Critics of Mel Gibson’s controversial blockbuster “The Passion of the Christ” have expressed fear the film would spark an outbreak of violence, but instead it continues to prompt criminals, from burglars to murderers, to confess to crimes committed as long as a decade ago.
The fourth recent instance of confession to a crime was reported yesterday in Mesa, Ariz., where a man walked up to police Sunday at the scene of a burglary and confessed to the break-in as well as five or six others.
“He had made some mention that after watching the Mel Gibson movie . . . that was his motive for turning himself in,” said Mesa police detective Ruben Quesada, according to the East Valley Tribune in suburban Phoenix.
“It is a first,” Quesada told the paper.
Meanwhile, at least three other confessions have been reported in relationship to the film.
In Norway, a neo-Nazi confessed to two decade-old bombings after watching Gibson’s depiction of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.
Near Houston, a man seeking “redemption” confessed to killing his girlfriend after her death had been ruled a suicide, saying he had been moved by his experience viewing “The Passion.”
In Florida, a fugitive from a bank robbery two years ago said he turned himself in to police after watching Gibson’s film.
‘Makes you stop and think’
In the Arizona case, Turner Lee Bingham, 20, walked up to a Mesa store about eight minutes after the alarm sounded and apologized to police for taking $80 from the register before confessing to five or six burglaries at other places.
Bingham had seen “The Passion” with his mother, and he felt guilty, the store owner, Tobias Bright, said police told him.
“I’ve seen the movie myself,” Bright told KNXV-TV of Phoenix. “I think it’s the kind of movie that makes you stop and think about things for a minute.”
Bright, who identified himself as a Christian, said he wished Bingham would have felt guilty “20 minutes earlier, before he took a baseball bat to one of my windows.”
But he said, “If you’re going to be burglarized, I don’t think it could turn out any better.”
Movie ‘the trigger’
The Norwegian neo-Nazi, Johnny Olsen, 41, went to police after watching the movie, explaining he was responsible for unexplained bombings against anarchist squatters in Oslo in 1994 and 1995, reported Reuters.
“The trigger that made him go to police and confess was that movie,” his lawyer, Fridtjof Feydt, told Reuters on Monday.
Olsen had long been concerned with issues such as reconciliation and redemption, Feydt said.
After the confession, Olsen was charged with arson in the bombings, which occurred during a wave of street fights between neo-Nazis and anarchists, Reuters reported.
But Oslo’s Lutheran bishop Gunnar Staalsett maintained his insistence the film glorifies sadism and torture.
“This does not change my view of the film in the slightest,” he told the Norwegian daily Verdens Gang, according to Reuters.
Confessed to church
In the Houston case, Dan Leach, 21, of Rosenberg, Texas, stood in front of his church congregation in early March to confess he had “done something wrong,” reported the Fort Bend/Southwest Sun in suburban Houston.
Without giving details, Leach told the church “he was going to be on a journey for some time, and asked everyone to pray for him for strength,” according to Fort Bend County Detective Michael Kubricht.
Leach then went home were he lived with his parents, who immediately called in a minister and church elders to hear him confess to the murder of Ashley Wilson, the Fort Bend paper said.
Wilson, 19, was found hanging from her bedpost by her mother Jan. 19.
Leach was arrested March 23 for a crime that originally had been ruled a suicide.
But Wilson’s mother, Renee Coulter, told the Sun “in my heart I knew she did not kill herself, and it is confirmed that I knew my daughter, and she wouldn’t have done this.”
The detectives said Leach was moved to confess after viewing the “The Passion of the Christ.”
Kubricht said, however, Leach, who attends a Church of Christ three times a week, showed no emotion or remorse when he made his confession.
“It is more about him being forgiven,” the officer said. “He said he tried his best not to think about it, and just tried to get on with his life. He said some events happened in his life, that is his words, ‘pricked his heart.'”
Kubricht told the Sun even as an 18-year veteran officer, he was affected and shocked by the cold-blooded nature of Leach’s confession.
“He spoke in a straight monotone,” Kubricht said. “He never raised or lowered his voice, looked straight at us, never shed a tear.”
Leach apparently thought Wilson was pregnant. According to Coulter, the coroner ruled her daughter was not pregnant and reacted belligerently when she insisted she was.
“I told him he was completely wrong, and he snapped at me,” says Coulter, who contends she has medical documentation.
According to a report this week, Leach’s attorney wants the 21-year-old to plead not guilty.
Ralph Gonzalez explained his thinking to KPRC-TV in Houston: “There’s two issues going [on] here – one is secular, that’s a legal system, and the other is religious. He’s talking and doing all this other stuff because of his religious beliefs.”
The attorney said he has an obligation to protect Leach’s rights.
“I told him he could choose to either follow my legal advice or fire me and get another attorney,” he told KPRC.
In the Florida case, after more than two years as a fugitive from a bank robbery, James Anderson said he turned himself in to police after watching Gibson’s movie.
The Palm Beach Gardens case had stumped police, but Anderson surprised investigators by walking into the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office lobby March 16 saying he was ready to give himself up.
Anderson, 53, now admits he grabbed an employee of a Palm Beach Gardens bank in December 2001 and forced tellers to hand over $25,000, the Palm Beach Post reported.
A sheriff’s detective asked Anderson why he came clean after all this time.
Anderson said he was stirred deeply after watching “The Passion of the Christ.”
“He said, ‘I saw ‘The Passion’ and that made my decision,'” said sheriff’s office spokesman Paul Miller, according to the Palm Beach paper. “And he sort of urged [the detective] to see the movie too.”
After interrogating him at length, Palm Beach Gardens police suspect, however, the homeless man’s surrender was much more calculated.
“He’s looking for medical attention he doesn’t have to pay for,” said Palm Beach Gardens police Sgt. Richard Geist. “That, and he’s probably tired of living out on the streets.”
‘Miracles of the Passion’
Amid these reports, a new documentary is in the works to prove “The Passion of the Christ” has produced miracles in the lives of its viewers.
Makers of “Changed Lives: Miracles of the Passion” say they have interviews with people who claim the controversial film has changed them, reports MSNBC columnist Jeannette Walls.
They want more people for the documentary and ask on a website for stories of “miracles” such as “a marriage being rescued, an addict who was set free, a Jew who now accepts Jesus as Messiah, someone who experienced physical or emotional healing, and so on.”
Executive Producer Jody Eldred told MSNBC’s “The Scoop” column, “We have gone to websites where there are in excess of 70,000 stories about how people were touched by this film, so we have plenty to choose from.”
He said the documentary has no affiliation with Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions, but he has been working closely with Icon.
“They’ve seen the trailer,” he said. “They think it’s a cool thing. We have their blessings.”
If you’d like to sound off on this issue, please take part in the WorldNetDaily poll.
Editor’s note: Coinciding with the release of Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ,” WorldNetDaily has issued one of the most extraordinary editions of its monthly Whistleblower magazine ever produced, titled “THE DAY JESUS DIED.”
Read WorldNetDaily’s extensive coverage of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”