Police have arrested seven alleged cult members after the mummified body of their spiritual leader was found wrapped in Christmas lights and displayed inside a home in rural Colorado.
The body belonged to Amy Carlson, 45, the self-proclaimed “Mother God” and leader of the Love Has Won sect, according to the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities say they’ve received many complaints that the group is “brainwashing people and stealing their money” over the years, based on the claim that Carlson was a living incarnation of God.
Carlson’s remains were found wrapped in a sleeping bag and decorated with lights in a house in Moffat, Colo., on April 28, according to arrest affidavits filed by the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office.
“The mummified remains appeared to be set up in some type of shrine” and had “glitter type makeup on around the eyes,” a sheriff’s corporal wrote in the arrest affidavits.
A resident at the house reported the body to police earlier in the day amid concerns that they were holding his son, 2, according to the arrest affidavit. He told police that the group had shown up at his home a day earlier in need of a place to stay after travelling there from California. He says they had a body with them that was clearly dead, based on the missing eyes and protruding teeth.
Police later showed up at the home on a search warrant and found the body inside. They also found several suspects and two children, aged two and 13, inside the home at the time, CBS4 reports.
Jason Castillo, 45, John Robertson, 32, Obdulia Franco, 52, and Ryan Kramer, 30, are charged with tampering of deceased human remains and child abuse, the sheriff’s office said Tuesday. Christopher Royer and Sarah Rudolph, both 35, face charges of abuse of a corpse and child abuse. Karin Raymond, 47, is charged with abuse of a corpse, child abuse and false imprisonment. They were due to appear in court on Wednesday.
The young boy was returned to his father and the 13-year-old girl, who is Raymond’s daughter, was taken into custody by social services.
The cause of Carlson’s death was not immediately clear, but the county coroner says she appears to have been dead for some time based on the state of her body. Saguache County Sheriff Dan Warwick said there is no evidence of foul play.
An autopsy is still pending.
Carlson’s followers, who knew her as Lia, believed her to be a divine being capable of healing the sick and bringing peace to Earth. They also believed that she had lived hundreds of lives as both a man and a woman, and that she was Joan of Arc, Jesus Christ and Marilyn Monroe in her past lives.
“I am God. I am Mother Gaia, Mother Earth,” she claims in a video segment that aired on the show Dr. Phil last year. “I produce miracles, kind of like Jesus.”
A Vice News documentary from last March shows that Castillo, who was among those charged in Colorado, played the role of “Father God” alongside Carlson in recent months.
The documentary also describes how Carlson quit her fast-food job, left her family and struck out to found the group in the mid-2000s.
Several of Carlson’s family members and former cult members have spoken out since news of her death first emerged. Many said she was a bright person with a drinking problem and deteriorating health.
“I was not surprised at her passing,” Andrew Profaci, a former “Father God” in Carlson’s group, told CBS4 in Denver. “She was not in very good health and getting worse.”
He added that he left the group some time ago, and that its beliefs have since moved squarely into “cult” territory.
“I would characterize it as a cult now,” he said. “These people were solely focused on worshipping her as a Mother God instead of focusing on an awakening and helping people.”
The group’s website and Facebook page were both offline on Wednesday afternoon, and it did not respond to requests for comment from various outlets.
Its YouTube page remains active, with hours-long livestreams going up on a daily basis. The videos are filled with platitudes about love, prayer, energy and good vibes, but they did not appear to address the reports of Carlson’s demise.
The videos appear to have been shot in various countries around the world, with many coming from Australia. Some videos from early April show believers praying for “Mom” and hoping her health will improve. She does not appear live in any of the videos from 2021.
The channel also features a handful of lengthy live chats with Carlson from late 2020 and early 2021. The interviews are audio-only, with no actual footage of Carlson speaking.
Carlson’s sister, Chelsea Renninger, told the Washington Post that Carlson was a bright but troubled person who abandoned her children 15 years ago.
“Even though she wasn’t innocent in all this, she didn’t deserve to die the way she did,” Renninger said.
Carlson’s son, Cole, told KDVR that she left him in 2006 when he was 10 years old.
“I’m Amy’s oldest child. She’s my estranged mother,” he told the broadcaster. He said he was “shocked” by details of the group, “but they are also a cult. You kind of expect weird things to come out and I had been expecting for her not to be around much longer.”
He added that his family is looking into potential ways to find some legal justice for those who have suffered financially due to his mother’s cult.
“It makes me mad, and I really don’t want to see this work continued, especially with her name attached or in her honour,” Carlson said.
—With files from The Associated Press
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