Cultist's kin gains control

Denver Post/July 10, 1999
By Virginia Culver

Another relative of a Concerned Christians cult member has won a court order preventing the cult member from giving money to leader Monte "Kim'' Miller.

Betty Chavez became a temporary overseer of the estate of her sister, Jan Cooper, who, along with her husband, John, is a member of Concerned Christians, a cult that fled Denver last fall.

Chavez, who lives in the metro area, contended in Boulder District Court that her sister is unduly influenced by Miller, and that she therefore should not be in charge of her own money.

Jim England, Chavez's attorney, said an Aug. 12 hearing will be held to make the conservatorship permanent. The trust department of Norwest Bank was named temporary conservator Thursday by Boulder District Judge Carol Glowinsky. England said Chavez decided to go to court now because the Cooper residence in Boulder, jointly owned by John and Jan Cooper, has been sold for $475,000. Half the proceeds of the sale, which will close next week, would have gone to Jan Cooper without Thursday's court action.

Family members say the Coopers' whereabouts are unknown.

John Cooper, 63, joined the Concerned Christians about three years ago; Jan Cooper, also 63, has been in the cult for 13 years. The couple is believed to have given Miller at least $1.5 million, according to a court document.

England said the court ruled that Jan Cooper seems under "undue influence and duress'' from Miller regarding how she spends her money.

Jan Cooper "has become irrational, has distanced herself from most family members and close friends and has made very poor financial decisions,'' the judge said in her order.

In October, Jennifer Cooper, daughter of John Cooper, successfully asked the court to name a permanent conservator for the estate of her father to prevent him from giving money to Concerned Christians or Miller.

The judge's decisions on John and Jan Cooper could be reversed if the Coopers appear in court and convince the court that they, not Miller, are making decisions about their money.

Glowinsky also ruled in the Jennifer Cooper case and used some of the testimony from that case to make her ruling Thursday, England said. John and Jan Cooper did not appear in court either time, nor did they send anyone to represent them.

Denver lawyer and legal analyst Andrew Cohen said judges don't make decisions on conservatorships lightly. "It's not as if a person can sneak in in the middle of the night and gain control of a relative's money,'' he said.

In Thursday's case, the state demanded notice to the protected person (Jan Cooper) "by making sure reasonable efforts have been made to notify her of the petition for conservatorship,'' Cohen said.

"The court presumes that a person will care enough to poke his nose into the tent to find out what's going on with his money,'' Cohen said. "I don't think anyone's rights are being violated here.''

England will follow usual court custom by placing a notice of the conservatorship in the Boulder Daily Camera for three weeks as a way of publicly notifying Jan Cooper. The judge also ordered England to send an e-mail message to Jan Cooper.

He said he got her last known e-mail address from Chavez. The sisters have kept in touch sporadically by e-mail, England said. But neither Chavez nor any of Jan Cooper's other relatives know the whereabouts of the Coopers or any cult members.

Jan Cooper's daughter, Nicolette Weaver, has been an outspoken critic of Miller. She was in court Thursday, but wasn't part of the proceedings because she is under 18.

Weaver has made several public statements about how much money her mother and stepfather have given Miller.

At least some of the 80 members of the cult, once based in Denver, are thought to be in Greece. Fourteen members were deported from Israel in January, and later stayed for three weeks at the Holiday Inn in Downtown Denver. They refused all offers to meet with relatives. Neither Miller nor the Coopers were among those deported from Israel.

Miller, a native of Burlington, has told people at various times that he is the last prophet of God, that he will die a martyr on the streets of Jerusalem around Dec. 31, 1999, and that he will rise again three days later. He also has predicted the world will end Dec. 31.

Many relatives of cult members are afraid that Miller's believers may follow him to death in whatever apocalyptic action he may take.

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