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The Hare Krishna Murders: Retribution and Reform | 6

The Hare Krishna Murders: Retribution and Reform | 6

Tue, 02 Apr 2019 07:05

Keith Ham’s chief enforcer is summoned back to New Vrindaban for a mission. He enlists the help of a friend of the commune who turns informer. Steve Bryant goes into hiding. Deputy Westfall works with the state police to finally make some arrests, but will he be able to bring down Keith Ham?

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Keith Ham is laying in a hospital bed in Pittsburgh, but he doesn't know it. He's been in a coma ever since a mentally ill devotee bashed his head in with a steel pipe. Keith's head is bandaged and his face is swollen and covered with turquoise bruises. His followers keep a vigil at the hospital chanting and praying for Krishna to save him. What has been 10 days and Keith shows no sign of ever waking up. News of the attack has spread around the world. Devotees have filled temples in 50 countries. Temple leaders preach that there's a divine purpose behind it all. They compare Keith to Jesus and pray that he will return to them. Then, on November 5, 1985, 10 days after the attack, Keith begins to stir. He's opened his eyes, prays Krishna. You know what happened to you. Keith lifts his head and stares at the concern faces surrounding him. His first words come as a faint whisper. Word spreads quickly that Krishna has performed a miracle. Three weeks later, Keith is discharged from the hospital. Thousands of devotees at Newfoundobin line the road awaiting his arrival. Cheers break out as a van rounds the corner and slowly dries up to the golden palace. Extatic followers call out his name. He's helped into a wheelchair and taken into his house where he pays homage to the deities in his private temple room. Then he's taken to his bedroom where senior disciples pay their respects one by one. Everyone is thrilled to have Keith back, but the moody Newfoundobin is different. These are scared. Rumors are swirling that Steve Bryant is plotting an attack. That he's camped out in the woods with a high powered rifle waiting to pick people off. Armed guards are posted outside Keith's house. Two guard dogs are ahead of side 24 hours a day. Then, Keith's favorite pit bull returns to Newfoundobin. Teerta, the community's chief enforcer, is back. And he's been summoned to kill Steve Bryant. American scandal is sponsored by the new ABC drama Alaska Daily. When an indigenous woman goes missing in Alaska, it sparks new questions about other missing and murdered indigenous women. And that's where the thrilling new ABC drama Alaska Daily begins and where it's headed will have you on the edge of your seat. Two time Academy Award winner Hillary Swank stars as Eileen, a veteran reporter who joins a team of local journalists working to bring the truth to light. From Academy Award winning screenwriter Tom McCarthy, Alaska Daily premieres Thursday, October 6th on ABC and streams next day on Hulu. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes and conspiracy theories together and we'd love for you to join us. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music or wherever you listen to podcasts. From Wondry, I'm Lindsey Graham and this is American Scam. In our last episode, Steve Bryant went public with shocking accusations against Keith Ham, the leader of Newvren Dobin and after a violent attack put Keith and Akoma, his closest advisors have decided that Steve must die. This is our final episode, Retribution and Reform. It's a cold December day in 1985. The morning service at Newvren Dobin's Palace of Gold has just ended. Peter to slowly strolls by as Devotee's exit, he loves seeing the shocked expressions on their faces. He's a muscular man of 37 with piercing blue eyes that people often describe as cold or dead. He moved to Newvren Dobin eight years ago and Keith quickly made him the Communist Chief enforcer. He took his job very seriously. When a local harassed disciples, Peter took care of him by applying a baseball bat to the man's knees. And when a Devotee named Chuck St. Dennis threatened to expose Keith's sexual escapades, Tear to Took care of him too. He stops and shields his eyes as he reaches the Communist Art Studio. He nods at the stream that runs nearby. It's his way of saying hi to Chuck, whose decomposing body is buried underneath a streambed. He's confident it will never be found. He's happy to be back at Newvren Dobin again. Keith made him leave after Chuck's murder, but now they need him to kill Steve Bryant. In exchange, Tear to ask for $8,000 for expenses. The amount has been approved by Keith's senior advisors. They all agree. Steve Bryant needs to die. Now Tear to just as to fight him. In January of 1986, Steve Bryant and Keith Ham are both on the move. Keith's recovery has been remarkable. Less than three months after emerging from a coma, he's making a triumphant tour of India. In Bombay, a gold Rolls Royce picks him up at the airport. Then they travel to the local temple in a 30 car motorcade led by an elephant. Steve's movements are considerably less glamorous. He flies coach to Detroit and spends a week with his parents. Then he buys a used generic looking van, drives the St. Clair's Villa, Ohio, and checks into a motel. It's 25 miles from New Verendabin and it serves as his new home