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Tue, 19 Mar 2019 07:05
When a devotee in West Virginia goes missing, his wife suspects murder. Deputy Westfall is thwarted by the DA when he tries to take action. Keith flexes his muscles and expands his power over New Vrindaban.
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It's a warm spring day in 1983 and Kirtanana Nanda, Keith Ham, sits in his simple home office dealing with complicated problems. He tugs his saffron robe over his protruding belly, a line of devotees wait to see him, he brings disputes, questions, and conundrums, and he, as spiritual leader of New Vrindaban, must solve them all, preferably using sage words backed up with quotations from Vedic scriptures. So far today he served as a marriage counselor, a veterinarian, psychologist, and financial manager, all in a day's work. But nothing has prepared him for what Dan Reed is about to say. Dan is a short, wiery devotee in his mid-twenties, he's got a neatly trimmed beard and a legendary temper. He walks in, drops to his hands and knees, and presses his forehead to the floor. Then he rises and sits in front of Keith. Maharaj, I've come today to tell you something. Dan sits quietly for a moment, peering to collect his thoughts. Finally he leans in and speaks in a firm, quiet voice. I'm going to kill Chuck St. Dennis. I'm not here to ask for your permission. I just thought you should know him in advance. Keith is stunned as Dan continues, he raved my wife so he should die, right? Keith rocks back and forth gently. This could be an opportunity to solve a big problem. Chuck St. Dennis arrived in New Vrindaban four years ago, hoping for a new start. But lately Chuck is making waves. Two ruse are supposed to be celibate, and Chuck has accused Keith of having sex with young construction workers on the commune, some of them teenagers. Chuck challenged Keith in front of others, loudly. And that's a problem for Keith, because what Chuck said is true. In fact, the truth is even worse. Keith is secretly molesting boys at the commune school. If Chuck finds out he's liable to go to the police, Keith has already protected other pedophiles. One of the commune's teachers molested several boys. Keith sent him to India and told the parents to remain silent. Keith intimidates everyone into silence. But he can't seem to silence Chuck St. Dennis. Chuck talks too much. It would be most auspicious if he were to disappear. Still Dan's story about Chuck raping his wife doesn't quite track. I know this is difficult for you, but your wife had a consensual affair with Chuck. When was it two years ago? It was an open secret at the commune. I know they hadn't a fair, but then he raped her. He went around bragging about it. And how do you know this? Tear to told me. Keith nods slowly. Hmm, now it makes sense. Tear to is Thomas Drescher, a Vietnam vet who came back with medals on his chest and demons in his head. He's known as the commune's chief enforcer. Tear to hates Chuck. He thinks Chuck cheated him on a business deal, so Keith figures that Tear to is stirring up Dan in the hopes that Dan will do his dirty work. Keith suppresses a smile. It's a clever plan. Except for one flaw. Dan doesn't have the brains or the guts to pull it off. You're making a serious charge. You do have the right to seek vengeance if Chuck raped your wife. The Vedic scriptures say an aggressor must be killed. Dan nods and vigorous agreement. But these things must be done delicately. You don't know what you're doing. Have Tear to take care of it. Dan exits. Content. Keith goes through the open window and looks out at the property. His property. No matter how many times he looks at the view, he still feels a sense of all. Green hills, manicured gardens, workshops, a dairy, a spectacular palace covered in marble and gold. Hundreds of devotees busily working. Without him, there would be nothing. He leans out to breed the country air. A shaft of light caresses his face. Even the sun does his bidding. Power. It feels good. This year, Prime members get holiday deals before anyone else. Which means you're kind of a big deal. The Prime Early Access Sale on October 11th and 12th, only for Prime members. 