At age 4, Terri Lee Hoffman had her first supernatural vision.
She claimed that three men, dressed in splendid robes, appeared and told her that “she could do or be anything she wanted, if she wanted it badly enough.” This seemingly inconsequential moment was, perhaps, simply the result of a inadequate and imaginative child’s dreamy realization of her own potential. However, Terri’s vision would go on to become the cornerstone of her mystic doctrines, affecting the lives, and perhaps, even causing the deaths, of many of her most devoted followers.
Terri’s spiritual visions continued into her adulthood, and at some point, they became intertwined with her conception of metaphysical concepts and reality. She would later teach her followers that, through meditation and prayer, she had the capacity to observe “the past, present and future, laid out like farm land through an airplane window.” Among other extraordinary abilities, Terri would also claim that she could “travel outside her body, communicate with the dead, and protect her followers even from auto accidents and cancer.” According to reports, Terri “became known in Dallas in the late 1960s and early ’70s for her meditation classes, a blend of mythology and metaphysics.”
Once impoverished and disadvantaged, the orphan from Fort Stockton, Texas would slowly carve out a successful and prosperous opportunity for herself as an unlikely metaphysical guru. In 1974, Terri Hoffman founded and legally incorporated a group called Conscious Development of Body, Mind and Soul Inc. in Texas as a formal vehicle “to sell tapes and booklets of her teachings.” According to media, “Ms. Hoffman’s meditation classes in Dallas reportedly attracted hundreds” by the end of the 1970s and well into the early 1980s.
However, Terri’s group would also acquire a bizarre kind of notoriety when speculation circulated that her “followers had a habit of dying shortly after willing their possessions to her.” Ultimately, ten people associated with Conscious Development would be found dead between 1977 and 1990. It was revealed that “out of those [ten], two told relatives they suffered from terminal illnesses, although autopsies showed they did not, and at least four bequeathed money and property” totaling over $500,000 directly to the self-styled spiritual leader. A legacy of mysterious suicides, accidental deaths, and one eerily unresolved disappearance became inextricably linked to the teachings of Terri Hoffman and the dubious philosophies peddled by her group, which many came to consider a dangerous cult.
Was Terri Hoffman a misunderstood housewife turned “messenger of God” with a “gift for counseling people?” Were the types of people that sought her out, by default, also experiencing an unfortunate amount of “enormous pain and mental anguish” ultimately resulting in their unrelated demise? Were these deaths, as Terri’s defenders argue, easily explained as “occupational hazards for any counselor trying to pull people up from despair?” And, were the inheritances and life insurance policies willed to Terri simply an instance of “followers [leaving] her money and property as would the devout members of a traditional church?”
Or was Terri a truly frightening and cruelly manipulative cult leader? As the lawsuits of the families of her dead followers allege, did Terri Hoffman “[cause] or [contribute] to a string of deaths through hypnosis, behavior modification, mind control, and [the] manipulation of emotions?” And, furthermore, could Terri have been “possibly the most successful, unprosecuted serial killer-for-profit in the history of Texas?”
The Orphan and Her Visions
“It is hard to imagine a more unlikely messenger of God.” –Texas Monthly
The odd saga of a (now infamous) organization comprised of educated, successful, and elite followers began humbly in Fort Stockton, Texas. There, the group’s leader, Terri Lee Hoffman, was born on March 21, 1938 and grew up “picking cotton in the stifling heat.” Described as having been “born in poverty,” Terri’s young life was difficult. Her mother died during her childhood and her father was allegedly an alcoholic.
Terri would ultimately spend two years in an orphanage before being adopted at the age of 11 by a Dallas couple. By 1954, and at age 15, Terri was married, and then, shortly thereafter, pregnant with her first child. Having never graduated from high school, she “yearned to be more than a housewife.” In less than a decade, Terri and her first husband, John Wilder, would have three children together.
During these early years, Terri began to participate in informal gatherings with “like-minded friends” in order to discuss “the origin and structure of the universe, the nature of truth, [and] the meaning of existence.”
Drawn to the writings of Christian mystic Edgar Cayce and self-help groups like Silva Mind Control, Terri would eventually begin taking classes in hypnosis. Later, she started to offer “weekly evening meditation classes.” The classes ultimately evolved into her Conscious Development group, at which point, Terri began to “[teach] from written lessons she prepared and offered for sale.”