base. On a rainy Monday morning, he sits cross legged on the sagging bed, looking at his to do list. He's just composed of flyer that details the crimes committed by Keith and the other gurus, fraud, child molestation, and murder. It concludes by warning them that their days are numbered. Next on his list are phone calls. First, he checks in with the sheriff in Moundsville and lets him know his whereabouts in case he disappears. Next he calls his ex wife Jane to warn her he's going to launch an attack on Keith and she should take their sons and leave the commune. He's afraid Keith might harm the boys in retaliation. His words send Jane into a panic. She tries to get him to explain what he means, what sort of attack, where is he? But Steve hangs up without answering her questions. He's not stupid enough to tell her where he's staying. She'll just tell Keith and he'll end up dead. He puts on a hoodie, grabs his flyer, and heads out the door. He's going to make copies and send them to every newspaper and TV station in the area. Tear to has been looking for weeks, but he hasn't been able to locate Steve. So he enlists Terry Sheldon. Sheldon is the head of the Cleveland Temple. He's smart, pragmatic, and fiercely loyal to Keith. He volunteers to coordinate the search for Steve Bryant. Sheldon suspects Steve has gone back to Los Angeles. He flies there and meets with senior devotees who will set up a surveillance network and report back if they see Steve. He also meets with an enforcer who says he'll give Steve a heroin overdose for $5,000. Sheldon considers it who decides it's too risky and too expensive. He returns to Cleveland and he interred to drive to Michigan to stake out Steve's parents house. But there's no sign of Steve there either. They're becoming frustrated. But then Sheldon comes up with a deceptively simple way to locate Steve. That evening, Steve's mother gets a call from Tim Lee. Tim is one of Steve's best friends and she's happy to hear from him. Tim explains that he's lost track of Steve and he figures Steve might need someone to talk to. Steve's mother agrees and says Steve just bought an old Dodge van and is staying near the commune. She gives him the number of Steve Motel, warning him not to share it with anyone. She hangs up feeling hopeful. She thinks Steve's on a dangerous quest. Maybe Tim can talk some sense into him. The few blocks away, Terry Sheldon exits a phone booth. He hands Tier 2 in the note he just made. It reads Old Dodge van, followed by a phone number of Motel. Tier 2 laughs and says good work, Tim. Mrs. Brian's can be bummed when she finds out she gave up her son. The next morning at 5.30am, Tier 2 sits in a parked car across the highway from Steve's Motel. Randall Gorby sits beside him. Though he's not a Krishna, Gorby has been a friend and supporter of Newvrindobbin for years. He's helped to grow and he doesn't want to see Steve Brian destroy it. A little after 9, Steve comes out of a Motel room and gets into his van. Randall Gorby watches Steve through binoculars. Here we go. Don't follow him too closely. This isn't my first rodeo Randall. I know what I'm doing. They follow Steve onto the highway, then into downtown Wheeling, West Virginia. He parks in front of an imposing limestone building. Tier 2 looks Gorby puzzled. That's the courthouse. What the hell do you think he's up to? Is he filing a suit to get his kids back or something? Gorby shakes his head. That would be a state case. This is the federal courthouse. But you know what ounces in that building? Gorby pauses, watching Steve disappear inside before he continues. The local office of the FBI. Tier 2 pounds his armrest. That son of a bitch is going to the police and he is going to have to be killed and I am the one that's going to do it. Gorby stares out the window. There's something he's not telling Tier 2. The reason he knows that building houses the FBI office is because Randall Gorby is a government informant. February 5 is overcast and the spires of the new Vrindaban temples peek through the mist. Deputy Thomas Westfall cruises slowly through the commune, looking for familiar faces. Ever since the attack on Keith Ham, Westfall has been uneasy. Steve Bryant's press releases have both the Krishna's and the locals on edge. He recognizes two young women and asks if they've heard anything about Steve Bryant recently. The women's eyes go wide. Just this morning they heard Steve's forming a militia to storm the palace of gold and kill everyone. To Westfall that sounds crazy but he has to admit Steve seems like a guy who could snap at any moment. Westfall says he'll do his best to keep them all safe but it feels like an empty promise. Later that afternoon, Tier 2 follows Steve's fan through Mountsville. He's been keeping tabs on him and reporting back to Sheldon. He follows Steve as he pulls onto the highway, staying behind a delivery truck so Steve doesn't see him. But the truck abruptly exits and Steve looks in his rearview mirror and recognizes Tier just car. Steve floors it. Tier 2 finds a phone booth and calls Sheldon. They both agree that Steve is probably going to head back to Los Angeles and Tier 2 should go there and put together a team to track Steve down. He's not going anywhere for the next 90 days because the next morning Steve's awakened by a loud knock on the door of his motel room. He cautiously peers out