New Jersey on July 31, 1946. She legally changed her name to Katherine Rianna Smith in 1997 and uses the pseudonyms Maria David, Maria Berg, Maria Fontaine, Mama Maria, and Queen Maria. Zerby is the mother of Ricky "Davidito" Rodriguez and Christina "Techi" Zerby.

Zerby joined the group, then called Teens for Christ, in 1969. After becoming a private secretary to the group's founder David Berg, a sexual relationship developed between them. In a prophecy titled "A Prophecy of God on the Old Church and the New Church", Berg explained that he had been told by God to leave his first wife, Jane Miller, who represented the "old church", for Zerby who became his common-law second wife and who represented the "new church".

With David Berg's health declining in later years, Zerby began to take a leadership role within the group. Upon his death in October 1994, she assumed full leadership of the cult and married her long-time partner Steven Douglas Kelly (commonly known to members as Peter Amsterdam or King Peter).

Her whereabouts since the early 1970s have always been a closely guarded secret. Many members of The Family International had never seen pictures of her until recent photos were posted on this website for the first time in 2005. Since the Family's "Reboot", she has become somewhat more public. Her last known location was in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico in around 2010. [cited X Family]

Karen Zerby.jpg
Karen Zerby: Project
zerby_bigger copy.jpg

Karen Zerby (False Prophet)

2022, embroidery, thread, found fabric, black silk shirt, rhinestones, hot glue, fake white gilded frame, 8 x 12 inches

Karen Zerby: Image

Would you believe?

The research


HBO Film

5-Part Series


The Love Prophet and the Children of God (1998)




Ricky Rodriguez (January 7, 2005)

Ricky made this video on January 7, 2005. He invited Children of God member Angela Smith to his Tucson, Arizona apartment on January 8, 2005. She was reported to have acted as his nanny -- and engaged in sexual acts with him -- when he was a child. He stabbed her to death. Rick then drove to Blythe, California. He bitterly denounced the "perverts" in the "cult." At one point he said, "My own mother! . . . How can you do that to kids? How can you do that to kids and sleep at night?" He asserted that "thousands of Family kids" had "been abused." He bitterly asked, "Where's our apology?" and then answered, "They're not even fuckin' sorry." At the end of the videotape he predicts that the people who abused him are "going down. So with that happy thought, I shall leave you." After killing Angela, he drove to Blythe, CA. There, he drove around for a while, parked his car and ended his life with a shot in the head. Police found his body in the vehicle early on the morning of January 9, 2005.

Non-Fiction Book
By Natacha Tormey

By Peggy Fletcher Stack

Children of God Affliated Website

Children of God Music

December 1, 2009

A community site for members of The Family International

Children of God Website



Karen Zerby: List
bottom of page