Alleged gunman caught in Maryland

The Daily Item/July/July 11, 2010

New Berlin - A St. Louis man saw this bucolic community as the perfect stage to carry out his assassination of beloved yoga master Sudharman, court documents show.

Joel Robert Snider, 33, was arrested in Maryland on Wednesday and charged with one count of felony criminal homicide in the shooting death of Sudharman, once known as Joe Fenton, in what appears to be an assassination plot that spanned from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts.

State police Trooper Matthew Burrows said Sudharman's death was ruled a homicide after an autopsy revealed that the 70-year-old man had been shot multiple times with a small-caliber weapon. His body was found on the floor of his living quarters wrapped in two sheets and a comforter, and bound with duct tape. He had at least one gunshot wound to the neck.

Snider was jailed in Baltimore County, Md., Burrows said, and would be extradited to Pennsylvania, but did not know when the extradition would occur.

Riveting court documents reveal Snider to be a disturbed individual who made no secret of his plans to "assassinate" both Sudharman and spiritual leader Andrew Cohen.

In the months leading up the Sudharman's killing, Snider sent a series of three e-mails to Swami Karunananda. According to her Facebook page, Swami Karunananda serves as vice president of spiritual development at Yogaville, Buckingham, Va.

In Snider's e-mails to Swami Karunananda, he intricately outlined his plans to assassinate Sudharman and Cohen, founder of EnlightenNext.

Sudharman was a founding member and graduate of Yogaville and learned under the direction of Swami Satchidananida, as did Snider. In his e-mails, Snider mentions that Sudharman attempted to recruit Snider to teach in the Integral Yoga Center of Pennsylvania at 428 Market St., New Berlin. This appears to be the link between Snider and Sudharman

Threatening e-mails


The first two e-mails to Swami Karunananda came on May 9 and 10, police said.

In the first e-mail, Snider allegedly writes how he would like to kill Sudharman: "I am a very good shot with a rifle and would prefer to do it from a longer range, but I would need to have a handgun as well for any opposition or if the scenario with the rifle would not work after seeing the area in person. I would definitely want to avoid prison and the U.S. law enforcement."

In an e-mail dated May 10, Snider allegedly wrote: "I am thinking that for both Andrew and Sudharman it would be best if they just disappeared. No bullet holes, no blood, no signs of forced entry or struggle. Both appear to be mysterious, eccentric spiritual guy, so it might be easily believable that they would just take off for a while, or maybe they had spontaneous enlightenment or something and they reached satori or went home to God or something. This way there is less chance for an investigation, less chance that it would be traced back to me. This will take a little more planning and could be risky to get close, but with God as my guide I am sure I will be just fine."

Snider went on to explain why he believed New Berlin was the perfect place to commit murder: "Sudharman: Still living in and operating a yoga center in New Berlin, PA. Years ago when he was trying to recruit me to teach in the center he mentioned that he would be living there. I am hoping this is the case as I think it would be the easiest way to do things. The yoga center is in the middle of a very small town which is very dark at night, few lights. The area the center is in is a mostly commercial area so in the early morning or evening when it is dark, there will be potentially no one around."

Snider then goes on to outline how he would cover up his crime: "Place tarp on the floor, roll body up in tarp, carry out to car. Tidy up yoga center. Drive to hotel room."

It is not known if Swami Karunananda notified law enforcement in Virginia or Sudharman himself, but Burrows said police in Pennsylvania were not notified of the e-mails until after Sudharman's death.

"We were not contacted and were unaware of any threats against Sudharman," Burrows said.

Potential victim notified


After learning of the e-mails, Burrows said police immediately notified Cohen of the threats, and then notified him again of Snider's apprehension. Repeated phone calls to multiple phone numbers at the EnlightenNext World Center in Lenox, Mass., went unanswered Wednesday.

Repeated phone calls to Yogaville also went unreturned.

Snider's final e-mail to Swami Karunananda came at 5:27 p.m. Sunday. In it, he told her that he was in Pennsylvania ready to carry out his plan.

He wrote: "Is this the fruition of when I asked for your help regarding Sudharman and Andrew way back when? That took a long time to get me ready, huh? In PA now. If the opportunity presents itself there will be a great celebration of independence. May God's might be swift and strong. May evil be utterly destroyed where it is lurking. May all be set free from the clutches of evil, for good, for all time."

For whatever reason, Snider did not carry out his crime as he originally planned, and instead of disposing of Sudharman's body, he left it in the yoga center.

"We don't know why," Burrows said.

Sudharman's body was found by fellow teacher Robere Kujac fewer than 24 hours after Snider's last e-mail was sent. Sudharman is believed to have been killed between 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 4:45 p.m. Monday.

After news of Sudharman's death spread, Swami Karunananda became fearful that Snider was responsible and that Cohen was in danger. Fearing such, she contacted police.

Police then tracked Snider's cell phone signal and located it on Route 147 between Northumberland and Milton at 8:51 a.m. Monday. On Tuesday, it was discovered that Snider had plans to stay in a hotel in Prince George's County, Md. State police troopers went to the hotel to interview him. Prior to Snider's arrival there, police said he was warned that police were waiting for him, and fled.

He was later apprehended without incident in Glenn Marsh, Md., by the Baltimore County Police Department.

Police did not say who warned Snider of the police pursuit.

Should Snider waive extradition proceedings in Maryland, he could be extradited to Pennsylvania as early as today, Burrows said.

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