During group meditations, Terri “would lead the students on a tour of the temples of the higher realms… as a Washington tour guide might aid a busload of blind tourists.” The students would frequently speak up during these sessions to “add descriptive touches” as though they were all visiting the same place together in their minds.
“Everyone in the meditation classes sat cross-legged on the floor, listening to the guru’s wisdom on everything from sex to personal finance to ghosts.”
Terri’s philosophies were heavily focused on balance and karma. Her writings emphasized the meaninglessness of death and stressed the concept of reincarnation. Terri’s spiritual literature stressed ephemeral ideas, such as:
“You will also become conscious of the continuity of life. Death, then, will not exist in reality; for you will realize that your existence is not dependent upon the mere maintenance of your physical body… the result of noble death is rebirth.”
However, Terri’s teachings, psychic readings, and classes were not wholly rooted in harmony, love, and rebirth. According to followers, she would sometimes dismiss their romantic relationships by claiming to have read “the Akashic Records, which existed only in the spiritual realm” and confirming that the two were just not “soul mates.” Terri even told one student (who would later become her second husband), “a girlfriend of his was headed for a car wreck that [she had] prevented through meditation.”
Terri also stressed that “critical thoughts” could cause physical maladies, such as cancer. She would ultimately tell followers that their problems were caused by their own “negative thoughts” which “could actually produce bacteria and viruses.”
As her first vision of the three men had predicted decades earlier, Terri had grown up to be what she had always wanted to be: powerful, successful, and captivating. She had become a bonafide and trusted spiritual leader.
Glenn Cooley’s Suicide
Terri’s success leading the Conscious Development of Body, Mind and Soul Inc. group created problems between her and her husband, John. He viewed Terri’s teachings as “mostly borrowed from established religions and from other authors.” And, over time, Terri certainly did present fragmented ideologies from an array of conflicting belief systems.
Terri had believed, since her time in the Lutheran orphanage, that she was the reincarnation of St. Teresa of Avila- described as “one of the Catholic church’s most flamboyant mystics” who taught and “believed that the kingdom of heaven could be visited like the rooms in a castle.” A recurring theme of Terri’s all-inclusive dogma was that Jesus Christ was a legitimate and powerful spiritual master, but “so were Buddha, Lao Tzu, Mohammed and Bahá’u’lláh.” Students have also reported that Terri claimed to have “levitated her body in bed” and that she didn’t seek medical assistance for her young son’s dislocated thumb because “she wanted to heal him through meditation.”
Before long, Terri was regularly accepting love offerings, or encouraged donations, for her time and teachings. While John was making $101 per week as a truck driver, Terri could easily receive a donation worth $50-$100 for one hour of “consultation.” In congruence with the growing financial support, John felt Terri’s followers were becoming increasingly delusional and he “expressed growing skepticism” with the group’s teachings.
On December 28, 1970, Terri filed for divorce, telling others that the break-up was due to John “impeding [her]spiritual growth.” Terri was awarded custody of their eldest child, a “1968 Mustang, an assortment of stocks, a shotgun, a rifle and a pistol.”
Four months after the divorce decree was granted, Terri married a 20-year-old North Texas State student named Glenn Scott Cooley. Glenn soon “dropped out of school after wedding Terri,” who was a 33-year-old mother of three at the time. They then began focusing on “revising and expanding the Conscious Development literature” together. Glenn spent around six years “in the Conscious Development jewelry business, incorporated as CD Gems.” Terri’s followers were encouraged to buy homemade jewelry that once “charged” properly by Terri would “[possess] protective and healing properties.” According to news reports, a simple philosophy belied the easy profit brought in by Conscious Development jewelry:
The more expensive an item, the more power it contained.
Glenn’s “middle-class Baptist” family never fully approved of his marriage to Terri. His brother described Glenn as searching for “acceptance as he was, not as someone else wanted him to be,” and though, Terri claimed to have cured him, Glenn had had issues with drugs in the past.
His mother later testified that Glenn expressed he “wanted out of Conscious Development and his marriage to Terri” near the end of 1976. Terri filed for divorce in November 1976 and both parties agreed to expedite the proceeding amicably. The divorce was granted on January 27, 1977.
On February 1, 1977 -only six days later- Glenn Cooley, 26, was found deceased in a cabin owned by his parents. Authorities determined that his death was due to a “drug overdose” and it was considered an unambiguous suicide for around thirteen years. Terri claimed that Glenn had seemed “despondent” around the time of his death and, once he left for the cabin, she “never saw him alive again.”