and sees two sheriff's deputies. They tell him that his ex wife and the president of Newverin Daven have filed complaints, alleging that Steve has made violent threats against them. They search Steve's room and find an unlicensed handgun. He was taken to the county jail where he spends eight weeks awaiting his trial. Steve makes the disastrous decision to represent himself in court. On April 3, 1986 he's convicted on a weapons charge and he vows to appeal it. His father puts up bail and eight days later Steve walks out of the Moundsville jail. Tier 2 is waiting and watching. He follows him all the way back to Detroit but Steve knows he's being tailed. He says goodbye to his parents and is greatly slips out of town. Tier 2's lost him again. But what Tier 2 doesn't know is that Steve has given up his fight. He no longer feels like he can win. Flandy of people believe his allegations but most of them have left the movement or are afraid to come forward. It's been a one man battle and it's cost him everything he cares about. His wife, his children and his freedom. Steve realizes it's finally time to move on. So he goes back to Three Rivers, California and reconnects with an old girlfriend. Three weeks later he proposes. He gets a lead on a job in a picturesque town near the Oregon border. Things are finally looking up. He decides to drive the Los Angeles and visit some old friends and go interview for the job. When he returns they'll get married and start a new life together. But when Steve gets to Los Angeles, a devotee who is part of the surveillance spots him. He calls Terry Sheldon, who calls Tier 2, who immediately gets on a plane. On March 23, Deputy West Falls at his desk filling out a stolen vehicle report on his phone rings. It's a detective from Los Angeles. Steve Bryant has been shot twice in the head while sitting in his parked van. The detective says Steve's friends insist it was a religious assassination and they know who did it. The police call jumps to his feet and asks if they've mentioned the name Tierta. The detective says yes, that's who they claim killed Steve. West Falls grabs his files and fills the detective in on Keith and the Krishna suspected illegal activities. He tells him that Tierta murdered another man three years ago but the inept county prosecutor wouldn't file charges. The LA detective says they are taking Bryant's murder very seriously. They're enlisting the West Virginia state police and the FBI. West Falls is pumped. Now he's finally got the resources he needs to arrest Tierta, Keith and shut down the Krishna's criminal operations. It's May 24, two days after Steve Bryant's murder. Tierta stands in the tiny kitchen of the rundown mobile home he shares with his wife and son in Ravenna, Ohio. In one hand he holds a phone. His other hand grips the edge of the kitchen counter so hard he might snap it right off. He yells into the phone, you promised me $8,000 to do the deed. I did it and now you're haggling? His wife and son scurry by carrying suitcases after their Azuzu trooper. Tierta slams down the phone and raged. He was told that everything's taken care of, that he'll be paid after killing Bryant and he and his family will fly to India where a wealthy devotee is standing by to help them start new lives. But now Keith and the leaders who ordered the hit are panicking. They're worried they might be under police surveillance. They're afraid to be seen with Tierta. He can't even get Keith on the phone. He doesn't care if he never sees any of them for the rest of his life. He just wants to be paid so he can get out of the country before the cops catch up to him. He decides to call Randall Gorby, the man he was with on the stakeout outside Steve Motel. Keith respects Gorby. Maybe he can intervene. Tierta is so angry he can barely dial a number. When Gorby picks up the phone, he tries to talk Tierta down. He tells him he'll go up to the commune and see if he can get the cash. Tierta makes him promise to do it the moment he hangs up the phone. But when the call ends, Randall doesn't move because an FBI agent is sitting right next to him. And Tierta just confessed to Merb. What if your family was the victim of a home invasion? Where you woke up in the morgue. Where you were seriously injured miles from help. What would you do? This is actually happening. Ask our listeners this very question. While we bring you captivating real life stories of trauma and perseverance. This is actually happening. Brings listeners extraordinary true stories from the people who lived them. You'll hear stories about conflict, turmoil, or threats that dramatically alter the course of someone's life. Each episode is an exploration of the human spirit and how survivors manage to overcome hardship and move on with their lives. One thriving afterward. The new season of this is actually happening is available ad free only with Wondry Plus. And if this new season isn't enough, you can listen to more than 120 exclusive episodes available only to Wondry Plus subscribers. Join Wondry Plus on Apple Podcasts or on the Wondry app. Watch the first week of June 1986. Deputy Westphal sits in a conference room at the West Virginia State Police Department in Wheeling. An air conditioner rattles behind him. In front of him is a box overflowing with files. The state police have asked Westphal to help them build their case. They