I am far, far from a religious scholar and would never even consider delving into such waters of my own accord. However, the “waters of fascination,” with the many permutations, rumors, myths, half-truths and factoids of the murder of Arlis Perry came calling recently. Just as my initial bare bones of a blog was unearthed to perk the curiosity, so too, the “other side of the story” may fascinate the masses.
Whether you believe in crazy cults, Satan or the talk of serial killers, it truly is a story of rich tapestry. Trying to sort out every detail is better left to others. I will try to present information speculated or proven by others in a list kind of manner, interspersed with some detail. This story is like “the many arms and tentacles of an octopus,” Difficult to tie together. You are forewarned!
As with every homicide, particularly cold cases, they are victims of their own era combined with circumstance, with things left undone and, “coulda, woulda, shoulda.” Please refer to the initial blog “for a running start” An Unsolved Murder, the Mystery of Arlis Perry.
Did this unworldly newlywed, plucked from her North Dakota home into the influences of 1970’s California living, contribute to her own demise? What was the common denominator that held her together when she made her first trek beyond the plains with her husband? It was her Christian religion. That was the “glue of her existence.” However, how did she become so bold to try to convert others to her side of the fence? Why was this dangerous territory in an era of free thinking and constant change?
Cast of Characters Contributing to the Tapestry
Rumors and the chilling, brutal display of a killer
Rumor: Arlis’ murderer(s) actually laid her body on the central altar of the church, but that the authorities had her body moved to another location in order to maintain the sanctity of the church.
Fact: She was found on her back, naked from the waist down with her legs spread wide apart, her pants were carefully placed over her legs to form oppositional, triangular shapes.
Perry’s blouse was ripped open and her hands held a votive candle folded across her chest. Horrifically, another votive candle protruded from her vagina. Evidence indicated she was beaten, then choked. The savage blow of an ice pick behind her left ear caused her death. Its handle was seen protruding from her skull when a security guard found her body.
Maury Terry, author of The Ultimate Evil
Terry is an award-winning investigative reporter whose work has been prominently featured in both television and print media. In 1993 and again in 1997, he conducted the first television interviews with the confessed killer David Berkowitz. Currently, Terry operates his own TV production business, and he continues to investigate major criminal cases. The opening chapter in Maury Terry’s book The Ultimate Evil retells the awful story of Arlis Perry’s demise.
Terry said Arlis most likely did something the group decided she had to die over. “She might have heard or seen something she shouldn’t have,” he said. “They may have feared she would expose them.”
Terry speculates Perry found out some prominent Bismarck residents were involved in cult activity. “Someone in Bismarck OK’d this, and someone had the hooks to get help on the West Coast,” he said. “This was a pretty sophisticated operation.” Further, why invest so much of it to assassinate an innocent young girl of no material threat to a huge drug-smuggling organization? Maury Terry was convinced she knew or did something that threatened their drug distribution operation.
They believed they were visionaries warning of the coming apocalypse. In the wake of the shootings at Columbine and with cult activity on the increase, this could have been ripped from the mainstream headlines throughout 1999. But at the end of the hippie dream, these were the charges levelled at one of the most controversial cults of the Sixties: the Process Church.
Robert DeGrimston Moore and Mary Ann McClean were both fascinated by auditing In 1963. They were who two people met at the L Ron Hubbard Institute of Scientology on Fitzroy Street, London. They were both studying to be ‘auditors’. The aim of auditing was to become ‘clear,’ to wipe the psychic slate clean and become, in effect, a kind of superman, no longer enthralled to neurotic fears and hang-ups.
They studied the work of Alfred Adler, a Freudian who had broken away to develop his own ideas. Adler, who developed the idea of the inferiority complex, believed that people were driven by what he called ‘secret goals,’ hidden agendas that gave rise to compulsions and neuroses. The idea was to discover these goals and make them conscious. Putting Adler and Hubbard together, Robert and Mary Ann created a new system – Compulsions Analysis.
The church has changed its name about five times and keeps a low profile. And in their current disguise, they have made tons of money,” Terry said. “And some of the original members are still in it. The legacy of The Process Church of the Final Judgment continues to prosper.”
David Berkowitz, “Son of Sam”
Berkowitz was said to have ties to The Process Church. He underlined a sentence in a section about the Process Church: “Thou shalt kill. They say they are dedicated to bringing about the end of the world by murder, violence and chaos–but they, the chosen, will survive to build a new world of Satanic glory.” (p.372)
At the time of his arrest, Berkowitz admitted the killing of six people and injuring seven more that took place in New York City from the summer of 1976 to August of 1977. In the mid-90’s he claimed that the murders were ritual murders committed by a cult.
Arlis Perry was murdered on October 12th which was also the birthday of black magician Aleister Crowley. Followers of Crowley, also known as Thelemites, revere October 12th as a “holy day and refer to it as Crowleymas.”
“Aleister Crowley died in Hastings, England on December 1, 1947. However, his legacy lives on in the Law of Thelema which he brought to mankind (along with dozens of books and writings on magick and other mystical subjects), and in the orders A:.A:. and O.T.O. which continue to advance the principles of Thelema to this day.”