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Or you can listen ad-free by joining Wondery Plus in the Wondery app. On Wondery, I'm Lindsey Graham, and this is American Scandal. In our last episode, Swami Prabhu Pada appointed 11 men of equal standing to lead the movement after his death. But as soon as he died, a battle for power and control broke out. Unconcerned with laws or social norms, the men appointed themselves gurus and turned their devotees into drug smugglers and scam artists to fund the expansion of their temples. But Keith Ham, the temple leader in West Virginia, may be the most ambitious of them all. He's built a thriving Krishna community, and if it's threatened, he'll do whatever is necessary to protect it. This is episode 4, The Whistleblower. Chuck St. Dennis is sweating. But not because he's scared. He has no idea the two miles away, Teer-ta and Dan Reed are plotting his murder. He's sweating because he's out in a field, planting seedlings. He likes manual labor, and at 6'4", 220 pounds, he's well suited to it. Working the soil makes him happy. And if that makes him a simple man, he's okay with it. His life has been way too complicated. He's glad to have put drug dealing and the lagoon of beach craziness behind him. People were killed. The temple leaders went to jail, and Chuck was lucky he didn't go to jail too. The new Vrindaban commune in West Virginia felt like a good place to start over. Clean air, clean living, though not entirely clean. He's a fringy, not a strict devotee. He still likes beer and weed, an occasional line of coke. But he's fallen in love with Debra, the commune's nurse, and they have a six-month-old baby girl. For the first time in his life, he feels like he's got a real future. He even has his own business. The field he's working belongs to him, even though it's on commune property. Debra inherited $50,000, and they made a deal with Keith. He sold them a few acres to start a nursery, and they agreed to give him half the profits from the operation. Chuck's calling his new business, Blue Boy Nursery, after the blue god Krishna. Chuck loves living on the commune, and he believes in the Hari Krishna movement. But after his experience in Laguna Beach, Chuck vowed that he'd never blindly support a temple leader again. So when he heard rumors about Keith having sex when he's supposed to be celibate, he refused to stay silent. The hypocrisy gals him. He sets a seedling into a furrow and tamps down the dirt around it. He sees it as a reminder. Things take time to grow. He's planted the seeds. He's confronted Keith, spoken out against him. Maybe others will speak up too. And Keith will resign, and they'll all live happily ever after. He laughs to himself. A grown man, still believing in fairy tale endings. Tirt just sits in his truck outside Swamy Keith's office, drumming his fingers on the dashboard. Dan Reed has now been inside for 10 minutes, talking to the Swamy about wanting to kill Chuck St. Dennis. Tirt just never liked Dan much. He's a hothead, no self-control. But Tirt doesn't like Chuck St. Dennis even more. A year ago, Chuck cheated him in a business deal, and Tirt just still hasn't forgotten the insult. That's why he told Dan the rumor about Chuck raping Dan's wife. He figured he and Dan would give Chuck a beat down, make a lesson out of him. Don't mess with the enforcer. But instead, Dan went crazy, wanting to blow the guy's head off with a shotgun. Hopefully Keith will talk some sense into him, talk him down. Tirt may not like the guy, but he doesn't want to see Chuck dead. The door opens, Dan emerges. Tirt just relieved to see a big smile and Dan's face. He knew Keith would be persuasive. Dan opens the passenger door and hops in. He said I have the right to see vengeance, Tirt. But he doesn't want me to do it. Tirt is head from side to side, stretching out his neck. Well, that's good. He wants you to do it. He's afraid I'll mess it up. He says you know how to do it right. Tirt is stunned. He thought Keith would talk Dan out of it. But if Keith wants Chuck killed, Tirt has to do it. Keith is the spiritual master, and Tirt is the Communist chief enforcer. He turns to Dan and looks him in the eye. OK, Dan. If we want to figure out how we're going to do this. Steve Bryant sits on a boulder overlooking the Russian water in Three Rivers, California. It's a beautiful spot, and he knows he should feel happy and a peace. But he doesn't. Ever since he moved his family away from the West Virginia commune, it's been nothing but misery. While Three Rivers is a picturesque town with a Krishna community, his wife does nothing but cry. She cries because she misses Newverendobbin and especially Swami Keith. Every one of her sobs feels like a knife stabbing Steve in the heart. Even from 2500 miles away, Keith holds Steve's wife under his spell. Steve tried talking to the other devotees. Surely some of them must see through Keith as well. But they acted like Steve was the fraud. They told him he wasn't spiritually evolved. He shouldn't listen to rumors. But Keith is the direct path to Krishna and is incapable of doing anything wrong. So Steve gave up. Keith is powerful and charismatic, and he's a nobody. Leaving Newverendobbin and starting over seemed like a good idea. He thought if he got Jane away from Keith, their marriage would improve. But it hasn't, and now he feels like an outsider in his