Thursday, March 3, 2011

Religion, Cults, NewAge, Beliefs, Murder, Death

Oh boy - the Lord's working in mysterious ways again:
Both are ministers – he, a popular preacher, respected by his peers but bearing a violent past; she, a former schoolteacher with a taste for poetry.

They worked at the same church at some point and, according to police, were in a relationship.

It took a brutal turn Tuesday morning when, authorities and a witness say, the Rev. Edward Fairley stormed into an Eastside home and, without a word, stabbed the Rev. Simone Shields several times in the face and torso, leaving her to lie in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor.

Shields, 52, was eventually rescued by police and taken to St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center. She remains in critical but stable condition, police said.Fairley, 59, was arrested after he was spotted on the street soaked in blood, the knife still in hand, authorities said. He is charged with attempted murder and was in Paterson police custody with no bail set as of late Wednesday, according to the Passaic County Jail.

The attack stunned the city's church leaders. Fellow pastors, who described Fairley as a good man and a "pillar" in the community, seemed at a loss.

"I don't know what the Lord wants us to look at with this situation," said the Rev. Chester Taylor, of Calvary Baptist Church.
Except for maybe questioning the wisdom of adopting belief systems, we'll be honest and say, "We don't either!"

But cheer up - that's what a motivational speaker would tell you, right?

Cheer up!

Too bad "positive thinking" doesn't work either:
A man who said he helped a debt-ridden motivational speaker kill himself was convicted of murder Thursday in a seeming street crime that turned into an unusual framework for questions about the legal limits of assisted suicide.

Jurors delivered their verdict on the strange story of self-help author and business coach Jeffrey Locker's July 2009 death. The conviction leaves Kenneth Minor facing the possibility of life in prison; his sentencing is set for April 4.

It was a murder trial in which even prosecutors said the slain man wanted to die, and it became a debate about assisted suicide that strayed far from the more familiar context of doctors or loved ones helping terminally ill people end their lives.

...Locker, 52, was found stabbed in his car on an East Harlem street, his hands tied behind his back, hours after calling his wife to say he'd gotten a flat tire. Police initially investigated his death as the result of a robbery.

But the scenario changed when Minor was arrested a few days later after using Minor's ATM card.

In fact, Locker had been cruising an inner-city neighborhood miles from his suburban home, offering to pay strangers to kill him and make it look like a robbery so his family could collect as much as $18 million in life insurance, according to prosecutors, Minor's statement to police and evidence presented at the trial. A man whom Locker approached before meeting Minor testified that he agreed to the deal but then took some $4,000 from Locker and ran.

And Locker left a trail of clues about his plan, including computer searches for funeral arrangements, an e-mail telling his wife how to divvy up and shield their assets "when I am gone" and purchases of about $14 million in life insurance in his final months, in addition to $4 million in insurance he already had, evidence showed at his trial. Locker's family has declined to comment.

After being conned by the first man who took his offer, according to prosecutors, Locker approached Minor on an East Harlem street. A father of two who told police he'd worked as a computer technician, Minor, 38, has a history of drug problems and arrests.

He told investigators he initially brushed Locker off but then began to feel sorry for him as the motivational speaker poured out his financial woes.

An investor in a $300 million Ponzi scheme run by Backstreet Boys and `N Sync mastermind Lou Pearlman, Locker was facing a federal bankruptcy court trustee's demands to return at least $121,200 the court said he had made from his stake in Perlman's enterprise. Locker had told the court that returning the money would force him to declare bankruptcy, and documents shown at his trial logged plunging bank-account balances and mounting credit-card debts.

Prosecutors said Minor murdered Locker by stabbing him seven times, pointing to a city medical examiner's testimony that Locker's chest wounds had characteristics indicating he was stabbed by someone next to him.

But Minor said he just held a knife against the steering wheel while Locker repeatedly lunged into it, and a prominent pathologist he hired testified that his account was plausible.

Minor's lawyer portrayed him as a sympathetic stranger exploited by a professional smooth-talker bent on carrying out a con game and unconcerned about the consequences for Minor.

"He was taken advantage of. . He's no contract killer," Gotlin said in his closing argument. He argued that Minor should be acquitted under a state law provision that allows "causing or aiding" a suicide as a defense to certain murder charges.