“I, Glenn Cooley, give to Terri Cooley all of my property, both personal and real. This includes two boats, a 1972 Buick Limited, all jewelry and equipment for its making, all furnishings for the house on Dunhaven Road [Glenn had given Terri clear title to the house two weeks earlier], and all cash.
I ask that this Last Will of mine not be contested by anyone in any way for any reason.
Last, but not least, I give all my love to all my family and friends.
As explanation for all this, I can’t really say what it is because of, but I can say what it is not because of: It is not because of divorce with Terri, past drug experiences, inability to cope, etc.
What it is — I myself know, but don’t have the words for.”
Considering Glenn’s previous substance issues, alleged despair, and divorce, his suicide by cocktail of drugs seemed unquestionable to authorities. However, the “final account of Glenn’s estate” totaled less than $3,000 in assets, Glenn’s family was insistent that he had received the proceedings from the jewelry business, and had kept closer to “$85,000 worth of gems and metals in his house.”
Over a decade afterwards, a “former Conscious Development teacher” would tell authorities that she and Terri Hoffman were present at the cabin for Glenn’s death. She said that, while en route to the cabin, Terri told her that “Glenn was ‘going to the next level.’” The former member also admitted that once they arrived, Glenn told them “he had consumed the fatal drugs.”
The Death of Devereaux Cleaver
Terri used Glenn’s untimely death as verification that there were powerful metaphysical forces working against them, which she referred to as Black Lords. Shortly after Glenn’s passing, she began endorsing the practice of bloodletting. Members of Conscious Development believed that “the Black Lords had the power to poison the blood.” A former member described the odd new concept, saying:
“We needed to have our blood — bloodletting — taken out of ourselves to drain the poison out… [Another member] got several syringes and just sterilized them and … took blood out of whoever felt they needed to have their blood let. A little vial, as much as if you went to a doctor to get your blood tested.”
Ultimately, the induction of bloodletting “drove many out of the group” and even the loyal “inner circle shrank” within Conscious Development. However, the members who stayed and embraced the bizarre practice, and the paranoia it fostered, became increasingly devoted to Terri and her teachings.
One of her most loyal followers, and secretary-treasurer of the incorporated Conscious Development group in 1974, was “a slender, earnest woman who enjoyed the income from an ample family trust fund” named Sandy Cleaver. Allegedly described as “sheltered and naive” by friends and family, Sandy had long searched for a working spiritual philosophy, which she eventually found in Terri Hoffman and Conscious Development.
Sandy would divorce her husband, Chuck, one month after Terri divorced John Wilder. Sandy would also use the same exact justification as Terri and claim that her husband and father of her daughter, was “blocking her spiritual development.” Sandy’s ex-husband would later claim that he allowed her custody of their 7-year-old daughter, Devereaux, because he “feared that, with [Sandy’s] belief in reincarnation, she would sooner kill Devereaux than permit her to live with him.”
Sandy’s position in the Conscious Development group was described as “Terri’s full-time unpaid assistant.” By 1978, Devereaux was 14 years old, and well enough acquainted with her mother’s Conscious Development activities that “she seemed embarrassed by them.” According to all accounts, “Devereaux had matured into an energetic, attractive, and normal young girl.” She enjoyed poetry, played basketball, and had a large variety of friends.
However, Sandy came to believe that “that the evil spirits in Devereaux were trying to infect her ‘energies‘” and that “Devereaux had been taken over.” Terri encouraged (and may have even founded) this belief, saying that she was being spiritually attacked by Devereaux, who was a “a great powerful negative being.” Devereaux noticed the issues with her mother, explaining away her “biggest frustration with Sandy [as the fact] that they could not talk as mother and daughter.” As Sandy’s thoughts regarding her daughter became darker and darker, Devereaux interpreted her’s mother’s distance as the result of a lack of communication between them.
Though Sandy “previously had refused to take [Devereaux] shopping or to watch her play on the Greenhill basketball team,” Devereaux was thrilled when she invited her to travel with her and her fiance (another Conscious Development member) to Hawaii. On February 25, 1979, Sandy and Devereaux would wade out into a lagoon, known as “a better place for catching crabs than for swimming,” with an inflatable raft together. The lagoon is described as “calm and shallow,” and it did not have a large beach area. Sandy and Devereaux waded out “400 yards” to an area where “the waves broke viciously over a razor-sharp coral reef.”
