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Nov, 2003

 Killer Krishnas From Inner Space


by Charles Carreon
November, 2003


I had never thought particularly ill of the “International Society for Krishna Consciousness” (“ISKCON”) until I read Monkey On A Stick -- Murder, Madness, and the Hare Krishnas by John Hubner and Lindsey Gruson, published in 1989. I discovered the book on a paperback rack in 1999 while standing in an A&P grocery store killing time one evening in Daytona, Florida. Initially captivated by the almost-unbelievable tale of how a gang of pedophile vegetarians ran an international sex and drug ring under the guise of a charity and service, I returned to the story several times, and have now produced an up-to-date telling of how one more hippie dream went horrendously sour with the help of this kooky little thing called “Eastern religion.” This article is separated into two parts, a summary of some of the most lurid stories that appear in Monkey On A Stick, and the legal story, drawn primarily from legal documents and news reports about the aftermath of the IKSCON pedophilia scandal.

Monkey On A Stick covers the time period in the mid-to-late eighties, when eleven Western "gurus" ruled the ISKCON empire, after the death of founder Swami Prabhupada, and abused their power over hundreds of thousands of Krishna devotees. Based in India, the virulent, perverted nature of the cult that operated under the acronym ISKCON, “International Society for Krishna Consciousness,” has never been fully known. This book is well worth reading, whether you are looking for good reasons to avoid getting into a religious cult, or are simply a devotee of the true crime genre.

The most horrific events in the book center around sex, murder and drug dealing at a West Virginia temple called “New Vrindaban,” founded by Keith Ham, a New York homosexual who dropped out of the Columbia grad school religious department to become an early devotee of Prabhupada and took the name Kirtananda (“Blissful-in-sacred-song”). Kirtananda and his partner Howard Wheeler, who joined at the same time, rose high in the Krishna hierarchy. Both were perverts to the core. Wheeler opended a temple in Ensenada, Mexico near the flesh markets of Tijuana, and enjoyed the free access to the bodies of poor children as only pedophile could. Kirtanananda shielded from a teacher from prosecution who publicly sodomized many young Krishna children in his classroom in front of their peers, and shipped him to India as the police were closing in with an arrest warrant.

If you went to an airport in the seventies, you may have wondered what would happen with the money if you gave a young devotee money in exchange for pseudo-ecstatic dancing, repetitive music, simpy smiles, and cheap incense. Read this book and wonder no longer. The official name for the platoons of urban change-scavengers was "sankirtan groups," but they were colloquially referred to as "scam-kirtan." Armies of young women, bullied by cynical, pimpish fellows, wrung innumerable dollars from the pocketbooks of tired Americans, meeting a usual quota of $300 a day, or getting a beating to cover the difference. These young women were also often sexual playthings for the heterosexual appetites of the more plebeian devotees who went for that sort of thing. Kirtanananda also collected millions from drug dealing and money laundering, and directed rings of scam-operators who solicited donations in the name of Vietnam veterans, hungry children, etc.

Kirtanananda was reportedly inseparable from a young boy called Samba, who sat at his side at all times, and with whom he often slept. Kirtananda was also unquestionably a woman-hater. He counseled men to beat their wives “like their prayer drums” – because it would improve them -- and despised audiences with women devotees, describing the occasion as "fish night," when extra incense had to be burned to counter the odor of women. According to the authors, the entire Krishna empire became a magnet for homosexuals with a lust for power, after Prabhupada, disenchanted with the 80% divorce-rate that afflicted the numerous marriages between devotees that he had arranged by edict, decided that only sannyasins, (male) "renunciates," could take leadership positions in the organization. While “celibacy” was enjoined upon male sannyasins, staying in the closet was no problem for these skirt-wearing, chanting, dancing worshippers of Vishnu.

Kirtananda’s management of New Vrindavan was similar to the style that Leona Helmsley would have adopted if she’d been operating the Vatican. Little people would of course sometimes get hurt when God went about His business. So there were a few shallow graves here and there on the property — big deal. The temple roof was leafed with gold, and the floors were pure marble. The architecture overawed with splendor, lifting the mind to God. Lots of people felt very peaceful and divine there, leading them to part with a check or a stack of ill-gotten cash.

Kirtananda was as blatant about ruling by terror as Don Corleone. He expressly ordered the horrifying murder of Chuck St. Denis that's chillingly described in the book’s opening chapter. He was shot twelve times with a .22, and repeatedly stabbed in the chest with a kitchen knife while being exhorted to chant Krishna’s name so that he would be reborn in the Hindu heaven. As the life fled from him, he howled like a dog, so the killers cracked his skull with a hammer. Even after all that, as they wrapped his body in a plastic tarp, he opened his eyes and warned them not to do that, because then he wouldn’t be able to breathe. They buried him under a stream, which is probably a good way to make a spirit unquiet, and perhaps that is why his cries, which vanished into the West Virginia night, echoed on, causing rage to burn even in the hearts of idiot mouse-like devotees accustomed to burying their fears in monotonous chanting.

Kirtananda, quoting one of Prabhupada’s quaint Indian sayings, likened the murder of St. Denis to impaling "a monkey on a stick" to frighten other monkeys, and for a long time it worked. Everyone in New Vrindaban knew that St. Denis had been killed on Kirtanananda’s orders by his personal thug, Tom Drescher. No one dared to speak out because Drescher lived under Kirtananda’s express protection, in the lap of privilege, right there in New Vrindaban. Undermined by Kirtanananda's financial influence, the local police and prosecutors didn’t act against Drescher.

But justice sometimes finds its vehicle. One day a deranged devotee spontaneously attacked Kirtananda with a three-foot steel rod, making serious dents in his brain. Kirtananda barely survived, and ever after walked with a cane, suffering headaches and double vision. Even in that debilitated state, however, Kirtananda maintained his corrupt grip on the faithful, and directed Drescher to kill Steve Bryant, the New Vrindaban exile who considered it his mission from Krishna to expose Kirtanananda's abuses, and had been publishing the embarrassing truth. Drescher killed Bryant in LA, which caused the pot to boil over, and resulted in his prosecution and conviction for St. Denis’ murder. Now serving a life sentence in prison, Drescher has nevertheless has been elevated by his service to Krishna to the status of holy assassin, a destroyer of unbelievers. In a special ceremony conducted by Kirtanananda, he was given authority to initiate prisoners in the Hare Krishna path, and has several followers inside.



The story that the authors of Monkey On A Stick tell about the ISKCON cult has been confirmed by subsequent revelations. In February 1987, the New Vrindavan was closed and the principal fled the country as law enforcement closed in. On February 17, 1987, Frederick DiFrancesco and and Larry Gardner were indicted on child molestation charges, and although Kirtananda denounced the investigation and charges as mere persecution, in 1990 the Feds indicted him on five counts of racketerring, six counts of mail fraud, and conspiracy to murder St. Denis and Bryant. A jury convicted him of all but the murder-conspiracy charges, but the verdict was reversed on the grounds that testimony about the child molestation had prejudiced the jury. In the midst of a retrial, he pled guilty to one count of racketeering, and was sentenced to twelve years in prison. Released in 2004, he was received, as the New York Times put it, “into the welcoming arms of his congregation,” notwithstanding that ISKCON had discharged him from his religious position after concluding he was a pedophile.


