Reputed cult chief goes free in Carroll

Purported space alien gets time served in murder plot
The Baltimore Sun, May 13, 2003
By Sheridan Lyons, Sun Staff

Locked up for a year and a half since being charged with trying to have four people killed, reputed cult leader Scott Caruthers had his day in court yesterday – ending it as a guilty, but free, man.

Caruthers, a writer, artist and inventor who has been described as a space alien leader of a Westminster-based

Under the plea agreement, Caruthers could be required to serve the suspended portion of a 40-year sentence if he runs afoul of the law. But as he checked in with the probation office yesterday, his grin betrayed his delight at the result.

“It’s over. I feel good,” said Caruthers, 57. “I know who I am. God knows who I am, and I’m a good person. What else matters?”

He said he “gained wisdom and strength” while in jail, and he issued a denial: “There is not now, nor has there ever been, a cult of any kind.”

The plea agreement brought to an end a twisting and complicated criminal case that involved insanity pleas from Caruthers and one co-defendant, scrutiny about “deprogramming” and, in the end, apparent questions about the credibility of prosecution witnesses.

Caruthers’ lawyer, George Psoras Jr., said he was prepared to challenge key prosecution witnesses who would connect Caruthers to the unrealized plots to kill two businessmen and two former husbands of group members who lived at the Caruthers home.

The lawyer said he was especially eager to cross-examine the would-be, but uncharged, hit man, Amir Tabassi, and a woman who had lived with Caruthers, Amy C. Dardick. A co-defendant who was arrested with the others, she was released on lower bail to be deprogrammed as a state witness, according to Deputy State’s Attorney Tracy A. Gilmore.

Gilmore acknowledged that the witnesses might have faced tough questions at trial, but she defended the resolution of the case. Caruthers’ wife and two alleged cult members also entered guilty pleas. Two were given suspended sentences that amount to time served, and one is awaiting sentencing.

“These cases started out with a bang, but you investigate until you get a verdict and that includes not only additional facts that may come to light, but issues that may impact on a witness’ credibility. And then we make a decision based on all that in determining how to proceed with a case,” she said.

“The bottom line is, no one got hurt,” said Gilmore. But she added, “There’s a lot of heartache that this man has caused to a lot of people and their families.”

The intended victim of one murder plot, Timothy S. Hackerman, 43, of Baltimore County, addressed the court at yesterday’s hearing. Hackerman’s former wife, Dulsa Naedek, who is expected to be released when she is formally sentenced for her role in the plot, had taken their daughter and gone to live with Caruthers, who inflicted “heartache,” “torture” and financial losses upon him, Hackerman said.

He asked Carroll Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway to “consider long and hard” before releasing Caruthers into the community.

Caruthers is a poet and inventor who attracted at least $2.7 million for his business gambits, starting with his promotion of Strongput, a no-grip exercise weight he’d devised. Described as a charismatic man, his stories of a “secret life” included revelations that he was a space alien working for the government who would someday save his followers from cataclysmic “Earth changes,” acquaintances have said.

Caruthers, his co-defendants and others were said to be members of an organization called Beta Dominion Xenophilia, BDX, according to journal writings, former associates and law enforcement authorities. In a 1999 interview with The Sun, the marketing director for Strongput described how Caruthers and his wife told him of a “mother ship” that they communicated with through their cats.

In October 2001, Caruthers and four co-defendants were arrested on charges that they tried to arrange the murders of several supposed enemies. The case initially centered upon E. David Gable, a business associate whom Caruthers blamed for the freezing of stock and a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of Carnegie International Corp.

Caruthers and the others gave Tabassi information about Gable and his granddaughter, along with a $6,600 gold bracelet with diamonds and emeralds as a down payment and the promise of stock worth $110,000 for the killing, Gilmore said yesterday in reciting the evidence supporting a guilty finding. Instead, Tabassi and Westminster lawyer W. Bradley Bauhoff contacted Gable and his attorney, who contacted authorities.

Caruthers abandoned his insanity defense and entered an Alford plea, in which a defendant concedes that prosecutors have enough evidence to gain a conviction but does not admit guilt. He did not address Galloway, who imposed sentence without comment.

The judge found Caruthers guilty of three charges of conspiracy and three of solicitation to murder, involving Gable, the ex-husbands of two of his female followers, Hackerman and Lewis Dardick, and a man who had worked to expose him as a cult leader, Martin Tulkoff.

Caruthers’ wife, Dashielle Lashra, 43, entered an Alford plea in December. David S. Pearl, 48, a former Westminster lawyer, entered an Alford plea but was found not criminally responsible and released from jail in February with orders to seek mental treatment.

Caruthers was ordered to stay away from Pearl and Dardick, the victims and witnesses, and their families as a condition of his five years’ probation.

In a brief interview as he was being released, Caruthers said softly, “I have no animosity toward anyone, at any place at any time.”

He said he hadn’t had a chance to gather his thoughts or decide exactly what he would do now, but that he will live in Westminster for now.

When asked about his former associates’ claims, he showed several pages of his artwork, which depicted colorful, extraterrestrial landscapes and spaceships, and said: “Do you see these story boards? I draw science fiction. I write science fiction. … To be a writer, you have to be prolific in your imagination.”


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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday May 13, 2003.
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