own home. They have two children plus Jane's son from a previous relationship. All the kids ever look up to him if even his wife doesn't. He feels like all he ever does is try, fail and start over. He sighs and tosses his stick into the water. He remembers what his mother used to say. No matter where you go, there you are. And here he is, failing once again. Maybe they should go back to Newverendobbin. Maybe Keith is right. He needs to fully surrender. Forget about his anger at Keith. Maybe the best devotee he possibly can. Maybe then things will finally go his way. A few days after Dan's meeting with Keith, Teerta is having second thoughts about the plan. Dan is out of control. Teerta wouldn't trust him to milk a cow, so why would he take his word about what Keith said? If he's really going to kill Chuck St. Dennis, then he needs to get the order directly from Keith. He drops by Keith's office and asks him a point blank. Did you really authorize Dan to kill this guy? Do you want me to be involved? Keith nods. Chuck St. Dennis is spitting in his spiritual master's face. You can only offend the spiritual master so much, then Krishna becomes angry. Which leaves Teerta confused. He thought he was supposed to kill Chuck because he allegedly raped Dan's wife. But instead, it's about Chuck offending Keith. But it doesn't really matter why Keith wants Chuck dead. All it matters is what Keith wants, and that Teerta is to do it. After all, he is the Commune's chief enforcer. He's the only one qualified to do the deed. And he's honored to carry out his spiritual master's orders. Two days later, on a misty morning, just after sunrise, Nick Sackrios pulls on his running shoes. A 45-year-old with kind eyes and a toothy grin, he's the medic for the Commune. And his morning runs, or how he clears his head, and gets centered before what's off on a hectic day. Nick's story is similar to that of many of the residents. He started out on a conventional path, then his life took a detour. Nick was going to be a doctor, but after graduating from medical school, he became an addict instead. He was arrested and tried to get clean when he slipped again and again, eventually ending up losing his medical license, serving two years in prison. He then found his way to Newverendobin, and discovered that rural life agreed with him. Since his arrival, he stayed clean. He leads a healthy life, running five miles a day, and he loves learning about the healing herbs that grow on the grounds. Chuck St. Dennis' wife, Debra, is his nurse, and they're a good team. They do their best to treat patients when they can, and send them to the town hospital when they can't. Nick may not have the fancy houses and cars that his classmates from medical school have, but he likes his life, and he likes the Newverendobin residents. Except for one, Thomas Drescher, Tirtah. A few months ago, Tirtah began inviting himself along on Nick's morning runs. At first, Nick thought it would be good to have someone to push him to train harder, but Tirtah's energy is unsettling. He relishes telling gory stories about the people he killed in Vietnam. There's just something not right about that guy. Today, when he shows up again, unannounced, he's even more wound up than usual. As they set out for their run, he starts railing against Chuck St. Dennis. He says Chuck has ripped him off, didn't pay him enough when he sold him his house. Nick tries to defend Chuck, but Tirtah cuts him off, saying, there are people on the con you can watch Chuck go. Nick ends his run feeling more tense than when he began. He thinks to himself again, there's something wrong with Tirtah. Chuck St. Dennis lies on the ground, looking up at the billowing clouds. He's bone-tired, but he's smiling. His fledgling business, blue-boy nursery, looks like it just might be viable. He's had the usual setbacks and growing pains, but he's feeling optimistic about the future. He lazily lifts his head when he hears a motorcycle in the distance, then quickly jumps to his feet when he sees his dan read heading his way. He instinctively looks around for cover. It's been two years since he had an affair with Dan's wife, but everyone on the commune knows Dan holds grudges. So far Chuck has managed to avoid him, flight nod when they pass each other in town. A bit of small talk on the grounds, but that's the extent of it. So as Dan gets closer, all Chuck can think is that crazy fool's going to run me down. But Dan calls to a stop, and he smiles and waves. Chuck gives him a cautious wave in return. Dan looks around. The nursery's looking good, Chuck. Thanks. Chuck wonders what Dan wants. He never drops by like this, and he seems nervous. So Chuck, I thought maybe you'd want to come by for a beer later tonight. A beer. And a few lines of coke? Well, okay now you're