Well-known Texas trial attorney Windle Turley filed a federal lawsuit [online at http://www.harekrsna.org/gurupoison/sup ... y-case.pdf] in 2000 on behalf of around 50 innocent children whose parents left them in the care of pedophiles while they worked the streets, scrounging cash to buy gold roofs and fancy cars for the heirarchy. Turley named 16 corporate defendants based in Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, Washington, Florida and California, seven defendants in their capacity as Executors of the Estate of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada -- Gregory Gottfired, Robert Grant, Thomas Hertzog, Ghopal Khanna, Howard Resnick and Glen Teton – and 18 more defendants as members of the Governing Body of Commissioners of ISKCON (the “GBC”). These defendants, by legal name and Krishna name, were FARAMARZ ATTAR (“Atreya Rsi das”), CHARLES BACIS (“Bhavananda das”), WILLIAM BERKE (“Bali Mardan das”), ROBERT CORENS, (“Rapanuga Swami”), WILLIAM DEADWYLER, III (“Ravindra Svarupa Das”), WILLIAM EHRLICHMAN (“Bhagavan Swami”), JOHN FAVORS (“Bhakti Tirtha Swami”), STEVEN GOREYNO a/k/a STEVEN GUARINO (“Satsvarupa das”), MICHAEL GRANT (“Mukunda Goswami”), KEITH HAM (“Kirtanananda”) resides, THEODORE RICHARD HARRIS (“Panca Dravida Swami”), THOMAS HERTZOG (“Tamal Krishna Goswami”), JEFFREY HICKEY (“Jagadish das”), GOPAL KHANNA (“Gopal Krishna Goswami”), HANS KARY (“Hansadutta Swami”), WILLIAM OGLE (“Balavanta das”), HOWARD RESNICK (“Hrdayananda das Goswami”), BRUCE SCHARF (“Brahmananda”).

Turley’s complaint alleged that ISKCON became a den of thieves and a one-stop-shop for pedophiles, who in exchange for donations, would find a perv-friendly environment, a ready supply of compliant victims, and cover from investigation and prosecution.

“ISKCON and its leaders …­­­enriched themselves by granting special favors to large fund raisers and donors, even if some large donors were drug dealers and other criminal elements. The special favors include, among others:

(a) Granting teaching positions to sexual predators so they would have access to children for their sexual gratification;

(b) Giving young girls from the gurukulas as brides to older donor men;

(c) Creating “asylum” and a ring of protection against apprehension of fugitives, including those dealing illegally in arms, drugs and murder, within the ISKCON enterprise;

(d) Destroying evidence and failing to report criminal conduct on the part of ISKCON and devotees.”

Turley further alleged that under the cover of being an international religious organization, ISKCON offshored its perversities in India, where sexual abuse of children is culturally accepted, rarely investigated, and virtually never prosecuted.

“In a conscious effort to avoid policing and scrutiny by U.S.A. child protection agencies, ISKCON took a large portion of its boarding school activities overseas to India. In India, ISKCON managed at least two profoundly abusive boarding schools for boys. These were the Vrndavan and Mayapur schools. Both were staffed and controlled by appointees of ISKCON who were, for the most part, assigned from the United States. The students sent there were almost exclusively from the United States, and the management policies, devised and implemented by the GBC, originated in the U.S.A. The Indian schools were among the worst offenders and abusers of minor boys, and many of the Indian school teachers and leaders were also teachers, leaders and abusers in United States schools.”

Turley’s complaint alleged alleged that devotees were required to put their children in the “gurukula” boarding schools, which were basically pools of children who were rented to pedophiles.

“Some examples of the types of abuse and neglect to which the children, ranging in age from 3 years to 18 years, were subjected include but are not limited to:

  • Sexual abuse including rape, oral sex, intercourse with children, sexual fondling of children, and masturbation with children.

  • Physical beatings of children with boards, branches, clubs, and poles.

  • Physical beatings by adult teachers and school leaders with fists to the head and stomach.

  • Kicking the children into submission.

  • Children were in some instances made to walk great distances in bitter cold, including snow and rain, without jackets, coats, or shoes.

  • Children were often forced to sleep on cold floors and in unheated rooms.

  • Children were frequently deprived entirely of medical care [for] malaria, hepatitis, yellow fever, teeth being knocked out, broken facial bones, and broken bones in their hands, often inflicted as they attempted to shield themselves from beatings.

  • Children were sometimes kept in filthy conditions. In at least one instance, a local group utilized what had recently been a cattle or horse barn for a nursery.

  • In almost every school the children were kept in severely overcrowded conditions, often forced to sleep shoulder to shoulder on the floor or in small rooms in three-high bunks with 10 or 12 children to each tiny room.

  • The children were physically abused by being awakened every day in the early morning hours (generally at 4:00 a.m.) and subjected to a cold shower, after which they were taken, without any breakfast, to a daily religious service. At some schools, the children were forced to walk great distances in the dark to attend the service, and often in cold or rainy conditions, clothed only in their thin gown-like “dohti.”

  • The children were not provided bathroom tissue, but instead were expected to wipe themselves with their fingers, after which they would dip their fingers into a bowl of water.

  • As punishment for not cleaning themselves thoroughly, children were scrubbed with steel wool until their skin was raw and sometimes bleeding.

  • Children were abused when they were forced to sleep on their wet blankets or in tubs as punishment if they wet their bedding.

  • Some children were forced to wear their soiled underclothes on their heads for long periods of time because they had wet themselves.

  • Children were often forced to go without food entirely, either because there was none, or as punishment. When food was provided, it was always inadequate for a growing child’s diet.

  • The inadequate food that was provided was often prepared in unsanitary conditions, was of very poor quality and so unpleasant that even hungry children frequently could not eat it. In at least one school, the children learned as a matter of routine to remove insects from their food before eating it.

  • Each child was expected to eat what they were provided. If they did not do so, their served portion was kept on their plates until the next meal when it was served again. This process often continued until the cold food -- even moldy and insect-infested -- was swallowed.

  • In some schools, children were forced to lick up their vomit from any foul food they may have thrown up.

  • At New Vrindavan, three young boys, about six or seven years of age, who worked in the kitchen, took some food to their hungry friends. They were caught and punished by being gagged, having bags placed over their heads, and being put in a small room for several days with only a bucket for their waste and no food or water. One of the same boys was later slammed by a teacher into a marble wall, resulting in a loss of some teeth and fractured facial bones.