According to Sandy, a wave “knocked them off the raft” and then “another wave knocked them apart.” Though Sandy would be rescued by the fire department, called by her fiance, she was “cut, bruised, and in shock.” Devereaux’s lifeless body would be recovered “hours later.”
While en route to Hawaii, and before her death had been confirmed, Devereaux’s father, Chuck, received a phone call from “one of Terri’s followers… to serve notice that she had a document [Chuck] needed to see.” The Conscious Development group wanted to make Chuck aware that Devereaux had left a will stating, “who was to get her rock collection and her basketball,” along with her “$125,00 trust fund.” Chuck was stunned to learn that Devereaux had willed her trust fund to the Conscious Development group for “for a school or for a world cruise.” The document, supposedly written by the teenager, was witnessed by two of Terri’s followers and sprinkled with concise legal language, such as:
“I give, devise and bequeath all of my property, including all rights, titles and interests of whatever character I may own in and to any property, real, personal or mixed, wherever situated, to [Terri], who has been to me like a second mother…”
Though the will was not binding, due to Devereaux’s age, its existence and specificity prompted Chuck to question whether Sandy could have “deep under Terri’s influence, [and] certain that Devereaux was possessed by demons – murdered her own daughter.”
The Deaths of Sandy Cleaver and Louise Watson
After the drama surrounding Devereaux’s untimely death and her questionable will, it seemed to former friends and relatives that Sandy “had virtually no one else to turn to” and she became further engrossed in the Conscious Development teachings and beliefs. At this point, Terri also began claiming that she could “communicate with the dead,” including Glenn and Devereaux.
By December 1979, Sandy had called off her wedding, isolated herself from friends and family, and given all of “her worldly goods” to Terri, including her house, artwork, and silver. Sandy had also taken out a $300,000 life insurance policy which was “payable to Terri.” In June 1981, Sandy would write “a new will, again leaving everything to Terri.” Sandy’s 78-year-old housekeeper, Louise Watson, also “wrote a will of her own that day, naming Sandy as the executrix of her meager estate, with Terri as the alternate executrix.”
Later that year, Sandy and Louise traveled to the Colorado Springs area “to see some land Terri and Don (her newest husband) [had] just bought in the mountains.” On September 9, 1981, Sandy and Weasie left the home of “Terri’s sister in Colorado Springs,” to visit the new land purchased by the Conscious Development group. Their vehicle was found the next day “at the base of a 450-foot cliff below tortuous Gold Camp Road” where both women were expelled from the vehicle.
Due to the lack of tire marks and witnesses, a cause for the suspicious wreck was never determined. According to news reports, Terri “showed up at a local hospital to claim the bodies” two days afterwards. Terri was awarded and quickly cashed the $300,000 life insurance policy.
However, Sandy’s brother, Croom Beatty IV, an assistant to the president at Duke University, would challenge Terri for the estate, officially recognizing the dubious reputation that Conscious Development had developed for absorbing the material wealth of its dead members (who seemed to be multiplying). Croom’s attorney argued that Sandy Cleaver was effectively “controlled by [Terri’s] use of hypnosis, Pavlovian conditioning and psychotherapy.”
Terri agreed to settle the case “after five days of testimony,” and opted to pay Croom “$112,500 in cash and 40 percent of the net proceeds from the sale of Sandy’s house,” though the rest of Sandy’s estate was divided equally among the two. Though many of Sandy’s friends and relatives claim that Terri was not deserving of anything from the family estate, the legal proceedings seemed to decelerate the escalating death toll and drama surrounding Conscious Development. The next mysterious death would not take place until six years later.
Robin Otstott’s Suicide
Described as a well-educated “school counselor,” Robin Otstott had previously written “curricula for troubled teens in the Dallas school district” which was “designed to teach responsibility and decision making.” However, as a follower and friend of Terri Hoffman’s since 1974, Robin’s life was described as “dominated by Terri’s teachings.”
After Sandy Cleaver’s mysterious death, Robin testified as a character witness for Terri in the following trial. Robin ostensibly took Sandy’s well-worn place within their tight-knit group and “assumed responsibility for rewriting the Conscious Development correspondence courses.” Robin was a devout follower who “filled her Lake Highlands home with protective crystals and friendly gnomes-doll-like figurines” and slept with “special protective shields -lengths of copper tubing twisted into strange, serpentine shapes” under her bed for protection from the Black Lords.