In her instructions, State Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman told jurors that provision couldn't apply if Minor "actively" caused Locker's death. Gotlin had objected to that language and said he'd raise it in Minor's appeal.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, said the concept of assisted suicide was being misapplied to a callous killing-for-hire.
"Somebody stabbing a guy to death in a car to commit insurance fraud - do you really want to equate that with giving a pill to a dying loved one?" assistant district attorney Peter Casolaro asked jurors in his summation. "Is (Minor) an angel of mercy? No, he's the Grim Reaper."
Speaking of the Grim Reaper, he came for one of his minions recently:
Roch Thériault, the former doomsday cult leader who was killed in his cell over the weekend, paid dearly and often for his crimes, his lawyer says.

Renée Millette, a Montreal lawyer who represents inmates for procedures such as parole hearings, said Thériault was assaulted often by other inmates over the last two decades while he served time for amputating the arm of one of his followers and killing another. Millette said the assaults include others at Dorchester Penitentiary, the medium-security institution near Moncton, N.B., where he died Saturday. He had been incarcerated there since 2000.

"He was often a victim of his past. The assaults had nothing to do with how he acted while incarcerated. It was because of his past," Millette said, adding Thériault had regrets about his time as the spiritual leader of a group he began in Quebec in 1978 and later moved to Burnt River, Ont., where the cult became known as the Ant Hill Kids.
And from Ant Hills to faux indian sweat lodges, we'll end with some really bad news for another NewAge cult leader, motivational speaker, and killer:
Prosecutors will be allowed to call an expert to testify about why dozens of people felt that they couldn't leave a sweat lodge ceremony that turned deadly.

Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow made the ruling Monday, a day before opening statements begin in James Arthur Ray's manslaughter case.

Darrow says Rick Ross can testify about large group awareness as long as prosecutors provide an appropriate foundation.
Oooh, that's not good because Rick Ross is one of the big cheeses in the cult awareness world - he knows the landscape.

What could he possibly explain?

How you end up like this:
"Hot. Baked. Tired."

That was the way Melissa Phillips felt midway through the sweat lodge ceremony at Angel Valley Retreat on Oct. 8, 2009. Three people died from trauma they received during the event, leading to manslaughter charges against self-help author and speaker James Arthur Ray.

Phillips, 43, of Toronto was the first witness that Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk called to the stand. Phillips said she first encountered Ray in the self-help movie "The Secret," then read some of his writings and signed up for several seminars.

The Spiritual Warrior event in Sedona was to be yet another step on her path to enlightenment. At a previous seminar, she said, Ray had told her it would be a life-altering experience.

"I was expecting to walk away with a great learning experience - a wonderful experience for myself," Phillips said.

Responding to Polk's questioning, Phillips said she was aware that James Ray International, Ray's company, did not disclose the Spiritual Warrior schedule or roster of events, although she had learned some of it from people she'd met at other seminars.

"You're supposed to show up not as prepared in order to have your breakthrough," she said.

Thus, Phillips was more prepared than most of the other 50-odd participants who entered the sweat lodge just hours after a vision quest that featured an enforced 36-hour fast.

"I understood it was a rebirthing," she said. "I understood it was a spiritual journey."

She did not understand that three people - Kirby Brown, James Shore and Liz Neuman - would die.

Phillips' enthusiasm began to wane during the Samurai Game, which took place two days before the sweat lodge. After admitting she had inadvertently broken the code of silence Ray had imposed in the afternoon, Ray, playing the role of "God" in the game, pronounced her dead.

She then had to lie motionless on a hard floor for several hours, missing dinner, until volunteers had her get ready for the vision quest.

"I felt like I'd been hit in the head with a two-by-four and my hands and feet were numb," she said.

That experience served her in the sweat lodge. Not comfortable with heat, Phillips said she left after the third round.

"After my experience lying on the floor," she said, "I took an attitude of looking out for myself."
Oh well, better late than never, we guess.

Our advice:

Let it go, people. Just let it go.

Melissa Phillips didn't let it go - she's a NewAger - she went back in.

Of course she did.

Because belief systems - all belief systems - are for losers.


  1. Any "system" of "belief" that has as its first step turning off your own critical thinking and with it your common sense is at its heart no different from overt kill cults like the Process Church of the Final Judgment, Scientology or Justin Bieber Fandom.

  2. You sound like a nihilistMarch 4, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    Because belief systems - all belief systems - are for losers.

    Definition of NIHILISM

    1a : a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless

    b : a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths

  3. Good thing I never said traditional values are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless. Nor did I deny any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths.

    Why you think any of those things - especially moral truths - come from belief systems, I don't know.

    Sorry, but I'm not a nihilist.