The purported channeler of a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit could be called to testify in a Lewis County child-abuse case that revolves around Ramtha's School of Enlightenment, a prominent singing instructor and one of his students.
Authorities say voice instructor Wayne Allen Geis and his common-law wife, Ruth Beverly Martin, confessed to raping the 15-year-old girl after being questioned by Ramtha, the warrior spirit whom medium J.Z. Knight claims to channel.
After a yearlong investigation, prosecutors last month filed charges accusing the couple of grooming the teenager to become their sex partner.
Geis, 55, and Martin, 37, each face 10 counts of first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor for allegedly carrying on the relationship between 1995 and 1997. They were arraigned on the charges last week.
Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor J. Andrew Toynbee said both the couple and the teenager attended the 3,000-student School of Enlightenment on Knight's 120-acre ranch in Yelm in Thurston County.
Toynbee said Geis and Martin took advantage of the young girl's dream of becoming an actress to press her into having sex with them.
"This is one of the most egregious allegations of long-term systematic grooming and manipulation of this girl's belief system I have ever seen," the prosecutor said yesterday.
Attorneys for the couple declined to comment yesterday.
To make his case against the pair, Toynbee said he could call Knight as a trial witness. The couple's alleged confession was reportedly made last year in front of a stunned crowd of about 800 Ramtha students.
"Obviously, if I had 20 witnesses to choose from, I'd want the most reliable ones to be interviewed," he said.
Toynbee, who plans to interview Knight, said he is reluctant to call her as a witness because he doesn't want to create a "circus atmosphere."
But if the state doesn't subpoena the internationally known Knight, defense attorneys might. They indicated they may want to question her recollection of the alleged confession -- and cloud the case with as much about Ramtha and his purported channeler as possible.
Knight, who was born Judith Darlene Hampton in Roswell, N.M., says Ramtha first appeared in her kitchen about 20 years ago as a dazzling giant display of purple light. The former cable TV saleswoman has turned Ramtha into a multimillion-dollar spiritual empire that includes a publishing company, a bookstore, a clothing store and a catalog business. Knight claims that Ramtha only speaks through her when she is entranced.
The case was first brought to the attention of Lewis County authorities last fall -- after the girl, now 19, wrote to Knight.
In the 15-page handwritten letter, the young woman described how Geis coaxed her into having sex at his 35-acre High-C Studio Ranch in Pe Ell, south of Olympia in Lewis County, by claiming her acting and singing would improve as a result.
On a commercial Web site for Geis' Miracle Voice training system, the accomplished opera singer and stage actor calls on aspiring performers to attend his school. "Whether your dream is to sing at your friends' wedding, your church or on the world stage, wouldn't you like to find the true power and might of your instrument?" The Web site proclaims Geis a "daring champion of artistic expression" with a "thorough technical understanding of the physiology of vocal production. But for most students, even these skills are overshadowed by his deep respect and wise counsel to the emerging singer."
Toynbee said the teenage girl, who was raised in a strict home with neither electricity nor a telephone, was home-schooled and grew up playing with goats. "She really was sheltered. She was really, really naive," he said.
When she finally rejected Geis after the relationship escalated from foundling and kisses to oral sex and intercourse, Geis warned the girl that her career was "doomed," according to court records.
"Wayne told me over and over again that night, that because he had done some hard training with voice he stretched the chords to (sic) much or something technical like that. He said my voice was ruined for good. The only way I could sing was with his coaching," the girl said in the letter to Knight.
Within days of receiving the letter, Knight invited Geis, Martin and the girl's family to attend a retreat for Ramtha students.
Ramtha, channeling through Knight, called the couple to the stage and interrogated them in front of the crowd for more than an hour, according to court records. "They said they raped my daughter," the girl's father told authorities in a taped interview earlier this year.
Toynbee said the alleged confession doesn't appear to fall under the legal privilege that shields confessions to a religious figure, since the Ramtha school is not considered a religious organization and the admission was made publicly. Still, a University of Washington criminal law professor said attorneys for Geis and Martin could ask that the "priest-penitent privilege" be applied to their case.
According to Lis Wiehl, head of the trial advocacy program at UW School of Law, if a person goes to a channeler as a religious representative to make an admission of wrongdoing, "it sounds like a confession."
"The idea is that you should have complete confidentiality" when you confess to a spiritual official, she said.
But because the confession was elicited publicly, it could be construed as a waiver of that right. The defense, she said, is "definitely going to have to say that they didn't waive that privilege."