don't have any solid evidence that Tear to Killed Steve Bryant. The Westphal has plenty of evidence that Tear to Killed another devotee three years earlier. The state troopers listen intently as he picks up a sheep of papers and adjusts his reading glasses. This is a statement from Nick Sackrios. He's the medic of In the Commune. Nick said Tear to told me that they shot Chuck St. Dennis 12 times and stabbed him repeatedly. He wanted to know how it was medically possible that Chuck was still on his feet. It was my impression that his primary emotion was not remorse but curiosity. That's one bad dude. That's one hell of an understatement. The trooper leans back in his chair and cocks his head. Something doesn't make sense. Wait, you're telling me you had a sworn statement from a witness that the perp flat out confessed and the prosecutor wouldn't take the case? Yes sir, that's correct. Well that's bullshit. Let's get a warrant. Westphal smiles. If he wasn't such a tough son of a bitch he might even shed a tear. He promised Chuck's widow he'd bring Tear to the Justice even if it took ten years. But it's only been three. Westphal's ahead of schedule. Early on Tuesday morning, five days after Steve Bryant's murder. Tear to and his family are on the road. They're driving from Ohio to New York. From there they'll fly to India and be out of the reach of the law. After a lot of arm twisting, temple leaders finally coughed up $3,500. It's not even half of what he was promised and worse, it's all in small bills. Tear to is afraid he might arouse suspicion by getting on a plane with a suitcase full of cash but he doesn't want to spend the time searching for a bank. Just as he's about to get on the freeway, he sees a bank down the block. He tells us why if he'll run in and get the money changed until large bills, then they'll be on their way. But as he pulls into the bank parking lot, he sees a police car coming toward them. His chest tightens. He stares straight ahead avoiding eye contact. He's relieved when the cops drive past. But the cops have seen him and they've noticed his vehicle matches the description the state troopers sent out that morning. The cops make a U turn and pull in behind him and jump out of their patrol car with guns drawn. Tear to follows the officer's orders, slowly exiting the vehicle with his hands raised. He drops to his knees and places his forehead on the ground. It's the position of surrender he'd assumed countless times before speaking to Keith or the Swami. But now it's the surrender he hoped he'd never have to face. Two years, eleven months and seventeen days after he killed Chuck St. Dennis, Tear to has finally been arrested for the crime. Deputy Westfall is thrilled when he gets the news. He can finally look Chuck's widow in the eye and feel proud to be a cop. He's still got plenty of work ahead of him though. Tear to head in a accomplice in Chuck's murder and Westfall wants him behind bars too. But the grand prize is still Keith Ham and if Tear to will talk, say that Keith ordered the hit then Keith goes to prison for the rest of his life. But that's a big if. Tear to not the type to rat out his co conspirators, even if he's offered a plea bargain. Back at the commune, the news of Tear to's arrests is both a relief and a worry. For those who never much cared for the guy, life will be more pleasant without him around. But Keith and his advisors are sweating. Tear to nose way too much. The next morning Randall Gorby is sleeping in when his phone rings. He shakes himself away and fumbles for the phone. Huh, Gorby here. Randall, it's Trooper Knight. Tid, did I wake you? No, no, I'm up. Just hanging out. You know it's a crime to make a false statement to a law enforcement officer. Well then, in that case, yes, I was asleep. Why are you calling so damn early? You were wondering if you could come in this morning, go, or some of your testimony. Again, Randall grabs the pack of cigarettes off the nightstand and fishes one out. You're our star witness for the murder trial. We want to get all our ducks in a row. All right, okay. Sure. What time? Does 11 work? Yeah, I suppose so. You know those things will kill you, right? I've been smoking for over 15 years, and I'm still here. Randall Gorby's house explodes, blasting a hole in the roof and setting the place of blaze. His pajamas are burned off his body, as debris rains down on him. When an ambulance arrives, Medics rush him to the hospital with third degree burns covering most of his body. He's in a coma, and the doctors don't know if he'll survive. At Newvren Dobin a few days later, a young couple hastily packed their belongings into an old sedan. They're in a hurry to leave, and they're not the only ones. Devotees are starting to see Steve Bryant's allegations in a new light. He said Keith authorized a murder, and now, with Steve dead, it looks like that's true. And someone's blown up Randall Gorby's house. The devotees want to get out before their peaceful, adilic community turns into a war zone. In July of 1986, Keith sits in the back of a small Indian car that's parked on a side street in Bombay. Terry Sheldon and another man are crammed into the back with him. A fourth sits in the passenger seat. They've told their driver to take a walk. It's stifling inside the car, but they don't dare open the windows for fear of being over heard. They've all