In 1986, Robin Otstott was in a bizarre love affair with “a supernatural patriot named George Geoffrey.” “Detailed in journals/books later reviewed by investigators,” Robin recounted dates, trips, and conversations with the “invisible CIA agent.” George was a “‘dematerialized’ government agent” whom Terri Hoffman claimed to be “training” and “using her her powers to protect” for the American government. By the end of 1986, Robin was convinced that her “nonphysical ‘bodies’– astral, mental, and physical,” had began to attack herself and others. As members of the Conscious Development group began to blame Robin’s aggressive nonphysical bodies for their various ailments and misfortunes, she sunk into desperation and isolation.
In mid April 1987, Robin “called her ex-husband and explained that she had contracted a terminal case of viral hepatitis” and that the disease had come “from a banana peel.” Her “puzzled” ex-husband set up a doctor’s appointment for Robin and insisted that she have blood tests performed. Later that week, on April 21, 1987, Robin attended the doctor’s appointment, allegedly visited Terri later that day, and then, returned home to shoot herself with “a .38 caliber revolver” during the same night.
Robin Otstott bequeathed “her Colorado land, all her jewelry, writings, and personal files, figurines, clothes, and bedroom furniture to Terri Hoffman” in a will created two months before her death. The only note found at the scene of Robin’s suicide read:
“I am apologizing to Terri 3000X a wk on all levels of my being for the highly offensive, rude, and vulgar comments made to her last week. I love her dearly & beg her forgiveness oneday.”
The blood tests later confirmed that Robin had “no sign of hepatitis or any other disease.”
Mary Levinson’s Suicide
After the settlement of the probate dispute with Sandy Cleaver’s brother in 1982, Terri Hoffman “reportedly had few, if any, formal classes or meetings” again in Dallas, Texas, “although Ms. Hoffman continued to counsel individuals.” However, thanks to an especially effective “Conscious Development teacher who toured the country in 1979 and 1980 to promote Ms. Hoffman’s teachings,” the philosophies and teachings of the group had become popular in Chicago, Illinois. In 1987, Conscious Development of Body, Mind and Soul Inc. would also be incorporated in Illinois.
A new member of the new Conscious Development group forming in Chicago at that time, Mary Levinson was “a talented artist and animal lover” and had a “family name [that evoked] immediate recognition in parts of Indiana for a chain of 13 men’s clothing stores founded by her grandfather.” However, as a sufferer of chronic knee pain, and often described as “deeply troubled,” Mary had made “more than a half dozen suicide attempts by downing pills” in her lifetime. During court proceedings, a psychiatrist would describe Mary Levinson as “virtually immobilized by anxiety and tension.”
Mary quickly became enthralled with Conscious Development and Terri Hoffman, who by this time, was “reportedly averse to travel,” and would only visit Chicago twice before Mary’s death. However, Mary and Terri would have “weekly Chicago-to-Dallas phone consultations” during which Mary asked her mother “wait in the lobby of her apartment building” because they were so incredibly secretive.
On November 30, 1987, Mary Levinson was found deceased in a “suburban Chicago motel room.” On her nightstand, authorities found “a partially smoked pack of cigarettes, a motel room key, a pen and blank notepad, a glass of Sprite and almost 100 pills.” Mary’s autopsy revealed that she had “she overdosed on two types of prescription sleeping pills” and also noted a “a small needle puncture mark on her left wrist.” She had left a video for her family in which she mentioned having used her recently cashed $125,000 divorce settlement to “pay off minor debts and make contributions to animal welfare societies.” In the video, Mary further elaborated:
“…. I also donated money to institutions – charitable institutions – which I will not name. I don’t want any hassle, any trace, any way for you to try and retrieve that money that has been given out of love to them, to people that really need it.
…That was my money to do with as I pleased and that was what I chose to do.
…I want you to understand that I am fully rational and I have come to this decision after a long time of thinking. I am actually looking forward to it.
I am In a great deal of physical, pain and emotional pain and have been for about six months now.
Obviously, with my past work with animals, I believe in euthanasia for those who were suffering horribly.”
Mary’s family later discovered that she had been “using her mother’s charge card to buy more than $3,200 worth of fine jewelry” in the time leading up to her suicide. Neither the divorce settlement nor the jewelry were ever accounted for, though Mary’s mother was immediately suspicious that Terri “had played far too prominent a role in her troubled daughter’s final year in Chicago.” Unbeknownst to her family, Mary had also changed the beneficiary of her life insurance policy to “Dr. Larry Keyes, a former boyfriend whom she met at a retreat with Ms. Hoffman.” Her family believes that Mary took “such extraordinary measures to prevent them from knowing exactly how she disposed of her estate” so that they would be unable to contest it.