  • Children were controlled by various threats to hurt or kill them and by punishments. Young children, strictly limited to a vegetarian diet, were continually terrorized when told that non-Krishnas were meat-eaters, that they ate each other, and that the children, if given to or taken by the meat-eaters, would themselves be eaten.

  • Children often saw rats in their rooms and schools. Some children (such as those at the school in Dallas) were told the rats lived in a particular old closet, and the child would be, and often was, placed in the closet if they didn’t do as told.

  • One form of punishment included forcing little children to stand on a crate for long periods of time in a darkened closet “so the rats would not eat them.”

  • Very young children were in fact placed in those dark and locked closets and left afraid and crying for hours at a time. They were locked overnight in dark cellars with dirt floors. One young child was made to sleep alone in the loft of a cold barn for many nights.

  • Sometimes the children were sent by their superiors to massage and bathe the religious gurus and then drink their now “blessed bath water.”

  • In some cases, children were stuffed into trash barrels for periods of two to three days, with the lid on, as punishment for relatively trivial “sins.”

  • Children were almost universally told that if they disclosed their condition or complained to their parents or others, they would be severely punished. When complaints were made, the children were publicly and often severely beaten or subjected to other forms of punishment.

  • Girls, as young as 12 or 13 years, were frequently “given” or “promised” to an older male in the movement. Although their marriages were generally not sexually consummated until the child was at least 16 or 17 years old, the little girls were terrorized by the threats, and often reality, of being given away by their leaders to become engaged to marry “strange old men.”

  • Children were often forced to lie awake in their beds or sleeping bags and listen as their little friends were sexually molested by teachers and other leaders.

  • The children were emotionally abused by subjecting them to near-total parental and societal isolation. In an effort to totally control their minds, the children were, in most cases, separated and isolated from their parents and were not allowed to have regular contact with their parents. Personal visits, correspondence, and telephone calls were either forbidden or discouraged. Gifts, particularly of food, were intercepted. For example, one young boy felt abandoned by his parents, and had no contact with his family for more than a year. He later learned the one small package of cookies sent by his mother was intercepted and kept from him.

  • Children were frequently moved to different schools in different states without the consent (or, sometimes, knowledge) of parents. Some children were hidden from parents. Some boys were shipped out of the country to ISKCON schools in India. In at least some cases, after the parents discovered their child’s whereabouts and made arrangements for them to come home, their plane tickets were intercepted, and torn up in front of the children. Then, these children were punished for their parents’ attempt to bring them home.

  • Even though the children were given by their parents to ISKCON to educate, except for the reading of their “vedic scriptures,” the children received little or no education.

  • Because of near-total isolation from the outside world and lack of education, the children who remained within the ISKCON schools for extended periods of time were totally unequipped to enter outside society. They have experienced extreme difficulty in earning a living, entering and maintaining relationships, including marriage, and in adapting to the laws and regulations of society. Many are in need of extended psychological and/or vocational training, rehabilitation, and medical care.”


Strangely enough, mainstream U.S. churches supported ISKCON in its efforts to get the lawsuit dismissed. The following groups joined in filing a “friend of the court” brief urging Judge Sam Lindsay to dismiss the case on the grounds that a church could not be legally characterized as a “racketeering” organization, and thus there was no federal law on which the court could base its exercise of jurisdiction over the defendants.

1. The American Jewish Congress
2. Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs
3. Christian Legal Society
4. Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas
5. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
6. The Evangelical Covenant Church
7. The First Church of Christ,Scientist
8. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
9. General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)
10. National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States
11. United States Catholic Conference

Affecting a pious and disinterested tone, these eleven churches, each of which has now been implicated in the ever-widening scandal of ecclesiastical sex abuse, waded into the dispute to protect the coffers of ISKCON from being tapped by a damage award that could help the Krishna children rebuild lives shattered by their collision with a diabolical cult that had the foresight to incorporate as a church in order to conceal, foster, and escape justice for its widespread criminal activities. The “friend of the court” brief, filled with supercilious chaff, referring to the churches as “amici,” dresses up the argument in First Amendment garb:

“This case originally involved allegations of sexual abuse by some members of the International Society For Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) entrusted with the education of children. Amici do not have any knowledge of the truth of these allegations, nor are we speaking to any factual issues in this case. We all unequivocally condemn all forms of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse whenever such abuse occurs. All of the amici with pastoral responsibilities have, in our own ways, sought to deal with it, and to heal its devastating effects. Amici file this brief because proper resolution of the serious threat to religious freedom posed by the RICO claim in the Amended Complaint is critical to the autonomy of churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious organizations. Religious freedom is fragile enough without adding the threat of destruction by lawsuit under a statute designed to eliminate organized crime, not organized religion. The attempted use of RICO to target an entire religious community is an outrage against the First Amendment.”

Judge Lindsay accepted the argument that churches cannot, as a matter of law, be characterized as criminal organizations, thus giving the green light to creative criminals who wish to adopt the ecclesiastical cowl as a cloak for criminality. Calling the ruling a “victory for religious freedom,” attorney David Liberman equated liberty with libertinage, an intent that I am certain the Framers of the Constitution never conceived in all of their deliberations.


After the suit was dismissed, Turley refilled in Texas state court, and ISKCON moved to the next stage of legal defense – the bankruptcy courts. Claiming that the $400 Million in damages sought exceeded the value of ISKCON’s property, Liberman orchestrated bankruptcy filings of numerous ISKCON-related entities around the nation. This required all injured individuals to submit claims in bankruptcy by June 30, 2003. The case was settled in bankruptcy in May 2005. By that time, 540 Krishna children had submitted claims, and a $9.5 Million fund was allocated to provide them with awards. A press release stated: “The amount each individual receives will be based on the nature of the abuse, its severity, and the time factor. The amount of compensation received by most will range from $2,500 to $50,000.” ISKCON leaders mumbled mea culpas all the way to the bank, proving as many a mediator has argued, that saying you’re sorry can greatly reduce the bill you’re forced to pay.


Ultimately, with insurance money, Turley garnered $20 Million to be divided among the claimants. If we take out just 25% for Turley, that leaves $17.5 Million, which divided by 450, gives you less than $39,000 per claimant. Take a look at the types of abuse those children suffered – teeth knocked out, forced to eat their own vomit, and according to statements from virtually all of the children interviewed, an interminable, daily stream of sexual assaults. Ask yourself how forty-grand can possibly compensate for those types of injury. Ganganam Dasa wrote a short article in October 2009, in which he said that the settlements were small: “It works out to about two thousand dollars twice a year for 4 years -- about enough to pay rent and bills for a short time -- a pittance for a stolen childhood and a bleak future.” The suffering that the Krishna children endured in childhood was a setup for failure in adult life. As Ganganam Dasa wrote:

“As many of us gurukulis are in our 30's and because of the low quality of education given in the gurukulas, university entrance was impossible. While ordinary karmis (non-Krishna people) are having successful lives -- financial, emotional, and family stability -- every gurukuli I know is struggling day to day, have not attained the dreams of having what karmis consider even average success: family, a comfortable living situation, reliable vehicle, etc. I have to emphasize that when I was 4, I didn't make the choice, unlike adults, to join a religion that celebrates poverty, lack of family, and viewing the world as a Kali Yuga hellhole that we must leave ASAP. Now as a result, many of us have grown up into exactly what was planned for us -- emotionally disturbed, unskilled losers, while many others around us who had normal childhoods are prospering with happy lives complete with families of their own. It's no wonder some have attempted or chosen to end their lives through suicide.”


