Police Probe Assault With Possible Cult Ties

Woman Assaulted In Pikesville Home

WBAL TV-News, Baltimore/June 9, 2010

Baltimore County, Maryland - A Baltimore County neighborhood is on edge after the assault of an 18-year-old woman led to the search of a Pikesville home Tuesday night, and the I-Team has learned that the home may have ties to a religious cult.

Police told 11 News that the victim is in serious but stable condition at an area hospital. They said they are trying to protect her identity as the investigation continues.

Police said they're also trying to determine what connection the incident may have to a Wisconsin religious group that's already under investigation by the FBI.

Baltimore County police blocked off the 3700 block of Michelle Way on Wednesday as they investigated the strange situation.

"When they got to that location, they found the woman suffering from multiple injuries," said Lt. Robert McCullough of the Baltimore County police.

Authorities said someone from inside the home called for help, but what happened to the woman remains a mystery.

Manny and Janice Perlman live across the street from the home. Manny Perlman told the I-Team that his wife's birthday celebration ended abruptly when emergency vehicles arrived shortly after an alarming noise.

"It sounded like two shots. We heard from a neighbor that some kind of graphite piece fell on a woman," he said.

Investigators obtained a search and seizure warrant late Tuesday night and were at the home through Wednesday afternoon. A SWAT team was also called.

Police found no one else in the house but said a man was detained as a person of interest in the case. They're currently questioning him about what happened.

Neighbors told 11 News that they've been concerned about the house for the past decade.

"It was also suspicious because the windows were always darkened, and there were never any lights on at night. It was always dark," Janice

Records show that Avrahem Cohen owns the home and that he was formerly known as Dr. Samanta Roy, the founder of a secretive religious group called the Samanta Institute of Science and Technology, or SIST.

According to the group's website, SIST was founded in India and has been in the Shawano, Wis., area for more than 30 years. The group claims it is a nonprofit organization with the goal of establishing a world class educational institute. SIST owns a number of properties and businesses.

The group has clashed with government leaders in that Wisconsin community, and the FBI is investigating an alleged hit list containing the names of 60 people from that area, the I-Team has learned.

Psychiatrist Dr. Mahmood Jahroomi said he hasn't studied SIST but said it's not unusual for similar groups to attract followers from mainstream communities.

"They are definitely charismatic, can connect with people, pick their vulnerabilities and weak points," he said.

"The cult gets a negative connotation because of the hidden agendas, and this history of use and abuse and brainwashing," he said.

Meanwhile, neighbors on Michelle Way said they just want to know what is going on in their Pikesville community.

"I'm so thankful that the police are here, and they're finally going to find out what's really going on in that house," Janice Perlman said.

As part of their investigation, Baltimore County police have contacted the FBI and Wisconsin authorities to learn more about SIST and share information about the assault.

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