After the death was ruled a suicide, and without direct evidence of any inappropriate donations given to the Conscious Development group, Mary’s family had no recourse. They “grieved in an emotional vacuum” unaware that the same situation had occurred to the families of several other Conscious Development members in Texas.
Charles Southern’s Disappearance
That same year, family members of English professor and Conscious Development member, Charles Southern Jr., discovered him “walking the streets of Chicago and speaking incoherently.” His sister, Cheryle, described the situation accordingly:
“We found Charles wandering on the street carrying a newspaper, stating, ‘I lived for art.’ We got him in the car and took him to Michael Reese Hospital for examination, stating that he might be suicidal, and he also seemed to be reciting something in a strange language over and over and over again.”
An esteemed professional, Charles was also “assistant chairman of the English department at a local junior college” and had previously traveled India and Africa. Charles had become an integral part of the Chicago branch of Conscious Development and was described as “[rising] quickly in Hoffman’s organization.” He taught classes, led meditation groups, and even visited Terri Hoffman’s home in Texas.
After Charles was found by his family, he was hospitalized. According to family members, two members of the Conscious Development group “visited him daily” in the hospital while he recovered. After treatment and his recovery, Charles seemed “disenchanted with Hoffman,” and he set about “[making] plans for a trip to India,” which would effectively create some distance between him and the group.
Charles spoke with his mother three days before he was to leave on his trip to India “assuring [her] that everything was all right.” When he did not reemerge after the two week trip, his parents “drove the 300 miles from Cincinnati” to Chicago and broke into his house. Charles’s passport was found in his home without any recent “entry stamps to India.” His parents also discovered “a vial of a drug similar to the poison curare.” Charles’s hat and coat were folded inside out and placed on a “ceremonial stool.” Later, his family would find out that his outerwear on the stool “was a Nigerian tribal symbol of death.”
“Two barely legible notes” were also found in the residence. They mentioned Terri Hoffman twice and “named [her] executor of his estate.” A legible portion of one note read, “I came under a bad influence, and I was trying to fight it myself.”
Unfortunately, Charles Southern, Jr. was never seen or heard from again and his disappearance remains a complete mystery. Authorities have not officially linked Terri Hoffman or the Conscious Development organization to the case, however, “many believe Charles’s connection to the group [led] to his disappearance.”
Charles Southern, Jr. is an African-American male with black hair and brown eyes. At the time of his disappearance in 1987, he was 6’2″ tall and weighed 180 pounds. Today, he would be 68 years old.
Don Hoffman’s Suicide
Don and Alice Hoffman became followers of Conscious Development and Terri Hoffman in 1974. Don was an electrical engineer by trade and had also “served as president of the congregation at Ascension Lutheran Church.” However, after the accidental drowning of their three-year-old young daughter, Don and Alice rejected “conventional religion” and “became members of Terri’s inner circle.”
In April 1980, Don and Alice divorced after 22 years of marriage. Alice then signed a ‘waiver‘ to allow Don to marry Terri “without the usual day waiting period.” At this point in time, Terri had just divorced her third husband, Ben Johnson, one month earlier. Afterwards, Alice Hoffman quietly “dropped out of Conscious Development.”
“Sun June 19– Day of Justice for all.
Terri comes over and takes a new pill with us.
Don has lowered her consciousness.
God infuriates David [another follower] over Don’s poor treatment of Terri.
David asks God to bring justice to Don.
(Not to send bad karma; to send just karma that he deserves.)”
According to reports, Don had been suffering from “a mysterious assortment of physical ailments,” including pain and shortness of breath. On September 16, 1988, Don Hoffman “checked into [a] room of the Marriott Hotel in Las Colinas, Texas,” and committed suicide by overdose. He left a three page suicide note and three videotaped messages for his loved ones. In the note, Don claimed the following:
“I have terminal inoperable cancer and I refuse to go through chemotherapy just to gain a few more months of living. I really wouldn’t be living anyway- just taking too long to die…”
In the videos, Don claimed to have been told that he had cancer by three different doctors. Don’s death “bore chilling similarities” to the suicide of Terri’s second husband, Glenn Cooley, and was determined to have been caused by mixed drug intoxication. Also, Don Hoffman’s autopsy confirmed that he did not have cancer, much like how Robin Otstott did not have hepatitis.