In the end, it seems clear that: (1) there were at the very least over five-hundred children subjected to conditions of terrible abuse that destroyed their experience of childhood and rendered them unfit for adulthood, (2) the ISKCON organization ultimately admitted total responsibility for the creation and establishment of the system that enabled the abusers, (3) the abusers were never systematically identified or held personally responsible, and were effectively immunized by the bankruptcy proceeding, (4) virtually no one, besides the two pervert teachers indicted in South Carolina, were ever even criminally charged, much less convicted for their commission of heinous acts of abuse, and (5) the ISKCON organization has suffered little in the way of consequence on a financial scale, a mere speeding ticket in the life of a cult that has vacuumed the cash out of innumerable pockets and purses.

It’s quite remarkable, really, and teaches you something – the sins of the parents will be visited upon the children, and when you are born to parents stupid enough to raise you in a cult, nobody is really going to care that much about your problems. It will all be viewed as self-inflicted, even though, as Ganganam Dasa said, he had nothing to do with the bad choices his parents made. So when you see someone leading their whole family into a lifestyle that says you should surrender everything worldly, pursue a life of poverty, and give your children the gift of a sanctified lifestyle, tell them story of the Killer Krishnas. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll think twice.


by John Hubner and Lindsey Gruson

Chapter 1: Blood Feud

The Planting Party

"Chakradara, you been diggin' like a woodchuck for days," said Dan Reid, a little man with a black goatee who was straddling a big Yamaha motorcycle. "What you need is a party. Wouldn't a taste of something clean and white go good after all that dirt?"

Chakradara, Chuck St. Denis, was digging a trench, searching for a break in a water line. It was early on the morning of June 9, 1983. The sun had already cleared the West Virginia hills in the east and St. Denis's T-shirt was soaked with sweat. He looked at Reid and thought, I'll be damned!

There are few secrets in a commune. St. Denis knew that for some weeks Reid had been running around New Vrindaban, the largest Hare Krishna community in America, telling devotees that St. Denis had raped his wife, Brenda.

It was true that St. Denis had gone through the commune's supply of available women with the same rapacity he devoured ice cream, which he liked to eat with his fingers a half gallon at a time. It was true he had fathered four children by three women. It was even true that he and Brenda had once had a little thing going. But that was all in the past, a long time ago. He had quit screwing around.

He'd been faithful to Debra Gere, the commune's nurse, for almost two years, ever since he had moved out of his trailer and into hers. Debra, or Ambudrara, was the best woman he'd ever had. She was smart and tough and pretty, with dark brown eyes, pale white skin covered with light freckles, and red hair that glistened in the sun. He'd fathered her six-month-old baby girl and was now working with her fourteen hours a day, trying to open a plant nursery . They were going to call it Blue Boy Nursery , after Krishna, the blue lord.

Chuck had told Debra about his previous affair and it didn't bother her. She knew that Dan Reid treated his wife like some kind of bug that had infested his life. He was always flying into red-faced rages, screaming that Brenda was fat and ugly and couldn't do a damn thing right. Brenda would run out of the house and end up sitting at a neighbor's kitchen table, sobbing. Finally, Reid had left his wife and three kids and moved into a shack up in the hills above the commune, called the Artist's Studio. That was when St. Denis had moved in on Brenda.

Debra had been wondering why Reid was spreading the rape story around now. She knew that if Chuck had not been so busy he'd have grabbed the little jerk by the throat and asked him just what the hell he thought he was doing spreading all that garbage around. That was how Chuck handled a problem.

"White stuff?" St. Denis asked, flashing his toothy grin. "Come on, Daruka, you don't have no coke. You've never had no coke."

" But I do," Reid said."And if you don't show up, I'll have to do it all by myself."

Reid gave the Yamaha's throttle a couple of quick nervous twists as St. Denis walked over to the bike and slapped him on the back. St. Denis was twenty-nine years old, six foot two, and 220 pounds, with shoulder-length hair and hazel eyes. Strung around his seventeen-inch neck was a "Krishna's dog collar," as devotees call the sacred kanthi beads. The muscles in his arms were huge, pumped up from all the digging he had been doing.

"We can't have you getting coked up alone, Daruka," St. Denis said. "I mean, what are friends for? But the thing is, we're having a planting party tonight. I had the field behind the greenhouse plowed the other day. We've got twenty flats of Shasta daisies to get in the ground. If we don't get them in soon, they'll all be dead. Everybody is gonna help. Why don't you come? You ain't been around in weeks."

"All right, I will," Reid said. "We can go up to my place afterward. Hell, who cares how late it is when you're gonna get wired?"

St. Denis flashed his big grin. "Daruka, you know all my weaknesses," he said.

"Everybody knows your weaknesses," Reid replied. "You couldn't hide them if you tried."

St. Denis laughed. Reid shifted into first gear and turned the bike round. "Just remember, don't tell anyone," Reid said. "There isn't enough to go around."

"There's never enough to go around," St. Denis yelled as Reid rode away.

St. Denis watched Reid work the bike through the six-inch ruts in the dirt road. So, Daruka wants to be friends again, he thought. Good. We'll do a few lines; he'll bring up the Brenda thing; then we'll work it out and everything will be cool.

He picked up his shovel and went back to the trench.


Chuck and Debra were "fringies," devotees who were on the New Vrindaban equivalent of an injured-reserve list. They believed in the religion, but had not been able to follow the strict vows they took at initiation. Chuck had not been able to give up drugs or alcohol, let alone milder stimulants like coffee and tea. His close relationship with Debra had made a joke out of the ban against illicit sex: Krishnas are supposed to have sex only once a month, and only for the purpose of producing Krishna-conscious children. He had long ago forgotten the ban against eating meat, fish, eggs, or onions.

Devout Krishnas are not supposed to eat onions because they reek of the world. They do not drink tea because it stimulates the mind and disturbs the tranquility that comes with thinking always of Krishna. Spices are banned for the same reason. Food, drink, everything devotees consume, should remind them of Krishna, not of this world.

