1986-Dec.: Morningland Church Bomb Scare

Man held in planting bomb at cult’s center. V.2 (Executive News Service)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Police held a man without bail in the attempted bombing of a church criticized by some former members for alleged claims to cure disease.

“We have an idea what the motive might be, but I’m not at liberty to discuss it,” said Sgt. Paul Milovich, who said up to 10 sticks of dynamite were in the device that only partially exploded.

Thomas T. McCoy, 26, was arrested and booked early Sunday after he was seen by church members sitting in a car near the Morningland Temple of Cosmology, Ontology and Metaphysics, police said.

Milovich said it had not been determined whether McCoy was ever a member of the sect, which has been criticized by former members in recent newspaper stories.

McCoy was booked for investigation of igniting a destructive device, possession of a destructive device and carrying a concealed weapon, said Lt. Rod Mickelson. The weapon was .45-caliber automatic gun, he said.

The bomb, left on a ledge separating the church from an adjacent facility, apparently failed to go off Saturday because the wiring got wet during an early morning rainstorm, said Morningland attorney Edward Masry. He said 10 people were inside the church at the time.

“The strip between the buildings was drenched by rain,” Masry said. “That probably saved a lot of lives.”

Only the device’s detonator went off, police said. The bomb was made of sticks of dynamite wired to a car battery, and Mickelson said it could have leveled the church and possibly nearby buildings if it had gone off.

Nearby residents were evacuated until a Los Angeles County sheriff’s bomb squad removed the bomb. The dynamite was taken to the beach at the foot of Cherry Avenue and detonated.

The church was established in 1973 and run by “Sri Donato,” a 52-year-old Long Beach woman whose real name is Patricia Sperato.

The church blends Christian and Eastern religious beliefs, astrology and popular culture. The Long Beach Press-Telegram was told by former Morningland members that the church is a cult which claims to cure any ailment including AIDS.

The newspaper also reported that former members have said male church members are pressured into undergoing vasectomies, heterosexuals are talked into engaging in homosexual relationships and members are asked to go to prostitutes.

“I have no knowledge of any such activities,” Masry has said. Long Beach is 20 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles.