DETROIT – It started in rural Michigan, where a small family gathered before bed for prayer. Years later, the private devotions had evolved into a small militia of “Christian warriors” preparing to fight the Antichrist.

The changes in David Brian Stone’s personal theology partly destroyed his marriage, his ex-wife says, and prosecutors claim they later led him to hatch a plot to kill police officers — a violent act the militia hoped would touch off an uprising against the government.

“The time had come that we needed to arrest them and take them down,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said Tuesday.

Prosecutors believe Stone, 44, of Clayton is the ringleader of the Hutaree militia, a name the group’s Web site says they created to mean “Christian warrior.”

He was among eight members arrested during weekend raids in three Midwestern states, which federal officials said they carried out after learning the group planned to launch its attack next month.

A ninth defendant — Stone’s son, Joshua Matthew Stone — turned himself in late Monday following a standoff with FBI agents and police. He and the others face charges that include seditious conspiracy, or plotting to levy war against the U.S.

Each suspect has requested a public defender, and bond hearings are scheduled for today.

Donna Stone said her ex-husband created the legal problems now faced by her stepson and her son by involving them in a militia that grew out of his faith.

“This is a bunch of garbage, these charges. There is no way my son would do these things,” said Donna Stone, 44.

She said she met David Brian Stone in the late 1990s.

Soon afterward, she and her son, Sean Stetten, moved in with him in Lenawee County. David Brian Stone adopted Sean, now 19, whose name was changed to David Brian Stone Jr.

At night, the family prayed together, and David Brian Stone “would preach out of the Bible,” his ex-wife said.

“He would start at the beginning of Genesis and go to Revelations. He didn’t get into Revelations because we didn’t agree on it. David said it was supposed to be different. He had his own views. That’s when I thought it was time for me to go.”

The Hutaree Web site quotes several Bible passages and declares: “We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ. Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword.”

Chip Berlet, a senior analyst with Political Research Associates, a think tank based in Somerville, Mass., said Hutaree’s online writings suggest the group fits into a Christian apocalyptic ideology that believes the U.S. government is “in league with Satan” and “the chief agent of Satan is the Antichrist.”

McQuade downplayed the role religious ideology played in the group’s alleged plans, saying the “most troubling” finding of their inquiry into the Hutaree was their alleged plot. Prosecutors have said the militia planned to make a false 911 call, kill responding police officers and then use a bomb to kill many more at the funeral.