In a phone call with Don’s son, Rick, Terri Hoffman was recorded explaining that a spiritual master in the ephemeral realm told her that “what Don definitely had was cancer. He said the Black Lords were trying to create an illusion so the medical examiner wouldn’t find cancer- so they would hurt us all more.”
Don Hoffman left all of his property to Terri, however, on March 3, 1989, his children sued her for wrongful death by”[contending that] Terri Hoffman used hypnosis to persuade their father to kill himself.”
Murder of Jill Bounds
After working “a series of secretarial jobs,” and a year long marriage which quickly ended in divorce, Dallas resident, Jill Bounds, went back to school in 1977, and became a popular psychologist. Described by a patient as “insightful” and “balanced,” Jill primarily counseled “patients who were mostly interested in personal growth, not those struggling with severe mental illness.”
Though professional and successful, Jill “[struggled] to find her own meaning” and had a number of chaotic, manipulative relationships with a variety of men throughout her lifetime. She also deeply believed in reincarnation and followed a strict macrobiotic diet in an effort to avoid surgical treatment for her “uterine fibroid tumors.” Jill would sometimes “read Tarot cards or drew up astrological charts” for some clients for an additional fee.
The involvement of Jill Bounds in the Conscious Development group dated back “as early as 1973.” Jill was described by a friend as “deeply involved with Terri” by 1979. However, Jill left the group in December 1982, after the publicity surrounding Terri “and the mysterious deaths of people associated with her.” Afterwards, she was convinced that “that Terri had sent cockroaches to plague her townhouse” as revenge. After her dissension from the group, Jill referred to Terri Hoffman as “the witch” and “[told] numerous people that she was afraid of Hoffman.”
On September 20, 1988, Jill Bounds was attacked and bludgeoned to death in her bed. A window- one of only three windows “not on the security system,” had been left opened, and family members claim that this window could not have been taken “out of its frame from the outside” without a substantial amount of difficulty and noise. It seemed as though the window was opened from the inside to imply that the murderer had broken in.
After Jill’s brutal attack, the murderer flipped through and ripped several pages out of Jill’s 1979 journal. The attacker appeared to have cleaned him or herself up in her bathroom afterwards. Though Jill’s Cartier watch, computer, television, and stereo were untouched, her family members determined that gold, gems, and other jewelry were missing, along with Jill’s gun. Jill’s mother also claims to have found an “occultic drawing… several days after the murder on the ground outside her daughter’s bedroom window.” Nearby, she also discovered a “red toy robot, it’s legs pulled off and head crushed in.”
Extremely concerning to her family, Jill had been visiting Terri Hoffman for readings several months earlier that year. In addition, one of Jill’s longtime (since before 1979) male friends had her alarm code, had reportedly invited people to Conscious Development meetings in the past, and made an odd, but memorable, remark to Jill’s sister. He asked Jill’s sister “if she knew he was the beneficiary to Jill’s life insurance policy,” though he wasn’t listed in Jill’s will, and as far as the sister knew, everything was bequeathed to family.
The David and Glenda Goodman Suicides
David Goodman was extremely well-educated– he had a MBA from Berkeley and a doctorate in management science from Yale. He worked as a professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and was granted tenure by age 32.
Along with a partner, David had also devised a “complex computer-tested formula for picking stocks” which produced “consistently high returns”and became popularized as the Goodman-Peavy system. Once he began to make sufficient money from financial advisement, he then quit teaching entirely.
After his first failed marriage, while going through “a period of great pain,” David Goodman began attending counseling sessions with Terri Hoffman. He later told his family that Terri could “[read] minds” and “see people’s auras.” The almost forty-year-old professor was also married off by Terri Hoffman to two different twenty-something-year-old followers by the early 1980’s. Both of those marriages failed within a few years.
In 1984, however, in David felt as though he had “truly found his soulmate” in Glenda Carlson, a divorced mother and painstakingly devoted Conscious Development member. Initially, David’s parents were also “delighted” with the new marriage to the more “mature” woman who was his age. Terri insisted the two “had been married in previous lifetimes.” David and Glenda Goodman were described as “inseparable, ecstatic with each other’s company.”
