Dentist found dead in apartment was member of ‘potential religious cult’, police say

GOOSE CREEK, SC (WCBD) – The Goose Creek Police Department (GCPD) is investigating after two people with ties to what was described as a “potential religious cult” were found dead in an apartment on Wednesday.

According to GCPD Chief LJ Roscoe, the department received a call from Summerville police on Wednesday morning. Summerville police had received a letter “describing that a person had died and their body could be found” at The Passage apartment complex in Goose Creek.

GCPD officers carried out a wellness check and found two people in the apartment dead from apparent hangings.

The victims have been identified as Judy Villanyi and James Button.

According to GCPD, Villanyi and Button “dated back several years to a potential religious cult, Sovereign Citizen Movement.”

The FBI describes the Sovereign Citizen Movement as anti-government 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 are not answerable to any government authority, including courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, or law enforcement. A 2010 FBI article identifies the movement as a domestic terrorist threat.

Villanyi had previously been sentenced to federal prison for tax evasion related to the movement. Chief Roscoe said Villanyi was being investigated again for similar charges before his 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 the last time Villanyi saw patients was Thursday, January 27. The office is closed on Fridays, but Villanyi apparently came over the weekend to leave two notes for her staff.

“One of them 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 started calling people on the list of important phone numbers,” Chief Roscoe said. By then, 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 they had known each other for many years “and had a kind of religious connection together”. Chief Roscoe said the GCPD believes the victims hanged themselves together.

“It’s a very sad situation,” Chief Roscoe said. She acknowledged that “none of us will ever have all the answers because the two [the] people died.

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