played a part in the plot to kill Steve Bryant, and they've met to discuss what to say if they're indicted. Even if the air conditioning was on, they'd still be sweating. Keith insists that Krishna would guide and protect them, but this sounds more like denial than faith. Meanwhile, the movement is continuing to fracture. Some of Keith's advisors abruptly leave Newvren Dobin. The head of Los Angeles book trust resigns after he's caught having an affair with a teenage girl. The guru in Australia is out there for having an affair with a teenage boy. Back in West Virginia, Randall Gorby is recovering from his burns. The investigation into his house exploding revealed that someone unscrewed a valve, allowing gas to fill the house. But the police haven't been able to identify a suspect. After seven weeks in the hospital, Gorby's released, but he doesn't visit friends or go back and rebuild his house. He disappears without a trace. The feds have put him into the witness protection program. When Keith returns to Newvren Dobin, he uses temple funds to hire a lawyer for his case, but leaves Teer to defend for himself. Teer to has to make do with the public defender, but just as West Falls suspected, Teer to reject the plea bargain. It looks like he'll carry his secrets to the grave, and Keith will remain free. By September, the commune is decimated. So many devotees have left, Teer has to lay off the entire staff. The printing press that used to crank out counterfeit stickers and baseball caps to sell at ball games and concerts, sits idle. And with no one left to run the dairy and all incoming funds going to Keith's legal offense, Newvren Dobin's sacred cows begin to starve. Then in November, tragedy strikes. Steve Bryant's youngest son drowned in a pond on the commune. It appears to be an accident, but Keith blames Steve. He issues a statement, saying it happened because Steve's family has bad karma. But then, Keith's own bad karma catches up to him. The grand jury convenes to investigate the connection between Keith and Steve Bryant's death. On December 5, 1986, Deputy West Falls sits in the county courthouse in Kingwood, West Virginia, nervously waiting for the jury to return a verdict in Teer to's trial for the murder of Chuck St. Dennis. He surprised the courtrooms only half full for what he considers one of the biggest cases of his career. Teer to sits with his public defender, staring at his hands. Prosecutor Tom White looks worried. Westfall can't stand him. He's the same guy who refused to file charges when Westfall brought him the case three years ago. He didn't want to take the case this time either. He's afraid he'll lose, and he won't be reelected. But Westfall is worried too. Steve's widow, Deborah, and Dr. Nick testified, and they seemed credible. Randall Gorby even came out of witness protection to take the stand. Teer to his accomplice, Dan Reed refused to testify even when he was offered a plea deal, and Chuck's body has never been found. The jury could go either way. Westfall holds his breath as the jury files in. They've only been deliberating for four hours, and that's not a good sign. He glances over at Deborah. She's trembling. The judge asks the jury for him if they've reached a verdict. The foreman rises, tells the judge they have, and delivers the verdict. Guilty Westfall lets out his breath as Deborah sobs with relief. Teer to remains expressionless, looking straight ahead. Westfall is finally starting to feel optimistic. One down, two to go. Dan Reed and Keith Ham are next. He won't rest until he's three for three, and he doesn't have to wait long. The next day he gets a call from the prosecutor. Dan Reed has changed his tune. He's pleading guilty and is offered to lead them to Chuck's body in return for leniency. Westfall pulls together a crew of officers armed with shovels and pickaxes. They pile into a truck and head for Newvren Dobin. Shortly after they arrive, it starts raining, hard. Reed shows them the streambed where they buried Chuck, but he can't remember the exact location. He makes his best guess, but says it could be 20 feet in either direction. Westfall and his men begin to dig in the rain. It's difficult work. As soon as they excavate a hole, it fills up with mud and water. After four hours, they're ready to call it quits. An officer plunges his shovel into the mud one last time, and a human hand rises from the muck. Westfall stares at it. It's like Chuck is reaching out to him. At least he'll finally get a proper burial. Westfall knows that Keith is the smartest and most cunning of them all. Maybe he won't be able to nail him for conspiracy to commit murder. But they got Al Capone for tax evasion. Sometimes you just need to be creative. It's January 5, 1987, and a cold wind blows across Newvren Dobin. Keith Ham drives his Jeep slowly through the commune. He passes the accounting office. That used to be his favorite spot, where devotees would bring him suitcases full of cash they made from selling drugs and running scams, millions of dollars a year. And now the cash flow has dwindled. The commune is a shell of what it used to be. Cabins are empty and falling into disrepair. He drives past the greenhouse that Chuck St. Dennis built. It was only a few years ago, but it seems like a lifetime. He told Teardead to kill Chuck, and now Teardead has been sentenced to life in prison for it, and