talking. Yeah, I got some really good shit. I'm living at the artist studio. Come by later tonight. The rational voice in Chuck's head says, if ever there was a time to just say no, this is it. But maybe it's time to bury the hatchet. Okay, sure. Why not? I'll come by around ten. Great. See you then, buddy. But Chuck is still cautious. See ya. The new Vrendauban art studio sits near the top of a hill. With its large, north-facing windows, it's a beautiful spot for artists to draw inspiration. There's a stream a few hundred yards from the art studio. And while Dan is talking to Chuck that night, Tier to his standing in the middle of that stream. He's created a dam out of a pile of rocks to divert the water and expose the stream bed. Tier to his digging a hole. When he fills the hole, he'll topple the dam and the stream will resume its natural course. He plans to fill the hole with Chuck St. Dennis' body. Hello, I'm Florence Given, the best-selling author of the book, Women Don't Are You Pretty and Girl Crush, and this is my podcast, exactly. Join me as I connect with fascinating guests from authors, cultural commentators, doctors, thought leaders to psychologists, celebrities and comedians. And guess what? We're back to do it all again in season two with the likes of the holistic psychologist, Victoria Skohn and Iona David to name a few. Season two of exactly podcast out now wherever you get your podcasts. When Chuck St. Dennis walks out the door on the night of June 10, 1983, he tells his wife a lie. He says Dan Reed owes him some money and wants to pay his debt. So Chuck's going to meet Dan at a bar in town. Instead, he drives up a rutted dirt road to Newviren Dobbins Art Studio. There's a faint voice in the back of Chuck's mind, whispering that something isn't right. After all the years of chanting and spiritual study, the one voice Chuck should listen to as the one he ignores, the persistent whisper of common sense, the primal instinct that can detect danger. He pushes it down and bounces along the last stretch of the rutted road to the studio. He parks, gets out of his truck. The only sounds are the babbling of the stream and the distant hood of an owl. The door to the studio is open. As he walks towards it, tear to steps into the door frame. He's holding a pistol. Chuck hears footsteps behind him. He turns and sees Dan Reed standing beside a tree with a rifle pointing in his head. Then he hears Tear to his voice, commanding Dan to fire. A flash pierces the night. Then another and another and another. Chuck knows he's been hit, but his mind struggles to catch up. He staggered towards his truck. If he can just get behind the wheel, get back home. But then he sees Dan run past him like a blur. A moment later he's back, he hands Tear to a kitchen knife. Chuck tells his body to run, but it won't obey. Tear to stabs him until the blade breaks off. Chuck is still on his feet. Dan runs away again and Chuck manages to stagger a few feet towards his truck. He hears the terrifying roar of a wounded animal realizes it's him making the sound. Dan returns with a screwdriver and a hammer. Tear to grabs his screwdriver and jabs it into Chuck's back. Then Tear just swings the hammer at Chuck's skull until Chuck finally falls to his knees. Tear to leans in and orders him to chant. Chuck tries to remember the words. Tries to get his lips to form them. Harry Krishna. Harry Krishna. The hammer lands again. Chuck collapses to the ground and finally his body stops moving. As he dead, Dan asks, shaking, I think so. Why did you tell him the chant? To free his soul. They drag Chuck's body to the hole in the streambed. As Dan crashes down to wrap the body in a plastic tarp, Chuck's eye suddenly open and stare at him. He's confused. His lips quiver than he speaks. Don't do that, you'll smother me. Dan freezes in terror. Tear to push his Dan aside. He finishes covering Chuck with a tarp and hands Dan a shovel and grabs one for himself. They fill the hole with dirt. Then Tear to topples the dam, covering the grave with rocks. Tear to leans on a shovel, catches his breath and gives Dan a nod and a smile. The next morning, Keith sits in the Commune's accounting office. It's on the second floor of a utilitarian building, but it's one of Keith's favorite spots because that's where he does the books. He has teams of pickers in all 50 states. Pickers are the devotees who go on the road and run scams. They solicit for non-existence and charities and sell counterfeit bumper stickers and hats at sporting events. He makes notation in a ledger and smiles. Last week was very good. The pickers brought in almost $100,000. That makes over a million so far this year. There's a knock at the door, and two young women solemnly enter. There are two of his best pickers. They hold a garland between