Like Chuck, Debra found the religion too demanding to practice on an everyday basis. She was expected to rise every day with the other devotees at four in the morning, take a cold shower, and attend Mangalaratik, the morning devotional service at four-thirty. She also had to attend classes on sacred Hindu texts and chant sixteen rounds of the Hare Krishna maha ("great") mantra every day. It took almost two hours to do 1,728 repetitions of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Debra just couldn't make the time. The commune's only nurse, she worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week. She also had two children. She could not be a good mother, a good nurse, and a good devotee too. Besides, she liked to sit in the kitchen of the rambling farmhouse they'd moved into, put up her feet, and relax with a beer. It was a good way to end the day.

One evening in the winter of 1982, a year and a half ago, Debra had been washing the dishes and looking forward to a cold beer. Chuck had been there with her, sitting at the table nursing a Molson's. The phone had rung, but Chuck didn't move. A little annoyed, Debra had grabbed the phone without stopping to dry her hands.

"Hi, Mom. I'm glad it's you," she said a moment later. "I was starting to get a little worried. It's been a while since you called."

St. Denis gazed into his green bottle of Molson ale, half-listening to the conversation. He glanced up when he noticed Debra had stopped talking. Her mouth was hanging open. She was staring at him, but looking right through him.

"You're kidding!" Debra said softly.

St. Denis got up and walked over to her. "What's up?" he whispered.

Debra ignored him. "All right, Mom. I'm kind of too stunned to talk about it right now, anyway. You go have a good cry and we'll talk in the morning."

She hung up and sat down at the table. St. Denis dropped into a chair facing her.

"Dad's will just cleared probate," Debra said. "I'm going to get fifty thousand dollars."

From that moment on, there was only one topic of conversation in the old farmhouse: "What are we going to do with the money?"

They knew what they should do if they were good devotees: surrender it to Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, the guru who had built New Vrindaban. Kirtanananda "was like a god on earth; devotees dropped to the ground to offer obeisances when they saw him. They carried him on a bejeweled palanquin during Krishna ceremonies. To live in New Vrindaban was to surrender everything, body, soul, family, and bankbook to Kirtanananda. Especially bankbook.

"Money is the honey," Kirtanananda liked to say, rubbing his hands.

But fifty thousand dollars? That ain't hay. And neither Chuck nor Debra had ever had much money.


Kirtanananda had started the commune in 1968 on a rundown 130-acre farm in West Virginia's beautiful northern panhandle. Neighboring farmers, born and raised in adjoining farms, shook their heads and told one another not to worry: Those "Hairy Critters" with their shaved heads and their orange bedsheets wouldn't make it through the first winter.

They didn't. But the Hare Krishnas came back in the spring, and this time they prospered. They sent around a straw man, a local fellow named Randall Gorby, to snap up land, often at thousands of dollars an acre above market value. The farmers on McCreary's Ridge talked themselves into believing they were selling to Gorby, not to the commune, and cashed out. By 1983, the original 130 acres had grown to 2,884.

Kirtanananda named the commune after the sacred town in India where Krishna appeared as a cowherd boy to slay demons, play his flute, sing, dance, and engage in other pastimes with the gopis, the milkmaids. He billed it as a farming community where devotees could practice the Hare Krishna philosophy of "simple living, high thinking." In time, the simple farm grew into a massive project no more simple and spiritual than the pyramids.

Its jewel, the first temple of a planned spiritual city, is Prabhupada's Palace of Gold, named after A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or ISKCON. Kirtanananda bills it as America's Taj Mahal, the first of seven temples in a spiritual Disneyland that will propagate Krishna Consciousness. Actually, the palace is a monument to Kirtanananda's obsession with becoming Prabhupada's successor.

When Prabhupada died in 1977, the ISKCON world divided into eleven zones. Each zone was governed by a guru who ruled his devotees by divine right, the way medieval kings ruled serfs. Kirtanananda has always condemned the division as anathema and refused to share power with the ten other gurus. "Purity must come before unity," he is fond of saying.

Kirtanananda believes that he, and he alone, has realized the eternal truths Prabhupada brought to America. Only through him can devotees understand Prabhupada's message and reach Krishna. He built the Palace of Gold to attract the followers of other gurus. Seeing the gold-crested towers shimmering in the sun and climbing the swirling red marble steps, they would stop and think, such splendor! No one else is doing such great service for Prabhupada. I'm going to leave my guru and surrender to Kirtanananda Swami.

The gold, silver, rare jewels, and tons of exotic marble imported to build the Palace of Gold cost a staggering sum of money. Kirtanananda had a dozen ways to get it.

The guru's deep conviction that he, and he alone, had fully realized Prabhupada's message deeply impressed Chuck St. Denis. He didn't think twice when he was told to deal marijuana and turn the profits over to the temple. He was honored to perform such important service. So were many others. Devotees with Ph.D.'s in religious studies joined the Krishnas, as did lawyers, artisans, Harvard M.B.A.'s, Henry Ford's grandson, and Walter Reuther's daughter. But by far the majority of the devotees were members of the lost sixties generation, flower children and street people -- kids like Chuck St. Denis, who started dealing drugs when he was eleven years old.


St. Denis came from Arcadia, California. Home of the Santa Anita racetrack, Arcadia was a town whose identity was snuffed out long ago by the great sprawl of Los Angeles. His parents were alcoholics. His father, a bartender, had abandoned the family early; neither Chuck, nor his older sister, Chrislyn, and certainly not his younger brother, Michael, remembered him. Their mother, a cocktail waitress, had remarried several times.

Chrislyn was the nearest thing to a mother the two boys had. Every day after school, she came straight home and started cooking dinner. She did her best, but she was no match for the harsh life of the streets. By the time she was eleven, all three kids were in trouble.

With Chuck, it was grass and LSD. Then downers, reds, and Seconals. All those drugs did nothing to stunt Chuck's physical growth. At age ten he was big enough to steal his stepfather's car without any help. At thirteen he was a veteran drug dealer and running with a black street gang, whose sworn enemies were Chicanos.

A juvenile court judge finally declared Chuck incorrigible and sent him to juvenile hall. The same court packed his younger brother, Michael, off to a boys' ranch in Oregon.

When they let him out of kiddie jail, Chuck went right back to the only thing he knew: drugs and dealing. He ate huge hits of LSD and began shooting Seconal. At sixteen, he was over six feet tall, and very angry. He got into terrible fights with his brother and sister. He stole from his mother and refused to speak to his stepfather.

His attitude was, You hurt me, you owe me--gimme, gimme, gimme.

Chuck drifted away from home to join the great hippie migration along the California coast. He settled, more or less, in Santa, Cruz, a beautiful coastal town that was a hippie haven when St. Denis arrived in 1969. He hung around the Santa Cruz pier, dealing drugs, soaking his brain in LSD, rapping, and getting laid.

And then he met the Krishnas.

He went away a hippie and came back in a robe with his head shaved. Chrislyn thought he'd been brainwashed, especially the way he tried to cram that religion down the family's throats. When his siblings wouldn't go to the Sunday Krishna feasts, he would get mad.

