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'Space cult' members charged in death plot

Four in Carroll held in murder-for-hire

The Baltimore Sun, Oct. 4, 2001
http://www.sunspot.net/news/ Off-site Link

Beta Dominion Xenophilia, space cult, religion news report provides news of interest to those who work in Christian apologetics and countercult ministriesn.  It includes information about religious cults, sects, new religious movements, and related issues, such as religious freedom, religious tolerance, and cult crimes.

A reputed leader of a space alien cult in the suburbs of Carroll County was charged yesterday along with three associates in an alleged murder-for-hire scheme.

State police allege that Scott Caruthers, 56, plotted last month with his wife, Dashielle Lashra, 42, live-in companion Dulsa Naedek, 42, and friend David S. Pearl, 46, to hire a man to kill former business associate David Gable and three other men in exchange for an estimated $110,000 worth of stock.

Police said the plot was foiled by the intended hit man. Court documents identified him as Amir Tabassi, who sometimes served as Caruthers' bodyguard. Tabassi contacted the FBI, prompting an investigation that began late last month. Police arrived on Caruthers' doorstep at 2 a.m. yesterday to arrest him and the two women, seizing two handguns, computers, diaries and other materials during a search of the house in the 500 block of Scott Drive.

Each suspect was charged with one count of solicitation and conspiracy to commit murder.

The charges filed yesterday are the latest bizarre turn in the life of Caruthers, a self-styled inventor and poet whose business and personal gambits have attracted at least $2.7 million from hundreds of investors and admirers. His plans have left a trail of broken families, bankruptcies and lawsuits, while attracting the attention of state and federal regulators.

Acquaintances describe him as a charismatic man prone to invention, a habit beginning with his name - he was born Arthur Brook Crothers in Anne Arundel County.

Not until 1984, when he came up with an idea for a no-grip exercise weight known as Strongput, did Caruthers begin attracting investors. It was while promoting this venture that he met his co-defendants. His stories of his "secret life" took a further turn toward the bizarre, including revelations that he was a space alien working for the government who would someday save his followers from cataclysmic "Earth changes."

In a 1999 interview with The Sun, Strongput marketing director Bob Bonnell described how Caruthers and Lashra (Irmina Dzambo before she met Caruthers) took him aside to tell him of a "mother ship" that they communicated with through their cats.

Bonnell recalled that Caruthers said his role was "to prepare the world, because everyone allied with him would be rescued before any calamity hit. ... All of that precipitated my saying, 'Well, you know, Scott, some people believe Jesus Christ is going to return to the world and save people.' And he said, 'Who do you think I am?'"

While Bonnell recoiled from the tale, others were drawn in.

[A]ll of them began writing journals of their daily thoughts, which they would fax to Caruthers, often expressing their intense devotion to him and a space-based organization called BDX (Beta Dominion Xenophilia). A private detective hired by Naedek's ex-husband, as part of a child custody case, later unearthed many of the faxes in a search of Caruthers' garbage.

Caruthers has always denied that he leads a cult. He said the journal writings were attempts to help him write science fiction.

"To my understanding, cults are usually well-financed," he said in a 1999 interview. "They usually deal with problems, situations or issues - whatever you want to call them - in a different manner than we deal with things. ... We certainly don't have the power to do anything to anyone, nor do I desire to. And the reason for that is, there is no cult. There never was."

Others disagreed.

When Strongput went broke, most investors lost their money. But Caruthers and a handful of others, including Lashra, Pearl and Naedek, ventured onward in other companies that, for a while, made them wealthy on paper as stock rose in value.

It was then that Caruthers met David Gable, one of the alleged targets of the murder plot. Gable worked closely with Caruthers in transactions later scrutinized by financial regulators, but eventually parted ways.

In a journal item sent to Caruthers in June 1998, Naedek wrote of the fate that might befall someone disloyal to the group.

Of her brother, Richard Gershberg, who she said caused problems for the group during a trip to the Bahamas, she wrote: "He did not display any level of integrity or honesty, only selflessness [sic] and personal wants, all of which constantly placed Command in the line of fire. If it were a IC [intelligence community] assignment, the second he left the beach on the rented Jet Ski, a BDX Operative would have followed him, waited for the correct moment and shot him in the head, leaving the body in the middle of the ocean."

Caruthers sometimes issued stern warnings, according to one former follower.

"We may appear to you as altruistic messengers holding up a beacon to dissolve the darkness that engulfs you," a Caruthers memo warned. "But make no mistake. You are not yet fit to lead - and if you fail to follow, you will die by your own Decision."

But to the outside observer, Caruthers and those around him were the epitome of suburbia, living in a two-story brick colonial on a quiet cul-de-sac, with an American flag flying. It was there in late August, state police said, that Caruthers broached the idea of the killings.

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