them, made of flowers and $100 bills. They bow down and drape the garland around Keith's shoulders, then back away out of the room. Keith smiles. Life is good. Chuck St. Dennis is gone and money is rolling in. Harry Krishna. June 11th is a Saturday morning. Normally, Deborah Gear would be relaxing with a cup of tea, but instead she's on the phone frantic. Chuck didn't come home last night. He said he was meeting up with Dan at a bar. Neighbor volunteers to drive up to Dan's place to see what he knows, and Dan confirms that Chuck was supposed to meet him, but never showed up. Deborah and her neighbor drive all over the commune, stopping at every sharp curve to peer down into the gullies and ravines. Deborah is afraid he ran off the road and he's injured and trapped in his truck, but after two hours of searching they come up empty-handed. When Chuck hasn't shown up by knife-all, panic sets in. She drives a moundsville and files a missing person report. When she gets home she can't sleep and spends the night pacing, dosing fitfully in an armchair. Shortly after sunrise she calls Dr. Nick, her boss at the commune's clinic. As soon as he picks up she breaks into sobs, telling him that Chuck has disappeared and she's afraid he could be dead. Nick tries to console her but she's hysterical. He tells her he's on his way over. But just as he walks out the door, Tear to appears in his jogging suit, asking Nick if he's ready for a run. Tear to smiles. Something about the set of his mouth and the coldness of his eyes makes Nick take a step back. And suddenly Nick knows. Nick confronts Tear to saying you did it didn't you? You killed Chuck St. Dennis. Tear to smile flickers for a moment. And broadens. On second thought he says, let's skip the run today. Go for a walk. He turns and strolls away like he expects Nick to follow him. Nick hesitates. If he walks into the woods with Tear to, he might not come back. He has to know the truth and this might be his only chance. Ten minutes later, Tear to confesses. He's not emotional about it nor does he seem to want forgiveness. He explains that he's killed men before but this time was unusual and he wants Nick's opinion as a doctor. They shot Chuck 12 times and he was still on his feet. He wants to know how it's medically possible for a guy to still be alive after taking that many hits and the sounds Chuck was making. Animal sounds like he's never heard before. He figures it was Chuck's karma being released. That's why he told him the chant. Nick doesn't know what to say. His skin feels clammy and his mouth is dry. He's walking through the hills, listening to a man lay out the details of a violent murder with a sort of nonchalance he'd expect from someone sharing a family recipe. But Tear to is relaying more than details of a murder. There's a subtext. Feel lucky that I am sharing this with you. Don't you dare share it with anyone else. Nick tries to think of something to say but his lips are numb. Branch snaps under his foot and he flinches. Tear to laughs. When they finish their walk and Tear to finally leaves, Nick is shaking. How will he face Deborah? If he tells her she'll want to go to the cops and Tear to will kill them both. Nick remembers the day he graduated from medical school when he stood and recited the Hippocratic oath. First, do no harm. It's too late for that. So much harm has already been done. His drug addiction, going to jail, losing his medical license. And now he'll have to lie to Deborah, his nurse, his friend. He prays to Krishna for strength. But all he can think of is Krishna looking at him, bemused. Why would Krishna give him the strength to lie and protect a murderer? Newvrendabhin looks spectacular from the air. The stands of hardwood trees, the temple spires, the lake, and especially the golden palace are awe-inspiring. But Deborah Gears not in the mood for awe. Her face is grim and ashen as she peers out the passenger window of the two-seater sessna. It's been two days since Chuck disappeared and she's chartered a plane to search for the wreckage of his truck. But she doesn't find it. When the truck is finally found, it's parked on a residential street across the river in Ohio. The keys are in the ignition. The local police take a report of the missing owner, but they aren't really interested in investigating. A friend suggests Deborah speak to the county deputy sheriff, deputy westfall. He's been keeping tabs on the christianist for years, maybe he'll take her seriously. Deborah calls westfall and makes an appointment to see him that afternoon. Deborah's never been a fan of cops, just being in the sheriff's station makes her skin crawl. But when she sits across the desk from deputy westfall, she starts to relax a bit. He's gentle and respectful to order, and clearly very intelligent. When