GOOSE CREEK, S.C. (WCBD) — Police in Goose Creek, South Carolina, are investigating after two people with ties to what’s described as a “potential religious cult” were found dead in an apartment on Wednesday.
According to Goose Creek Police Department Chief LJ Roscoe, the department received a call from police in nearby Summerville on Wednesday morning. Summerville police had received a letter “describing that a person was deceased and their body could be found” at The Passage apartment complex in Goose Creek.
GCPD officers conducted a welfare check and found two people in the apartment dead from an apparent suicide. The victims were identified as Judy Villanyi and James Button.
According to GCPD, both Villanyi and Button “go back several years to a potential religious cult, Sovereign Citizen Movement.”
The FBI describes the Sovereign Citizen Movement as antigovernmental extremists “who believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or ‘sovereign’ from the United States. As a result, they believe they don’t have to answer to any government authority, including courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, or law enforcement.” A 2010 article by the FBI identifies the movement as a domestic terrorism threat.
Villanyi was previously sentenced to federal prison for tax fraud in connection to the movement. Chief Roscoe said that Villanyi was once again under investigation for similar charges prior to her death.
Villanyi was also a dentist at Life Smiles Dentistry in Mount Pleasant. After discovering the bodies, GCPD visited Life Smiles to gather more information about the days leading up to Villanyi’s death. Chief Roscoe said that the last time Villanyi saw patients was Thursday, Jan. 27. The office is closed on Friday, but Villanyi apparently came in over the weekend to leave two notes for her staff.
“One basically just said ‘cancel all my patients on Monday and Tuesday.'” The second note was a list of important phone numbers. So when she didn’t show up for work on Wednesday, they began calling the people on the important phone numbers list,” Chief Roscoe said. By that time, GCPD had already found the body.
Currently, Life Smiles is closed “due to an emergency,” according to their answering machine.
While the exact nature of Villanyi and Button’s relationship was unclear, Chief Roscoe said that they had known each other for many years “and they had some kind of a religious bond together.” Chief Roscoe said that GCPD believes the victims died together.
“This is a very sad situation,” Chief Roscoe said. She acknowledged that “none of us will ever have all the answers because both of [the] people are deceased.”