is being extradited to Los Angeles to San Trial for Steve Brian's murder. Keith Ham wishes things had turned out differently, but he doesn't feel regret. The threat is for mortals, and Keith Ham is divine. He stops at the top of a ridge and surveys his domain. It's not over. Krishna will get him through this, and Newvren Dobin will rise from the ashes. But then Keith sees something that makes his heart stop. A line of police cars scream down the highway and they're turning onto the road to the commune. Newvren Dobin is being raided. By the end of the day, 25 officers have packed three semi trailers full of evidence. They take the hats, t shirts, and stickers that devotees have been selling at sporting events and concerts. They also seize computers, file cabinets, cash, and financial records. Deputy Westphal, along with state and federal authorities, and the IRS, are seizing evidence to charge Keith with racketeering. They collect enough evidence to file the largest trademark infringement case in US history. Keith gears up for the fight of his life. He's going to do what he does best. Preach. This time he preaches that he's the innocent victim of a government plot. He goes on a year long first amendment freedom tour. He does interviews with Dan Rather, Larry King, and anyone else who will talk to him. By the end of the year, he's appeared on 90 radio programs and 60 TV shows. The day after each interview, Keith pours over the ratings, keeping a running tab of how many people he reached. He's taking the government years to assemble a case against him, and he's going to use that time to try his case in the court of public opinion. But on August 31, 1989, three and a half years after the raid at Newverandabin, Keith Ham suffers a devastating blow. Howard Wheeler dies a spinal cancer. Howard was his lover, his trusted advisor, and the cofounder of Newverandabin. He feels like everything is slipping away. On May 24, 1990, nine months after Howard's death, the grand jury charges Keith with five counts of racketeering, six counts of male fraud, and conspiracy to murder Steve Bryant and Chuck St. Dennis. The star witness will be FBI informant Randall Gorby. But on July 24, Gorby is found dead in his car from carbon monoxide poisoning. Officially, it's a suicide. On the other side of the country, Tierta is waiting to stand trial for the murder of Steve Bryant. He claims he's being mistreated at the Los Angeles jail. He claims they refuse to give him vegetarian meals, and he's surviving on milk and orange juice. He shares a four man cell with five other inmates. He longs to be back in his one man cell in West Virginia. His trial begins in November and concludes when the jury deadlocks. But it's hardly a victory since he's already serving a life sentence. And now he's stuck in the crowded Los Angeles jail until he's retried. Back in West Virginia, Deputy Westfall is disappointed to hear the news of the deadlock. But he's anxiously awaiting the main event, the trial of Keith Ham. Three and a half months later, Keith sits at the defense table in a courtroom in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Westfall sits in the gallery behind the prosecution table, nervously tapping his foot in anticipation. He's been waiting for this day for almost 20 years. Keith scans the room and sees two gurus who are as long time rivals sitting in the back. They smile, but to Keith they look like vultures, waiting to swoop in if Newfoundob and is forfeited to the government. One person who is conspicuously absent is Tierta. He is steadfastly refused to testify, some speculate that Keith is paying him off. The judge gabbles the proceedings to order and the prosecutor makes his opening statement. He begins by claiming that Keith authorized Steve Bryant's murder because he feared Bryant would expose him as a pedophile. Then he lays out the other charges in excruciating detail. Westfall spends nearly an entire day on the stand, testifying about the scams and counterfeiting operations that led to the racketeering charges and explaining how Keith illegally amassed a profit of more than $10.5 million. The following day, the prosecution builds their case that Keith ordered two murders. The defense calls Newfoundob and residents who all praise Keith's noble character, wisdom, and stentliness. After 17 days of testimony on Good Friday, the jury announces they've reached a verdict. Keith takes it as a sign that like Jesus, he will rise again. Westfalls hoping Keith gets nailed to the cross. It's March 29, 1991. The courtroom in Martinsburg, West Virginia is buzzing with anticipation. Keith Ham's trial has concluded and he's about to hear his fate. The jury files in and Keith stands. Leaning on the cane, he's had to use since polio almost left him paralyzed as a teenager. He thinks of all the other things he survived. Being unjustly committed to a mental hospital, wrongly branded as a heretic, a violent attack that should have killed him. He's confident he'll survive this too. He watches impassively as the judge addresses the jury. First of the jury, in the case of the United States versus Keith Gordon Ham, on the count of conspiracy to commit murder of Charles St. Dennis, have he reached a verdict. The jury form and rises. No, Your Honor, the jury is deadlocked. Keith allows himself a tiny smile. Deputy Westfall stops breathing. In the case of