he asks a question, he listens intently to her answer and makes notes. But when he asks if Chuck had any enemies, she doesn't hold back. She tells him about Chuck's affair with Dan Reed's wife and the business dispute with Tierta. Westfall sits up when he hears the names. He's got files on both of them, and it sounds like they both have a reason to want Chuck dead. Dan seems like more of a follower, but Tierta is certainly capable of planning and carrying out a murder. He's anxious to start investigating. Deborah allows herself a faint glimmer of hope, even if her husband never comes back, at least his killers might be brought to justice. Two days later, Westfall is on his way to meet with the county prosecutor, and he's feeling good. He thinks he's assembled a strong case against Tierta and Dan, but his greater hope is that it'll lead to Keith. He's convinced that Keith knows about the murder, maybe even ordered it, nothing happens on the coming without Keith knowing about it. If Westfall can get Tierta or Dan to take a plea bargain, and turn against Keith, he'll finally be able to bring down the Krishna's criminal operation. Westfall sits across a conference table from the prosecutor and lays out the evidence in exacting detail. But the prosecutor is unimpressed. As he sees it, there are plenty of suspects. Chuck St. Dennis was a womanizer. He has four kids from three different women. There are probably lots of cuckled at husbands who want to put a bullet in his head. And before he got to Newverendobin, he was a drug dealer at the Laguna Beach Temple, where Maffy and Foreman's had gunned each other down. Maybe he knew too much, and they wanted him silenced. Maybe he was just tired of Deborah and ran off with someone else. But the biggest hole in Westfall's case is that they haven't found Chuck's body. No body, no charges. Westfall leaves the meeting, cursing the day he decided to become a cop. He gets in his cruiser and heads back to Moundsville, dreading what he has to do next. Tell Deborah there's not going to be an investigation. He saw the hope in her eyes when he said he believed her, and that he'd nail Tierta and Dan for the murder. The system has failed her. That makes him feel like a failure. So he vows to bring Tierta and Dan to justice, no matter how long it takes. Deborah gears alarm rings at 4 a.m. It's been over a month since Chuck disappeared, and she's trying to get on with her life. She can't seem to sleep through the night, so waking at 4 is easy. She goes to 4 a.m. services every day. She chants for hours. It's how she gets through her grief. She works at the clinic and tries to run Chuck's nursery as well. Nick has been dropping by to help her. He tends to land and takes plants into town to sell on the weekends. They're becoming close. There are even moments when she forgets everything that's happened. The life almost feels normal. At least she doesn't have to see Tierta's face with those cold dead eyes. He's disappeared, probably laying low somewhere. She gets out of bed and wraps herself in her saffron robe. She puts thoughts of Tierta out of her mind. Move on, she tells herself. Focus on Krishna. She wishes it wasn't so hard. Tierta has spent the past few weeks living in a nearby town. After Chuck's murder, Keith told him to go away for a while, and he's obliged. But he's got too much time on his hands. Time to replay the murder again and again in his head. Time to worry about the mistakes he might have made. He should have come up with a better way of getting rid of Chuck's body. And he's advice. That's why he's waiting outside Nick's front door just before sunrise. When Nick emerges Tierta smiles. Hey Doc, going for a run? Nick's not happy to see him, but Tierta doesn't care. He just has a quick question that requires Nick's medical expertise. Just the best way to dissolve a body. Nick looks away. Never thought about it. Tierta suggests he starts thinking about it. Nick's voice is shaking when he answers. Maybe lime? But Tierta doesn't have any lime. Would acid do it? Nick says he guesses it would. And Tierta walks away satisfied. A few days later, Tierta takes six gallons of myriatic acid from the Commune's workshop. He and Dan rebuild the dam to divert the stream. Then they bore holes into the mud covering Chuck's body and pour the acid in it. Nobody. No charges. But now he has a new problem. Dr. Nick knows too much. A few nights later, Nick is alone at the town laundromat, absently folding his clothes. He's worried about Debra. This lost weight and is driving herself so hard she's going to get sick. He's got to do something. But what? He doesn't know where to search for the body and even if he did, he may be dissolved by now. The secret he's carrying is burning a hole in his heart. Nick folds to the last of his laundry. As