Woman pleads guilty in death plot

Wife of reputed cult leader gets suspended sentence, probation and is released

Baltimore Sun/December 17, 2002
By Sheridan Lyons

The wife of reputed cult leader Scott Caruthers pleaded guilty yesterday to a charge of conspiring to murder one of her husband's business associates.

Dashielle Lashra, who had been jailed since her arrest in October last year, was sentenced to time served for her conviction and was placed on five years' probation. She left the Carroll County Detention Center yesterday afternoon.

Caruthers, 57, an author and inventor who has been described as the space-alien leader of a cult that supposedly used cats to communicate with an extraterrestrial mothership, is awaiting trial on murder conspiracy charges. He has filed an insanity plea.

In a hearing yesterday in Carroll County Circuit Court, Lashra, 43, entered an Alford plea - in which a defendant concedes that prosecutors have evidence for a conviction but does not admit guilt. Under the plea agreement, Deputy State's Attorney Tracy A. Gilmore asked that Lashra serve 18 months of a 10-year sentence, with credit for time served in jail since the arrest. The judge imposed the 10-year suspended sentence but said Lashra could be released from jail immediately.

"This is a serious case," Gilmore told the judge, but added that Lashra's "involvement was somewhat limited."

Lashra spoke softly before sentencing, thanking the judge for taking her case before Christmas. Lashra wanted to put the case "behind her and live in the future," her lawyer, Joseph Murtha, said after the hearing. Lashra expects to eventually be reunited with her husband, Murtha added.

Lashra, Caruthers and Dulsa Naedek, 43, were arrested Oct. 3 last year at their former home in the 500 block of Scott Drive, Westminster. David S. Pearl, 48, another co-defendant, was arrested at his former home in the 100 block of Masters Court in Westminster.

Each was charged with conspiring in August and September of last year to murder E. David Gable, 52, of Baltimore County, a former business associate, and with soliciting Amir Tabassi, a former bodyguard for Caruthers, to commit the killing. Other than Lashra, all remain jailed in lieu of $1 million bond each.

In October, Carroll Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway granted separate trials for each of the four defendants.

Amy C. Dardick, 40, was charged later in the case, released on lower bail and sent for deprogramming treatment, with the expectation that she will testify for the prosecution.

Not required to testify

Lashra's plea agreement does not require her to testify for the prosecution in any of the cases, Gilmore said.

In a statement of facts recited in court yesterday, Gilmore said the state police and FBI were contacted in late September last year by Gable's attorney after a meeting with Tabassi, who said he had received a $6,600 gold bracelet with diamonds and emeralds from Caruthers and Lashra as a down payment for the killing, with promises of receiving stock valued at $110,000.

Lashra gave Tabassi copies of Gable's passport and credit card, she said, and a photograph of Gable.

Tabassi was assigned to be Caruthers' bodyguard in August last year, she said, establishing the relationship at the request of W. Bradley Bauhof, a Westminster attorney in the International Platform Association oratory organization.

Complaints of 'enemies'

Bauhof was troubled by reports that Pearl, then incoming president of the association, was involved with Caruthers and a cult at Scott Drive, Gilmore said. She added that Caruthers and his followers often complained about his "enemies," including Gable, whom they accused of taking money from Carnegie International Corp., a company co-founded by Caruthers.

Stock in that company, once worth millions, was frozen by a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and tied up in a $2.1 billion civil lawsuit. That lawsuit was to have gone to trial in October last year, and Tabassi was promised more money if he killed Gable before the court date.

Lashra was present at many of these conversations, Gilmore said.

"There are cases which come before this court which are bizarre in nature, and I suppose this is one of the more bizarre situations that I've encountered since I've been on the bench," Galloway said.

Caruthers is scheduled to go to trial in May.

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