Was Arlis Perry deliberately stalked by cult members affiliated with the Process Church and killed in a Satanic sacrifice specifically in honor of Satan’s Prophet, Aleister Crowley?
Martinson is a former psychology professor at Bismarck State College and lifelong Bismarck resident: “I believe it’s possible that people in North Dakota were involved in (Perry’s) murder in some way,” Martinson said.
Martinson reported that Arlis Perry’s in-laws, Duncan and Donna Perry, were shaken when told that she had attempted to convert members of a satanic cult in Mandan to Christianity.
A Mystery Person Visits Arlis
It was at the law firm’s office where she was visited by a mystery guest the day before she was killed, an appearance that continues to puzzle those who attempted to solve the crime.
Witnesses described this person as a man in his early 20s who was five-foot-10-inches tall. He wore jeans, a plaid shirt and had blond, curly hair of normal length. Co-workers reported that Perry seemed upset by the visitor, who they thought was her husband. However, the identity of the visitor remains unknown today, and may be an important clue in the murder mystery.
Martinson summarized, the Process Church was formed in England in the 1960s after Robert and Mary Ann De Grimston couldn’t resolve issues with the Church of Scientology. They developed their own church and soon were labeled Satanists because they worshiped both Christ and Satan. The couple believed that at the end of the world, Satan and Christ would collaborate; Christ would judge the living and dead, and Satan would execute the judgments.
Berkowitz, Charles Manson and William Mentzer, the convicted killer of Hollywood producer Roy Radin, were all believed to be members of the Process Church or one of its related spinoff cults.
A Bismark dentist stated: There were a lot of religious groups coming through town at the time,” who went to school with Perry. “I remember seeing people dressed in priest’s outfits. But instead of white collars, they wore red collars and sported upside-down crosses draped around their neck.
Jon Martinson pointed out that, It’s very important to know that it was Berkowitz himself who raised the connection to the University of Mary, and he did it in late 1979 – nearly eight years before “The Ultimate Evil” was published.
In a Book manuscript: “A story behind the story of Arlis Perry, Helter Skelter, the Son of Sam, and the Process Church of the Final Judgment” we are provided with extensive details, theorizing the influence of Arlis’ experience between her Christian teachings and the clash of these cultish forces: (Chapters 5 & 6)
When Arlis First Met the People Causing the Downward Spiral
She met the six handsome young men while visiting her grandmother. “Are you priests?” she asked. The six men wore the black clerical garb associated with pastors in Catholic and traditional Protestant Churches, except their necks were adorned with red collars instead of white ones. Three of the men also wore red ribbons and a silver coiled-snake ring on their ring finger. These three, Father Christian, Brother Thomas, and Brother Joseph, were called “messengers.” The other three were called “initiates.”
“No,” the men explained, they were not associated with any organized religion. In fact, they believed all organized religion was badly flawed. “Anything that is organized will eventually be corrupted,” they explained, “if it isn’t already corrupted to begin with. Society is never wiser than the individual, unless the individual lets society do their thinking for them. Organized religion places unelected people in positions of power and provides them with the means to mislead and control the masses.” The men invited Arlis to bring some friends over to their house next Wednesday night, where they would show them what the Bible says about organized religion.
Throughout the lesson, Arlis’ new teacher would jump from one book in the Bible to another; often taking things completely out of context. To explain the meaning of a phrase embedded in a sentence in one of Paul’s letters, he might jump to an identical phrase found inside a different sentence in Ecclesiastics. To define a word inside that phrase, he might jump to Mark’s Gospel or the Book of Job.
Father Christian preached what he called “Positive Christianity” and distinguished it from what he called the “Negative Christianity of Organized Religion.” Father Christian explained that “Negative Christianity” emphasized the passive, rather than the active, aspects of Christ’s life. Negative Christianity stressed our Fallen World, the Passion of the Christ, His sacrifice on the Cross, and our other-worldly redemption. Negative Christianity enfeebled people, leaving them weak and dreaming of the next life.
Father Christian’s mission was to replace this negative emphasis with a positive emphasis on Christ as an active preacher, organizer and fighter who opposed the institutionalized Judaism of his day. A true Christian was liberated from the false Jewish God of organized religion, and came to realize an alternative and true Jehovah who desires the empowerment of the oppressed.
Arlis noted these men were obsessed with the Biblical Apocalypse. The End was coming, and they, as the Chosen People, were going benefit in a great way from the event. The sooner they brought about the collapse of Western Civilization, the better it will be for the Elect. Money was the root of all evil. Poverty was the root of all grace.
Their made up religion espoused that there were successive lives, and fate in each successive life through the exercise of free will. Each person was consciously (or unconsciously) choosing their fate through each successive life. Birth defects, etc. were the result of choices made in the person’s previous life
Several trips to the college library brought Arlis to the realization that the leader, Father Christian was inventing a false history to justify his beliefs. She routinely out-debated Father Christian and the other young men from California at their “Bible Study” sessions. When membership started dropping, Father Christian declared Arlis to be an “SP,” a Scientology term for a “Suppressive Person” or “antisocial personality” believed to make up about 2.5% of the population. It is believed an SP can impede the progress of a movement by their mere spiritual presence which can cause other individuals to become a potential trouble source (PTS); a group believed to make up about 17.5% of the population.