But after a while, Chrislyn realized the Krishnas were good for Chuck. He was doing a lot of chanting, but he wasn't doing drugs. His whole life, he'd never had a job and never wanted to work. But suddenly it seemed the Krishnas had changed all that. They gave him something to live for, maybe for the first time. In return Chuck worked hard for them.

The Krishnas were the family St. Denis had never had but always wanted. They ordered the world for him; they told him when to get up and what to do until he went to sleep. Even better, they made his poverty righteous. Since he had nothing to lose, it was easy to reject the material world and live a spiritual life. Discipline for people like St. Denis, who have no self-discipline, is an all-or-nothing thing. For almost six years he was a devout follower, chanting and following the regulative principles.

His life as a Krishna monk crumbled in the mid-1970s, when he moved into the Laguna Beach temple, south of Los Angeles. There, a group of devotees that included the temple president were smuggling hash oil into the U.S. from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Most of the money was turned over to ISKCON.

The smugglers recruited St. Denis. Before long, he had moved out of the temple and into an apartment with a girlfriend. He was soon sleeping through the morning service and smoking dope instead of chanting. He was only a bit player in the drug operation, however. When the cops broke up the ring, they did not even bother to question him. St. Denis moved to New Vrindaban and was soon running marijuana to raise money for Kirtanananda's temple. He took to the new role like an avid car salesman to a new dealership and made dozens of trips from West Virginia back to the West Coast, usually returning with five or ten pounds of marijuana at a time.

"You hypocrite!" Chrislyn screamed at him one night in Los Angeles, interrupting another one of his seemingly endless sermons. "I can't believe you're sitting in my house, sucking on a joint, dealing, and preaching to me about that fucker Kirtanananda the whole time. Every dime you make goes right to that psycho!"

"It belongs to my family," St. Denis said. "We need the money to build the temple. It's a shrine. We're doing good deeds with the money. The glory of Krishna makes everything clean."


"We've done service for Kirtanananda, lots of service," Chuck told Debra every time they talked about the fifty thousand dollars. "There's no tellin' how much money I've turned over from what I've been doin'. And look at you--workin' day and night in the clinic. Do you know how much it would cost Kirtanananda to hire a nurse to come out here to replace you?"

"But Kirtanananda needs the money more than we do," Debra said. "He needs every penny. There's nothing we could do with it that's more important."

"I'm not sayin' we shouldn't do something for Kirtanananda," St. Denis said. "All I'm saying is, we should do something for ourselves, too."

The idea hit St. Denis when he walked into the living room one morning and looked around him at the plants Debra had used to decorate the place. It was an inspiration. He got so excited, he jumped in his 1973 Blazer and drove right over to the commune's makeshift clinic, where he found Debra stitching a gash in a five-year-old boy's hand. As soon as she finished, St. Denis walked her outside.

"I got it! We'll start a nursery!" he said. "We're both good with plants." We'll buy some land from Kirtanananda and do it right here. I even got the name: Blue Boy Nursery. It'll go. I know it'll go."

Debra loved the idea. There is no bad karma in watering plants and planting flowers. The nursery would enable her to phase out her nursing job and spend more time with her children.

She and Chuck talked it over and agreed that, like devotees everywhere who live and work outside the temple, they would turn 50 percent of the nursery's profits over to their guru. Kirtanananda agreed. Chuck and Debra paid him $17,500 for twenty-three acres of land. Actually, they paid $2,500, and Debra's mother gave the commune a $15,000 "donation" -- a scheme designed to save the commune a few dollars in taxes.

There was one small hitch: a devotee named Thomas Drescher was building a house on their land and didn't want to move. St. Denis agreed to negotiate separately with Drescher for his house. Debra wanted Drescher's small, half-finished place because it was perfect for her mother, who was living alone in Exeter, New Hampshire. She and Chuck would build a new house next to the nursery.

After buying the land, St. Denis threw himself into the project like a madman. He drove around West Virginia's panhandle, interviewing every florist in the Moundsville-Wheeling area. He found there was a steady market for plants in Pittsburgh, eighty miles northeast of the commune, where interior decorators needed hearty tropicals for offices and homes.

Chuck also developed a side business that would ensure the success of Blue Boy Nursery. His interest in horticulture dated back to a trip he took to Garberville, California, a small logging and fishing town in Humboldt County that became the world's unofficial sinsemilla capital in the 1970s. (Sinsemilla is one of the most potent marijuana hybrids.)

While in Garberville, St. Denis had purchased two pounds of primo weed from two friendly, bearded growers. After sharing a joint to seal the deal, they drove into town to have dinner at a small health-food restaurant run by a bunch of ex-hippies. One of the growers had a master's degree in botany. With real passion, he explained how he planned to do for cannabis what grape growers had done for Vitis vinifera. From vinifera vines, the grower patiently explained, winemakers produce varietals like Pinot noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. He was now selecting strains of cannabis to produce different smokes -- sweet, fruity, herbal, and spicy. Better yet, he claimed, to have bred weed that produced distinctly different highs, highs he described poetically as sleepy, sexy, and electric.

St. Denis was fascinated. When he left the redwood empire, he took along a dozen small Ziploc plastic bags, each containing two custom-bred sinsemilla seeds that cost between five and fifteen dollars apiece.

St. Denis planted the seeds in a secret place high in the West Virginia mountains. A few plants died, but most were prospering. St. Denis figured that between selling tropicals to interior decorators and high-power smoke to his marijuana connections, Blue Boy Nursery would be a cinch.

Like most dealers, St. Denis was addicted to the big score. If he ordered enough material and bought enough plants, if he kept hammering away at the 250-foot-long greenhouse, he thought the nursery would come together in a flash, just like a dope deal.

When the nursery was half finished, St. Denis borrowed a truck and shot down to Florida to buy tropical plants. He took along Dr. Nick Tsacrios, a short, intense Florida native who had settled in New Vrindaban to run the commune's clinic and live with the fringies. They had just crossed the Georgia state line on their way home when the plywood frames in the back of the overloaded truck collapsed, crushing thousands of dollars' worth of plants.

"Chuck, man, you're way overzealous," Dr. Nick said. "You want everything to happen at once. Slow down. Start small and build."

"You worry about fixin' up people-I'll worry about gettin' plants to grow," St. Denis snapped. He slammed the truck's rear doors shut and stomped back to the cab.


Dan Reid hurried up the stairs to Kirtanananda's office; it was in a converted barn next to the Temple of Understanding. Although St. Denis's friends had assured Reid that St. Denis had never raped his wife, Reid was certain he had. Brenda had described it all in detail.

"Hare Krishna," Reid said when he walked into Kirtanananda's office. Then he stopped in his tracks to offer the required obeisances. He kneeled, laid his palms flat, and touched his forehead to the floor. He got up, faced the guru, and got right to the point.

"Chakradara raped my wife," he told Kirtanananda. "I want to kill him."

