Speaking at a press conference hours before his arraignment, Jacob Allan Ward showed little sign of remorse.
“Maybe I missed some cues,” he said. “So what? Those ladies really, really seemed to want to slather themselves in corn syrup and waltz into the bear pen. They probably would have done it even if I wasn’t holding the grenade.”
Though zookeepers noticed the procession and intervened, questions still remain.
“I said I was sorry,” Ward repeated. “What more do you want? I didn’t even pour the syrup. I just told them that if they didn’t pour it on each other, the Satanic Groundhog of End Times would eat their spleens.”
Formed under the guise of an indie rock band, Children of the Syrup originated in 2015 in Portland, Oregon, in the back booth of an IHOP. Ward’s sermons on self-acceptance and the rehabilitative power of dance drew vulnerable young people from all over the country.
“They were looking for something to believe in, and they found it,” said FBI Lead Investigator Amber Lowell-Smith. “Who could blame them? It’s not like a misogynistic death cult is going to say it’s a misogynistic death cult.”
Ward took issue with the characterization of his death cult as “misogynistic.”
“That is an oversimplification,” he said. “I am a feminist. I love women. Why else would I marry 12 of them?”
According to Catherine Margulies, one of Ward’s (now separated) wives, Children of the Syrup began as a peaceful collective preaching nonviolence and reverence for the female form. But after Ward lost his job at the zoo, he started to act in ways that betrayed his professed principles . One of those ways was “trying to get everyone to feed themselves to bears.”
“Don’t listen to her. She’s an angry person,” Ward explained to the press pool. “Dancing with bears was sort of her thing. Like, way before we even met. Ask her! Ask her how many bears she’s danced with!”
When pressed about the credible threats of arson, he sighed.
“Look. This whole thing is really a domestic dispute. I mean, is your family perfect?” He paused to let the murmur of surprised recognition subside. “That said, I am told that it made some people mad and sad, and I take full responsibility for that.”