the United States versus Keith Gordon Ham, on the count of conspiracy to commit murder of Steve Bryant, have you reached a verdict? Your Honor, we're deadlocked on that one too. Now Keith does smile. Westfall drops his head into his hands. We have nine remaining counts of racketeering and mail fraud. Have you reached a verdict on any of those? We have your honor. Keith closes his eyes and says a prayer. Krishna has always protected him. It looks like he'll continue to do so. We find the defendant guilty as charged. The judge goes through the remaining counts and the foreman gives the same answer for each. Guilty as charged. Keith collapses into his chair and Westfall leaps to his feet. That evening Westfall sits in the bar at his hotel and celebrates with a shot of their best whiskey. There were so many times over the past two decades he was ready to give up. But he's finally done it. He shut down the criminal enterprise known as Newvren Domin and he's sending its chief architected jail. But Westfall celebration is premature. Keith is sentenced to 30 years in prison, but a few weeks later he files an appeal and is released on bail. He hires Alan Dershwitz, a celebrity lawyer who will later gain fame as part of OJ Simpson's defense team. In December, Westfall gets the news that a second jury has found tear to guilty and he's been sentenced to another life term. It's cold comfort though, because Keith is still free. The judge ruled that Keith couldn't go back to Newvren Domin pending his appeal, so at least he's no longer in Westfall's backyard. But it keeps him up at night to think that Keith could get away with murder. On July 1st, 1993, Deputy Westfall gets a call. It's one of his colleagues from the FBI. Did you hear the news about Swami Keith? He asks. Westfall says he hasn't. The agent's size and continues. Dershwitz got him off on a technicality. Remember how the prosecutor said that Keith had Steve Bryant killed because he was going to expose Keith as a pedophile? Yeah, what's the fault of answers? And he is. So why? Well, Keith wasn't on trial for child molestation. The agent explains. So Dershwitz argued that bringing that up prejudiced the jury. The judge bought it. It's a mistrial. Keith Ham is a free man. Westfall prides himself as a calm, controlled man. But right now, it takes everything he's got not to scream at the top of his lungs. In early August, Keith triumphantly returns to Newvren Domin. A huge sign hanging from the greenhouse proclaims, welcome home, master. While he still has about 100 loyal followers at the commune, many devotees elsewhere wish he would disappear. He's brought a lot of negative publicity to the movement, and that's made it difficult to attract new members. But Keith has no intention of retiring. He may be a free man now, but there will be a retrial, so he's going to make the most of every day he has left. There's a huge five day religious celebration in Chicago at the end of the month, and Keith insists on going. He travels there in a winnowbego, and on the way back, his driver sees something, something disturbing. Keith is in the back with a teenage boy. They're behind a privacy curtain, but the winnowbego hits a bump, and the driver glances in the rearview mirror ready to apologize in case Keith was jostled. What he sees instead is that the privacy curtain has swung open, and Keith and the boy are having sex. Up until this moment, the driver has been a loyal disciple. But now he realizes the rumors about Keith are true, and that he can't stay silent. Not in good conscience. When they arrive back at Newfoundabin, the driver confides in a few friends. One advises him to remain silent, reminding him what happened to the others who accused Keith of tile molestation. And as the story spreads, the driver gets death threats and is forced to flee. But the story, becoming known as the winnowbego incident, splits what's left of the community. Some Newfoundabin residents will blindly support Keith no matter what he does. But for others, this is the final straw. Keith's second trial begins on April 16, 1996. The courtroom is packed. Westfall is anxious to testify. He'll take the stand for a week if he needs to. He glances at Keith, who has a beatific smile. What Westfall wouldn't give to wipe that smile off his face. As the trial is about to begin, the doors at the back of the room open and a man walks in flanked by two policemen. He wears an orange jumpsuit and he's in handcuffs. Westfall figured they must have made a mistake and brought a defendant into the wrong courtroom. But then the man turns and Westfall recognizes him. It's Tear to. Keith recognizes him too and his face goes pale. If Tear to testifies that Keith ordered the murders, he'll go to prison for the rest of his life. Keith leans in and frantically whispers in his lawyer's ear. As Tear to take a seat behind the prosecution's table, Keith's lawyer jumps up and asks to confer with the judge. He demands to know what's going on. The judge explains that Tear to has agreed to testify for the state. Keith's lawyer turns the DA furious, screaming, did you make some sort of deal to commute his sentence? That's misconduct. But the DA's gots. Now the only deal he made is with his own conscience. He's finally realized who and what Keith Ham is. His testimony is going to put your client away from the rest of his life. After years