he's about to exit, Tierta walks in. Nick's whole body tenses. He's desperate to leave, but Tierta is blocking the doorway. He just stands there, smiling. Suddenly he tells Nick to get into his truck and they'll go get a beer. Nick can't believe the craziness of an hole. Is this how it ends? He knows if he gets in that truck, he'll end up dead. As Nick struggles to think of a way out, he sees a man walking down the sidewalk. When he walks in, Nick says a silent prayer of thanks. It's the owner of the laundromat, telling them it's closing time. Nick suggests they all leave together. Now, if he disappears, Nick's got a witness that saw him with Tierta. Tierta must be thinking the same thing because he gets in his truck and drives away. The next day, Nick tells Debra everything. She begs him to go to Deputy Westfall, but Nick doesn't see the point. They won't investigate without a body, and if Tierta finds out he's gone to the authorities, he'll kill them both. As the days pass, Debra continues to lose weight. Her eyes become sunken and hollow. Her kids ask if daddy is ever coming back, and she doesn't know what to tell them. It breaks Nick's heart. He can't stay silent any longer. Deputy Westfall is sitting at his desk on a warm day in June when Debra gear walks in. The communes medic is with her, and they both look scared. Nick tells Westfall about Tierta's confession. Westfall is almost impressed. Tierta's got brass balls to confess and think Nick will stay silent. He compliments Nick on his bravery, and thanks them both profusely. This is the break he's been waiting for for years. He'll put Dan and Tierta away, and if he places cards right, you'll finally get the grand prize, Keith Ham. He had his suspicions, but now he's convinced Keith orchestrated the murder. A blade of grass doesn't move at Newver and Dom and without Keith giving a permission. The first time Westfall met Keith, he thought he was just eccentric. But now he's come to realize that Keith is a sociopath, who doesn't care one bit about his followers. Westfall has spent years gathering evidence against Keith. He's even studied how cults work, and Keith definitely fits the profile of a cult leader. And now, after more than 10 years, he's within spitting distance of bringing down the whole operation. He can go back to the prosecutor. He's finally got the evidence he needs. Four days later, Westfall stands outside Debra's door. He has to admit the commune is a beautiful spot. The green hills, the golden palace, but he's not here to take a tour. He is news to deliver, and it's not good. When Debra opens the door, Westfall looks her in the eye and tells her straight. The prosecutor has declined to press charges. He said Nick is what's considered an unreliable witness because of his prior drug conviction. It doesn't matter that Nick is clean now, or he's willing to testify about Teardt's confession. The prosecutor is an elected official, and for him winning re-election is more important than meeting out justice. He only takes cases he believes he can easily win. Debra is devastated and furious. But so is Westfall. He's failed Debra again, and he hates it. Westfall walks back to his car defeated. He looks out over the commune. How could such a beautiful place be filled with such evil? Keith Ham strolls through the golden palace, known throughout the world as the American Taj Mahal. Without him, it wouldn't exist. He stops in front of the elaborate throne where a life-size mannequin, a Swami Prabhupad, the founder of the Hari Krishna movement, stares serenely. He's finally got the Swami just where he wants him. A silent, lifeless prop who will never contradict him. Keith is the highest spiritual master, a god who is not to be questioned or criticized. Chuck St. Dennis tried and met the fate he deserved. Anyone else who wants to criticize him will think twice, exactly as Keith has planned. Now Keith can focus on the business of expanding the commune and increasing his power. He made millions smuggling drugs. He runs scams across the US and Canada, and now he's gotten away with murder. The sky is the limit. But dark clouds are rolling in. Moving back to Newverendobin is Steve Bryant. From Wondry, this is episode four of eight of the Hari Krishna murders for American scandal. On the next episode, the Berkeley temple is in chaos after its leader melts down. Meanwhile in West Virginia, community enforcers confront Steve Bryant and gunpoint, as he then covers evidence that the gurus are frauds. 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 Doctorsky. 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 Airship, sound signed by Derek Barons. This episode is written by Steve Chivers, edited by Andrew Stelzer. Our producers are Stephanie Jenns, Marshal Louis, and her non-Mopes for Wondry.