Lawyer for reputed cult leader Scott Caruthers argued yesterday that tape recordings that purportedly capture his client offering reasons for killing a man should not be played at Caruthers' trial on charges of conspiracy to commit murder.
On the tapes, obtained when authorities searched Caruthers' Westminster home in October last year, Caruthers tells his wife that a friend and follower should be killed for questioning his decisions, a lawyer in the case said during a hearing yesterday in Carroll County Circuit Court.
That follower, David S. Pearl, is charged with Caruthers and two others in an alleged scheme to hire someone to kill a former business associate of Caruthers'. While Caruthers argued that the tapes should be barred from trial, Pearl's attorney said they should be heard by a jury.
"These taped conversations seem to indicate the state of mind of Mr. Caruthers and [his wife, Dashielle] Lashra, that Mr. Pearl was not trusted enough to be included into the criminal conspiracy, if it existed," said Gary Bernstein, Pearl's lawyer. "If there was such a plot, he was out of the loop."
The tapes were not played in court yesterday, and none of the lawyers in the case directly quoted from them. Also yesterday, the lawyers for the four defendants asked that they be tried separately.
Carroll Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway did not say when he would rule on the motions. The trial is tentatively scheduled to begin in May.
Caruthers, 57, Lashra, 42, their live-in companion Dulsa Naedek, 42, and Pearl, 47, are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. They are suspected of hiring a hit man to kill former business associate David Gable. In return for $110,000 in stock shares and a gem-studded bracelet, the killer would eliminate Gable and several other targets who were considered enemies of the group, according to court records.
Caruthers and Pearl have pleaded not criminally responsible by reason of insanity. Psychiatric reports on the two men have not been completed.
Caruthers, 57, is an artist, author and inventor who has been described as the leader of a cult in suburban Carroll County that communicated with a mother spaceship through cats.
The group, called Beta Dominion Xenophilia, purportedly included members who believed that Caruthers was a space alien working for the government and a messiah who would save his followers from catastrophic "Earth changes."
Although Caruthers has denied being a cult leader and has said descriptions of the group were a product of science fiction writing exercises, his followers wrote journal entries that included threats of violence against dissenters.
In addition to the charge involving Gable, Caruthers has been charged with three counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder and two counts of conspiracy to murder two former husbands of his followers. Naedek was charged with an additional conspiracy charge. Lashra is charged with trying to hire a man to kill Gable.
Emil Tabassi, a sometime bodyguard for Caruthers described in court records as the would-be hit man, went to the FBI, according to charging documents.
An investigation that began in September of last year led to the suspects' arrest and the seizure of guns, computers, notebooks, tapes and other materials during a search of the house in the 500 block of Scott Drive.
Lawyers for Caruthers, Lashra and Naedek argued that because tapes were not listed in the search warrant among the items to be sought, they should barred from trial.
Bernstein said he would use the tapes to show Caruthers manipulated the people around him, especially women.
"My whole defense is that [Caruthers] did it, and if my client was involved, it was because he was under his control," Bernstein told the court.
George Psoras Jr., lawyer for Caruthers, said the tapes are another reason that the defendants should be tried separately.
"Bernstein is going to beat those over my head," he told the judge. "It's going to ... prevent Mr. Caruthers from getting a fair trial."