Arlis’ Big Mistake
Despite being ostracized by the group, Arlis continued her mission to try to convert the Satanists in Bismarck back to Christianity. Anat’s efforts to streamline the Process Church’s West Coast operations included detailed briefings on branch’s efforts in North Dakota. These discussions brought Arlis to her attention.
Anat placed Arlis, a nineteen year-old Christian, on a list of powerful SPs that needed to be eliminated as soon as possible, regardless of the cost to the regional organization. She selected Bill Mentzer for the job. She was now his boss in the West Coast organization.
Preparing for the Kill
An associate of Mentzer took a picture of Arlis and sent it to the Satanists in Bismarck for confirmation that he had acquired the correct target. The picture put the organization in a quandary, because the female pictured had wavy hair (Arlis’ hair was straight) and was not wearing glasses (Arlis had bad eyesight). To settle the question as to whether she was the correct target, two Satanists were flown in from Bismarck to make a positive identification. Guy Blase, an attorney at the Palo Alto law firm of “Spaeth, Blase, Valentine and Klein” (where Arlis worked as a receptionist) saw one of the men having an intense conversation with her in the waiting room, the day before she was murdered.
The killer may have been tracking his target toward a familiar rendezvous, Arlis often went to the chapel to pray. Unfortunately, she stayed until closing that night. The killer waited until she was alone in the chapel to make his move.
She was beaten and choked (the deep purple bruises imprinted on her neck matched the pattern of her brown wood-and-glass-beaded necklace) repeatedly, but not raped. He was forbidden from “spoiling” this sacrifice to Satan. He took a break from the violence to relieve his accumulated sexual pressure on a church kneeling cushion, leaving stains that the police would later find. He promised the Christian an easy death if she blasphemed her Lord on a small tape recorder he had brought with him. Arlis refused.
Killer with a Tape Recorder?
The torture continued. He was surprised that her skinny little frame held such a strong spirit. He straddled his victim and gave her one last opportunity to curse into his little recorder. She looked at him with innocence and serenity despite the vicious imprints of his fist – and said, “God loves you too.”
He placed his young victim on her back and shoved her partially under the last pew in the left-side alcove, a short distance from where she was last seen praying. Above her head, a large engraving of a cross had been sculptured into the church wall.
Perversion and Cult Symbolism
“He couldn’t save you from the power Satan,” the assassin told the young martyr. The killer turned Arlis’ face toward the altar, so she could see what he was going to do next. He brought back two 24 to 30-inch-long yellow beeswax altar candles. Arlis’ blouse was torn open and her arms were folded across her chest. One candle was shoved between her breasts with enough force to break both bra straps.
Arlis was nude from the waist down, and her legs were spread wide apart: representing the left and right toes of the bird goddess’s foot.
The second altar candle was jammed into her vagina to represent the middle toe of the bird goddess’s foot. (The killer shoved the candle so hard that he accidentally broke it.)
To enclose the bottom of the symbol, the legs of her blue Levis were spread-eagled upside down across her calves.
Maury Terry (who surprisingly never grasped the symbolic significance of the arrangement of Arlis’ corpse) stated, “Viewed from above, the resulting pattern of Arlis’ legs and those of the inverted blue jeans took on a diamond-like shape.” He missed the significance of the candles between the legs and breasts – providing the third intersecting line of the witch’s symbol.
He arranged Arlis’ body in the shape of a “witch’s sign.”
The magical symbol for a witch is also known as the “witch’s foot,” and may take any one of several forms. The “extended chevron” symbol has been found on Paleolithic pottery and cave paintings dated as early as 20,000 BC. The most common form of the symbol in ancient Sumer was three crossed lines within a square. Today, it most often takes the form of the symbol that is usually thought of as the “peace sign.”
The night watchman had locked the church around midnight, forcing the killer to break out and leave the door on the west side ajar. He took Arlis’ glasses with him to prove to Anat that he had hit the correct target and to explain that she was wearing contacts in the picture taken by his female associate – headquarters was not happy with having to pay airfare, hotel accommodations and other additional costs associated with confirming the target in the last week prior to the hit. [Hmmmm! Religious cult or Mafioso]
Comment from the manuscript: The police never solved the murder. Her body was sent back to North Dakota for burial. One night in October, the local Satanists stole her headstone from the cemetery as a victory memento.
You could take Arlis out of the Dakotas, but you could not take the Dakotas and Arlis’ upbringing and her version of Christianity out of her. It appears her desire to “convert the wrong people” was Godly, but not grounded in common sense. What might she have become in later years? I don’t know, but it seems only just that she should have been given the opportunity!
Additional References: http://henrymakow.com/2013/03/1974-Satanist-Ritual-Murder-Still-Unpunished%20.html
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