Ex-Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry student not at fault in fall

A Shasta County, California, judge has ruled in favor of a former Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry student who was sued by a man alleging she and a friend pushed him off a cliff and then, thinking he was dead, tried to faith-heal him back to life rather than call Redding police.

The Record Searchlight reports

In her Friday ruling in favor of Sarah Elisabeth Koivumaki, Superior Court Judge Monica Marlow wrote Jason Michael Carlsen’s case was severely hindered because he couldn’t remember what happened on the night of Oct. 5, 2008.

Instead, he relied heavily on circumstantial evidence alleging Koivumaki, 22, and Zachary Gudelunas, 28, had pushed or knocked him off the cliff above the Sacramento River, Marlow wrote.

“The evidence, when considered in its entirety, does nothing more than raise a mere possibility that (Carlsen’s) theory of the night’s events is correct,” Marlow wrote.

Carlsen, a paraplegic as a result of the fall, now lives in Petaluma.

His efforts to recoup damages suffered in the fall were further hindered because “it has long been held as a general rule that one has no duty to come to the aid of another,” so Carlsen’s claim Koivumaki and Gudelunas should have called rescuers immediately after the fall were legally moot, she wrote.

Koivumaki’s Redding attorney Gary Haslerud applauded the ruling, saying Tuesday his client did not push Carlsen off the cliff.

Though she made a poor decision to not immediately call police and “absolutely feels terrible” about Carlsen’s injuries, she had no legal obligation to report the fall, though she eventually did the right thing and went to police, he said. […]

Carlsen’s lawsuit relied heavily on Redding police investigators’ reports. Detectives for a time treated the case as an attempted-murder investigation.

The pair was never charged.

Detectives said Koivumaki and Gudelunas told them that after a night of drinking, the trio drove to the cliffs above the Sacramento River below Palisades Avenue off Hilltop Drive.

Koivumaki told detectives that at one point, Carlsen got up, walked to the edge of the cliff, stood with his back to the ledge.

He told the pair “he’d had a hard life” and had come to Redding because he wanted to get clean from methamphetamine, the police report said.

Koivumaki told investigators Carlsen said “you can’t die in the will of God” and jokingly mimicked a jump off the cliff’s edge.

“She stated when he jumped over the edge he began grabbing the side of the cliff, but slowly began slipping,” officer Luke Blehm said in his report. “She stated that after a few seconds he fell off the cliff, and she could hear him falling and thudding several times as he fell. She stated that she heard a loud thud when he obviously hit the rocks at the bottom of the cliff.”

Police said they later found Carlsen’s finger marks on the cliff’s edge.

Police said after the fall, the panicked pair drove down to the other side of the river so they could find Carlsen. They told police they hoped to “save” Carlsen through faith healing, but they were hindered by the cold water and blackberry bushes along the river’s edge.

Bethel’s members purport to have the ability to raise the dead and cure injuries through the power of prayer.

The pair didn’t go to the Redding Police Department for at least six hours after the fall. Instead, they drove around debating what to do.

Koivumaki told police she and Gudelunas had been hesitant to call 911 because they were worried about getting into legal trouble because they had been drinking. Koivumaki also told police they were scared they’d get kicked out of the ministry school, because each had signed a no-drinking pledge, police said.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday December 14, 2011.
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