Caruthers’ plea session is scheduled for today; He’s accused of plotting 4 deaths; Westminster-based group believed he was an alien
The Baltimore Sun, May 12, 2003
By Sheridan Lyons, Sun Staff
A twisting criminal case involving insanity pleas, dozens of hours of seized audiotapes and questions about “deprogramming” could reach a conclusion as early as today, when reputed cult leader Scott Caruthers is scheduled to appear in a Carroll County courtroom to answer charges that he tried to have four people killed.
The court docket lists today’s scheduled court session as a plea hearing for Caruthers, who headed a Westminster-based organization whose members purportedly believed him to be a space alien.
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Caruthers, who has denied being a cult leader and has said that some descriptions of the group were a product of science fiction-writing exercises, is charged with conspiracy and solicitation to murder a former business associate, the former husbands of two of his female associates and a Baltimore businessman who had worked to expose him. He has been held at the Carroll County Detention Center in lieu of $1 million bond since his arrest in October 2001.
Since then, his wife and two alleged cult members who were also charged and jailed have entered guilty pleas. Two were given suspended sentences that amount to time served, and one is awaiting sentencing.
Caruthers is prepared to accept a similar deal, said his lawyer, George Psoras Jr.
“He will do it, because then he can be with his wife and get on with his life,” Psoras said.
The charges are common-law misdemeanors, but they carry the potential for six life sentences, he said, adding, “When you’re a lawyer and your client faces life and you can walk, you can’t turn it down – time served, a suspended sentence.”
Psoras added that if such a deal is not offered, he is prepared to go to trial.
Deputy State’s Attorney Tracy A. Gilmore said prosecutors may not ethically comment on plea negotiations because such disclosures could hinder a defendant’s right to a fair trial.
Caruthers, 57, is accused of plotting to have former business associate David Gable killed. Similar charges were lodged against Caruthers’ wife, Dashielle Lashra, 43; Dulsa Naedek, 43, who lived at the couple’s home in the 500 block of Scott Drive; and David S. Pearl, 48.
They were members of an organization called Beta Dominion Xenophilia, or BDX, according to journal writings, former associates and law enforcement authorities. Caruthers later was charged with conspiring to murder three other people: businessman Martin Tulkoff and the former husbands of Naedek and Amy C. Dardick, 41, who also lived in Caruthers’ home.
Dardick, who is charged with conspiring to kill her former husband, is free on $10,000 bail while awaiting trial. Presumably prepared to testify as a prosecution witness against Caruthers, she was sent for deprogramming treatment.
Caruthers initially pleaded innocent to the charges and later filed an insanity defense.
During pretrial hearings, lawyers in the case debated Dardick’s deprogramming and argued over whether 150 hours of audiotapes seized from Caruthers’ home should be barred from trial. Psoras noted that the recordings were suppressed after the defense argued that they were not listed on the search warrant.
Carroll Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway agreed to the defendants’ requests to be tried separately.
In December, Lashra entered an Alford plea – in which a defendant concedes that prosecutors have enough evidence for a conviction but does not admit guilt – to a conspiracy charge, was sentenced to time served and was placed on probation.
In January, Pearl entered an Alford plea to one charge of conspiracy to commit murder while continuing to pursue an insanity defense and with the understanding that he would not serve any more time in jail once his case had been adjudicated. He was found not criminally responsible and released from jail in February with orders to pursue mental health treatment.
Naedek admitted last month to conspiring with Caruthers to try to have her former husband murdered and entered an Alford plea to additional charges. Under a plea agreement, Naedek, who has been held since her arrest in October 2001, would serve 18 months of a 15-year prison term, meaning that she likely will have served her time by her sentencing May 22.