The lone survivor of the 1997 Heaven’s Gate mass suicide in Rancho Santa Fe, in a television interview that aired Friday, said he left the cult a month before 39 people took their own lives so he could stay behind and tell the group’s story.
Rio DiAngelo told a Los Angeles TV station that he didn’t leave the cult because he thought the suicide plan was crazy.
“There’s nothing about that group I have rejected,” DiAngelo said.
DiAngelo said he wanted to be with the group when it carried out its suicide plan, but leader Marshall Applewhite told him that it was part of the plan for him to stay behind.
The bodies were discovered on March 26, 1997, in a Rancho Santa Fe mansion.
The cult members killed themselves in shifts, with some helping others take a lethal cocktail of phenobarbital and vodka before drinking their own cocktails.
Most of the victims were covered in purple shrouds, believing that the Hale-Bopp comet was a sign that they were to shed their earthly bodies and join a spaceship that would take them to a higher plane of existence.
DiAngelo said that he has fond memories of the mansion that the group rented, and which was razed years ago.
“It was a beautiful place,” he said. “It was very blissful every day.”
On the site now is a new mansion on the market for $9 million.
DiAngelo said he’s against suicide, and wouldn’t encourage someone else to do it. But Heaven’s Gate wasn’t suicide, he said.
“That was an exit,” DiAngelo said. “They were done with the whole reincarnation process. It was over. They were not coming back in reincarnation at all. It was time for them to evolve.”
DiAngelo has written a book about the beliefs of the Heaven’s Gate cult.
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