The guru was fond of saying, "Not a blade of grass blows in the wind at New Vrindaban without me knowing about it." He knew about St. Denis's affair with Brenda Reid. He did not know about the rape and questioned Reid carefully.

"I thought Chakradara was too wrapped up with Ambudrara and the nursery to do anything like that," Kirtanananda said.

"That's what I thought," Reid replied. "When I heard what had happened, I didn't believe it, so I went and asked Brenda. She said yes, it had happened. Not only that, it happened only a few weeks after she had the kid. The guy's an animal; he hurt her bad."

The guru was silent for a moment.

"So who's gonna care?" he said finally. "Maybe you should go talk to Drescher about this."

Reid drew in a deep breath. He was hoping Kirtanananda would say something like that.

Kirtanananda may not have cared about the rape; he did care that St. Denis and Debra Gere had not turned her inheritance over to him. He needed every penny he could get his hands on to build Krishna's American playground; if devotees started keeping their money instead of giving it to their spiritual master, New Vrindaban's raison d'etre would be destroyed and chaos would ensue.

When Prabhupada, the Krishnas' founder, had to kick a devotee out of the movement for doing something especially bad, like embezzling money, he would refer to the Indian parable of the monkey on a stick. "Let him be the monkey on a stick and let us have no more of that," he would say.

When a monkey breaks into a banana plantation in India, the farm's owners kill the monkey, impale him on a stick, and leave him to rot outside the plantation. Other monkeys see him hanging there and stay away from the bananas.

Chuck St. Denis would be the monkey on a stick.

Dan Reid thanked the swami, left, jumped on his Yamaha, and rode straight to Tirtha, Thomas Drescher, the commune's enforcer.


"You're kidding," Drescher said when Reid told him the story. "Kirtanananda sent you to me? He really said,'Go tell Tirtha'? Take me through it again; I wanna hear exactly what he said."

Reid repeated his story.

"All right," Drescher said. "I'll do it. I take it as an order from the swami to help you."

At first glance, Drescher looks like the manager of a Denny's restaurant, with short, neatly trimmed blond hair and a bland face that would be expressionless if his lips weren't pursed in a perpetual pout. But a closer look reveals a cold, steely gaze behind the brown-tinted glasses. Tattoos run up his forearms.

Drescher grew up in foster homes and juvenile detention centers in Buffalo, New York. At eighteen, he enlisted in the Army and was shipped to Vietnam with the "blood-and-guts" 101st Airborne. Drescher returned to the States in 1972 and joined the Krishnas. He told gory stories about his time in Nam with relish and bragged about all the "gooks" he had killed.

When he came to New Vrindaban in the mid-1970's, his first jobs were driving a bus around the commune and guarding the palace. He drove the bus as if it were an Army jeep. A pregnant devotee remembers that every time she got on the bus, Drescher would floor the gas pedal, then slam on the brakes. Then he would look in the mirror and give her a big grin. One time she fell. Drescher laughed and laughed.

By 1977, he'd been promoted to commune enforcer, a position that combined the roles of cop and goon. He spent hours every day firing a .45 on a range hidden deep in the hills. When Kirtanananda wanted people thrown out of the commune, Drescher drove them to Highway 250 and dumped them beside the road.

The day after talking to Drescher, Reid was lying in bed in his studio, drifting in and out of a late-afternoon nap. When he heard a truck straining to climb the steep hill, he groaned and lifted himself up on one elbow to look out the window. It was Drescher's white pickup. Reid jumped out of bed and ran to meet Drescher outside the shack.

"We're gonna do it," Drescher said. "I got it all figured out."

The two went inside the shack and sat down. Drescher took Reid through it one step at a time. Reid's job was to lure St. Denis to the Artist's Studio.

"Tell him you got some coke" Drescher said. "He'll be sure to come when he hears that."

"I'll do it," Reid said.

"And get yourself a gun," Drescher said.

Fear that the karmis -- meat-eating Westerners -- would someday attack the commune had turned New Vrindaban into an armed camp. The commune had had a number of armorers over the years, beginning with Eugene Braeger, who had built an arsenal of AR-15's, Mini-14's, .45's and nine-millimeters. Braeger was succeeded by Keith Weber and Todd Schenker, two survivalists who liked to walk around New Vrindaban dressed in camouflage, as if they had just stepped out of an ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine.

"It's all gonna happen right in the Artist's Studio," Drescher told Reid. "We can't be bringing cannons in here. We'll blow holes in the walls. We need small caliber weapons. There's a twenty-two in the treasury where you work. Borrow it. Nobody will miss it. You ain't gonna have it long."

"I'll do it," Reid said.

"First thing tomorrow, you go find him," Drescher continued. "Set up a time when he's gonna come up here. As soon as that's done, come over to my place and let me know. We'll take it from there."

Reid nodded. Drescher left and drove half a mile down an old logging road to a small stream. He got out of the truck and walked up and down the stream looking for a place where the water flowed evenly and not too quickly.

He found it and started throwing the biggest rocks he could lift into the stream. When there was a big pile, he took off his shoes, waded into the shallow water, and built a crude dam by plugging the cracks in the rocks with mud. When the water flow was reduced to a trickle, Drescher returned to the truck and got his shovel. Directly below the dam, he dug a shallow grave in what had been the middle of the stream.


"You guys better be ready to work, 'cause I'm a monster with this thing!" St. Denis told the fringies gathered for the planting party. He was standing beside the greenhouse, waving a hole puncher in the air. Everyone but Dan Reid laughed. Standing alone at the edge of the group, he forced a smile.

"Here's the way we do it: I go ahead punchin' the holes; you guys come along behind, plantin' the daisies. If you even come close to keepin' up with me, we'll be done by sunset."

"If I know you, you'll sneak back here and get into the beer and pizza while we're out there, slavin' away," teased Kurt Cleaver, St. Denis's best friend.

St. Denis raised the hole puncher like it was a baseball bat and threatened to chase Cleaver.

"Watch me burn out there," he said. "We'll have this baby knocked off in no time."

It was a perfect spring evening. The leaves on the maples, elms, birches, and oaks on the hillsides were a lush green. Swallows, diving over a nearby pond; did aerial acrobatics as they took insects.

St. Denis was as good as his word, punching row after row of holes while the fringies, on hands and knees, crawled along behind, putting daisies in the ground and covering the roots with soil. It was after dark when they finished and went over to Kurt and Janet Cleaver's house to pop open beers and dig into vegetarian pizzas. Every fifteen minutes or so, St. Denis ran out to the greenhouse to move a jerry-rigged watering system.

"Wait'll you see that field in bloom!" he yelled after one trip. "It's gonna be bee-ooo-tiffff-llll!"

The party broke up around ten o'clock. St. Denis and Debra packed the kids in their Blazer and were on their way home when Chuck stopped at the intersection of Stull's Run Road, a mile from the nursery. Dan Reid was there, waiting on his Yamaha.