of keeping his mouth shut and loyally protecting Keith, Tear to finally had a change of heart when he heard about the Wiener Bego incident. He realized that the rumors he always denied are true. Keith really was molesting boys. His spiritual master, a man he looked up to like a god and even killed for is not a god at all. He is just a very, very flawed man. The threat of Tear to testimony is devastating. He agreed to say that Keith ordered him to commit both murders. Adding, you have to understand that in my mind, it wasn't murder. It was dispatching an undesirable element from the community. On April 18th, Keith's lawyer stands and addresses the judge. Your honor, my client wishes to change his plea in the racketeering and mail fraud charges. Okay, Mr. Ham, the judge replies, how do you wish to plead? Keith stands slowly. He looks out at the courtroom. They're all there. Westfall, Steve's parents. Debra, the rival gurus, his remaining followers, locals and reporters. They're all looking at him wrapped and silent, hanging on his every word. Giving him the attention he's always craved. But this time, he has no pearls of wisdom or stories of Krishna to share. There's three short words. Guilty, your honor. Westfall closes his eyes. He can't believe it's finally over. Yes, Keith did not plead guilty to the murders, and the DA won't want to risk another mistrial. Still, Keith is finally going to prison, and that's what matters. On August 29th, 1996, Deputy Westfall celebrates again when Keith is sentenced to the maximum possible term, 20 years. In June of 2004, Keith is released early due to poor health. He served eight years. He goes to live with his few remaining disciples in New York City. But within months, he's accused of fondling another boy. No charges are filed, but his disciples are again split into two camps. Those who still consider him divine and incapable of wrongdoing, those who want him evicted. The true believers prevail, and Keith is allowed to stay. Four years later, he moves to a temple outside Bombay. His disciples construct a rooftop suite for him that they dub his palace of love and treat him like an honored guest. On October 24th, 2011, Keith Ham, Kirtan Ananda, dies of kidney failure. Terry Sheldon was indicted as a coconspirator in Steve Bryant's death. He accepted a plea bargain and was sentenced to five years in prison. He now lives near Newverin Dobin and teaches organic gardening to the community. Dan Reed pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was also sentenced to five years in prison. When he was released, he went into the witness protection program. In 1993, Humtsaduta, the former head of the Berkeley Temple who shot up a Cadillac dealership, wrote a public apology. He said that he will now devote himself to restoring the vision of the movement's founder, Swami Prabhu Padd. Humtsaduta lives in Northern California. Teerta is serving a life sentence in West Virginia. He has written several books, including The Definitive Guide to Practice in Krishna Consciousness in Prison. Deputy Westfall left the Sheriff's Department in 2002 and went to work as an investigator for the Marshall County Prosecutors Office. He retired in 2012 after a 45 year career in law enforcement. In 2018, Newverin Dobin celebrated its 50th anniversary. It has over 300 residents, including Steve Bryant's ex wife, Jane. The palace of gold attracts 30,000 visitors each year. More than 50 years after an old man stepped off a freighter in New York City, the religious movement he founded is still thriving. After Keith sentencing, reformers took control. They expelled corrupt leaders and instituted new oversight measures. Today, there are currently 400 Hari Krishna temples around the world and nearly 100,000 full time devotees. May 22nd, 2018 is an overcast day in Los Angeles. A small group of people gathered Chevyot Hill Park on the city's west side. They make their way to the picnic area, which is shaded by an enormous bayonet tree. They sing songs and offer flowers to commemorate a man who was frequently difficult, sometimes violent, but always seeking. He sought enlightenment to temples around the world but didn't find it. He sought love from his wife, but it wasn't returned. He sought the company of his two sons, but it was denied. The group is there to commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the death of Steve Bryant. Hari Krishna. From wandering, this is episode 6 of 8 of the Hari Krishna murders for Americans scandal. On the next episode, I speak with our consultant on this series, Henry Dock Torsky. He was a Hari Krishna devotee who lived on Keith Ham's West Virginia Commune, New Vrindavan, from 1978 to 1994. He'll talk about life on the Kangi, why he joined, and why he left. If you'd like to learn more about the Hari Krishna murders, we recommend the book, Killing for Krishna, The Danger of deranged devotion from Henry Dock Torsky. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized details, and while in most cases we can't know exactly what was said, all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American scandal is hosted, edited, and executed to produce by me Lindsey Graham for Areshin, sound designed by Derek Barrett's. This episode is written by Steve Chivers, edited by Andrew Stelser. The producers are Stephanie Jenns, Marsha Louis, and her nonlopeds for Wondering.