Amy Carlson’s body was mummified in a sleeping bag and wrapped in a cloth adorned with Christmas lights when Colorado sheriff’s deputies found her last week.
Glittered make-up decorated her face and around her eyes, according to law enforcement.
“The mummified remains appeared to be set up in some type of shrine,” police said in an affidavit.
That shrine was allegedly erected by Ms Carlson’s followers in her religious group ‘Love Has Won’, which some officials and former members have described as a cult.
Ms Carlson (45), claimed she was “Mother God”, 19 billion years old, a reincarnation of Jesus and could heal people of cancer “with the power of love”, she said on the TV show Dr. Phil last year.
Yesterday, seven alleged members of her group were arrested in Crestone, Colorado, and charged with abuse of a corpse. They also face child abuse charges after law enforcement found a 13-year-old and two-year-old in a home where the group members were staying.
“The Saguache County Sheriff’s Office has received many complaints from families within the United States saying that the group is brainwashing people and stealing their money,” the arrest warrant said.
Ms Carlson’s death and apparent mummification brought a fittingly strange end to her unexpected arc as a religious leader. She had faced claims that she abused her followers and, most recently, saw her group forced out of Hawaii under police escort after clashing with protesters.
Ms Carlson first grew interested in New Age philosophy in 2006 after leaving her husband and job at McDonald’s.
She built a following through hours of proselytising on live streams to viewers around the world, convincing them she was a divine being trying to save humanity and bring world peace, according to a Vice documentary.
She also said she would lead 144,000 “chosen ones” into a mythical, fifth dimension.
Ms Carlson’s most devoted flock lived with her in Colorado, where they also hosted live streams encouraging followers to donate and buy merchandise, while they also attended to Ms Carlson’s every need and desire.
Members had to call her “Mother God” or “mom”, were allowed only four to five hours of sleep, were often underfed and at times were banned from sitting down, former members told Vice.
“It’s a lot of mental manipulation, a lot of brainwash,” said a former member identified as Taylor. “Everything revolved around Amy.”
Ms Carlson, who forbade members from drinking or using drugs, spent countless nights drinking copious amounts of alcohol and becoming belligerent, according to former members. Live streams showed her yelling obscenities at followers.
Despite Ms Carlson’s death, her followers have continued to do daily live streams on their YouTube channel. In a video on the group’s Facebook page, a member said Ms Carlson “did not pass away” but “ascended”.
Saguache County Sheriff’s Department Corporal Steve Hansen said he wasn’t expecting the members to respond so calmly to Ms Carlson’s death.
“I’m not sure what to think about this whole thing. I’ve never seen a group of people be so nonchalant about a dead person in their back room,” Mr Hansen said. (© 2021, The Washington Post)
© Washington Post