St. Denis leaned out of the driver's window. "I'm beat, Daruka," he said. "I don't wanna drive Deb and the kids home and then go all the way up to your place. Let's do it another night.

"Hey! don't do that to me, I'm really up for this," Reid said."

"Well, all right, I'll tell you what. Let's just go from here," St. Denis said. "The kids will be asleep by the time time we get there."

Reid looked at Debra and began shifting the weight of the bike from one foot to the other. When he spoke, his voice was an octave higher than usual.

"Naw, let's forget it; It's no big deal. Go home and get the kids to bed. I'll come by tomorrow and we'll set something up."

Chuck threw the Blazer into gear and drove on to the old farmhouse. There he helped Debra tuck in the two kids. Then he popped a Molson's, went upstairs, took a bath, and put on a pair of jogging pants. He and Debra had just gotten into bed and were about to turn off the lights when the phone beside the bed rang. It was eleven thirty.

"Hari bol," St. Denis said, answering with the traditional Krishna greeting.

He listened for a few seconds. Then he chuckled and said, "You're so mental." A few seconds later he added, "All right, I'll meet you there," and hung up.

"That was Reid," he told Debra as he climbed out of bed. "He was calling from the pay phone outside Ma Eddy's. He owes me fifty bucks. He had it on him when he saw us, but forgot to give it to me. He wants to get it to me now before he forgets again."

St. Denis pulled on his pants. He didn't like lying to Debra, but like Reid had said, he had been working hard. He deserved a party.

"I'll be right back. It shouldn't take more than ten minutes to get up there and back."

St. Denis grabbed his Molson's and walked out to the Chevy Blazer. He got in and drove past Ma Eddy's, the general store where he told Debra he was going to meet Reid. He turned onto the road that leads to the Palace of Gold, then onto a narrow dirt road that got narrower and more deeply rutted as it snaked up the mountain. He drove slowly, taking a slug now and then from the beer he had stuck in a plastic holder mounted on the dash.

St. Denis parked in front of the Artist's Studio, got out, and waited for his eyes to adjust to the dark. After a few moments, he walked slowly down a path that led around the studio to the only door. He was approaching the door when Thomas Drescher stepped out of the shadows and aimed a .22 pistol at him.

St. Denis froze. He heard something rustle in the woods behind him and took his eyes off Drescher for a split second. Dan Reid was standing beside a maple tree, aiming another .22 at him.

"Get inside, we wanna talk to you," Drescher said.

St. Denis turned to run back up the path.

Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!

Drescher rapid-fired his .22.

Reid let his gun drop to his side.

"Shoot him!" Drescher screamed at Reid, "Shoot him!"

St. Denis was hit twelve times. He crumpled and went down. But then, almost immediately, as Reid and Drescher watched in amazement, he struggled back onto his feet and half staggered, half ran back down the path toward the Blazer. He stumbled like a drunk who has been decked in a bar fight.

Drescher dropped his gun and ran after him. He lowered his shoulder and dove into St. Denis, hitting him behind the knees. The big man went down. Drescher rolled him over and climbed onto his heaving chest.

"Get a knife!" he yelled at Reid. "Get a knife!"

Reid felt like he was going to vomit. For an instant he thought about running away, but he was afraid if he did, Drescher would come after him and kill him, too. He ran into the cabin and came out with a kitchen knife.

"Chant!" Drescher was screaming. "Start chanting!"

Drescher thought he was doing St. Denis one last favor. As Sri Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita, "Those who remember me at the time of death will come to me. Do not doubt this." By forcing St. Denis to chant, Drescher thought he was guaranteeing him a more spiritual life in his next incarnation.

But St. Denis would not die. Coughing blood and gasping for breath, he tried to throw Drescher off his chest. Drescher grabbed the knife and stabbed him. Again and again. Hard and deep. Finally, the blade hit a rib and snapped. St. Denis kept struggling.

Reid ran back to his cabin and grabbed a screwdriver. Drescher stabbed St. Denis with that. St. Denis fought on, screaming in agony. Reid found a hammer and Drescher hit him with that, punching a one-inch hole in his skull. St. Denis went limp and stopped fighting. Breathing deeply, Drescher climbed off him. He and Reid were looking down at the bloody body when St. Denis started emitting long, high-pitched screams like a German shepherd that has been hit by a truck.

Drescher and Reid dragged St. Denis down the logging road to the dammed-up stream. They dumped the body on the swampy ground and stumbled around trying to find the grave Drescher had dug.

It had disappeared.

Reid was mentally numb. Part of his mind denied it was all happening; the other part screamed, "Get it over with. Get it over with!" He ran up and down, back and forth across the stream bed. Suddenly, he fell in water up to his waist. He had found the hole. Water had seeped up from the ground, filling it. While Reid bailed it out with a shovel, Drescher unfolded a sheet of plastic.

"Get over here and help me get him in this," Drescher yelled.

Reid put down his shovel, walked over to the body, and picked up one end of the plastic. They were about to wrap St. Denis's head when he opened his eyes.

"Don't do that, you'll smother me," he said.

Reid screamed, a long, piercing scream of pure terror. He stopped, glanced at the body, and screamed again. Then he bolted into the woods.

Drescher watched him go. He had expected as much out of the little wimp. Killing didn't bother Drescher; he had found that out in Vietnam. He finished sheathing St. Denis in plastic and was dragging him to the hole when Reid reappeared.

"It's a good thing for you that you came back," Drescher said in an even, menacing voice. "Get over here and help me get him in."

Reid walked around to the other side of the body and helped Drescher drop St. Denis into the hole. St. Denis was still breathing when the first shovelfuls of dirt hit him.

Reid and Drescher filled the grave; Reid working fast, Drescher at a steady pace. When the hole was covered, they knocked down Drescher's dam.

"Ever do this when you were a kid?" Drescher asked.

Reid flinched.

"I used to build dams all the time," Drescher said.

Within fifteen minutes, the stream had covered St. Denis's grave, and the gurgling current had carried away all the loose soil. The killers walked back to the artist's studio. Drescher got into St. Denis's Blazer and drove to Bridgeport, a small town across the Ohio River from Wheeling. Reid followed in Drescher's pickup truck. Drescher parked the Blazer near the home of Big John, a friend of St. Denis's and a marijuana dealer. He wiped the car clean of fingerprints, returned to the pickup, and rode back to the Artist's Studio with Reid.

When they returned across the Ohio River, they threw the .22s they had used on St. Denis out the window and into the water below the bridge.

The eastern sky was turning violet when Dan Reid walked into the tiny cabin where Brenda and his kids were sleeping. It was his first visit in weeks. Brenda woke up frightened and snapped on a light. Dan was soaking wet and covered with mud. His skin was as white as tofu and there were deep black circles under his eyes.

"What happened? What's going on?" Brenda asked.

Reid said nothing. Without bothering to undress, he lay down on the bed, took his wife in his arms and held her. It was a long time before he let go.