However, as David and Glenda continued further into the Conscious Development inner circle, they began to isolate themselves from their families. Glenda sent her young daughters to live with their father in Singapore and insisted that they were “welcome [back] for only two weeks during the summer.” David reportedly “considered the girls a distraction.” By late 1988, David had told his parents and adult son, Rick, that “he could no longer communicate with them.”
According to journals found in their home (the same ones that reference Don Hoffman), “particularly insightful meditations took place with the aid of ‘white pills,’ mysterious unidentified capsules that Terri gave them.” And, of course, the visions often encouraged the Goodmans to procure elaborate gifts for Terri: a 1988 Lincoln Continental, a two-bedroom house, $5,000, and “50 percent of everything forevermore.” The couple gave over $110,000 to Terri Hoffman between 1987 and 1988 according to their check register.
Glenda recorded their “fantastic spiritual adventures” in the detailed journals, often mentioning a “perception of God’s voice speaking from within.” The accounts revealed that Glenda and David were convinced that they were the “Roman gods Venus and Jupiter.” Glenda ominously wrote that they had experienced God’s voice declaring:
“You are no longer David Goodman, son of Alice & Leonard. That person is gone because the programming is totally wiped out. You are Jupiter now. “
Glenda and David felt “they had been enduring mankind’s bad karma.” In order to attain spiritual power, and be like “God, Terri, and the Masters,” they had to cut off all contact with their loved ones, who they considered to be “stealing” their energies.
Aside from recording the experiences with God and their newfound sense of spiritual purpose, the journal entries documented that Glenda and David were “on a dark and lonely path: waging deadly battle with evil ‘Black Lords,’ erecting metaphysical shields to protect themselves from danger, enduring karmic poison to prove their faith,” and experiencing intense paranoia about “being infected with ‘negative energies.'” Police would later find an “aborted letter” in Glenda’s trash can that read:
“I am extremely depressed right now and would love to have the nerve to kill myself. But so far I can’t get up the gumption.”
In January 1990, Glenda and David Goodman were found shot to death. They had been dead for over a month in their Lake Highlands home and authorities ruled their deaths “a double suicide.” Glenda’s final journal entry was “a warning from God about ‘leeches and meddlers‘ who would try to persuade her that she would never get her ‘energies.'”
After the deaths of the Goodmans, the “district attorney’s office began investigating Hoffman” but she never faced any charges relating to the mysterious deaths, suicides, and the disappearance surrounding her over the years. David Goodman’s father, Leonard, is convinced that Terri Hoffman is responsible for the deaths of Glenda and David. Leonard filed a wrongful death suit and has emphatically insisted that:
“Maybe it was a double suicide.
But one word from Terri would have stopped it. One word from Terri would have set it off.”
Knowingly & Fraudulently
In the wake of the 1989 deaths of David and Glenda Goodman, the Dallas County District Attorney “launched a wide-ranging investigation into Ms. Hoffman’s activities, focusing on the deaths and seeking any information that might directly link her to murders.” Ultimately, no concrete connection between Terri Hoffman’s influence and the many deaths of her followers could be established. Prosecutor, Cecil Emerson, admitted that while investigating the deaths, “his interviews with surviving followers left him convinced that she [had] hypnotic powers” but the evidence “just [didn’t] translate into a grand jury proceeding.” Emerson also added:
“These folks were emotional problems before they found her, and they became easy victims for her.”
It appears as though several family members of those that died, particularly the father of David Goodman, and the children of Don Hoffman, seriously pursued lawsuits against Terri Hoffman. The family members claimed that she “[caused] and [profited] from the deaths of 10 associates and relatives who committed suicide or suffered untimely deaths while under her influence.” The civil suits further accused Terri of using “hypnosis and mind control to seize the assets of followers and then somehow cause them to suffer fatal accidents or commit suicide.”
In October 1991, Terri Hoffman filed for bankruptcy which effectively “[derailed] the civil suits.” When bankruptcy is filed, an automatic stay is enacted which “[protects] the debtor against certain actions from the creditor, including: beginning or continuing judicial proceedings against the debtor” and this, unfortunately, can extend to “all civil proceedings,” including wrongful death lawsuits.
In response to Terri’s bankruptcy filing, she was indicted with fraud charges alleging that she “hid a variety of assets, debts, payments and contracts” during the bankruptcy. Supporters claimed that the bankruptcy fraud charges seemed to be “a way of getting a conviction of some kind against her.” In 1994, Terri was convicted of 10 counts of fraud and was potentially facing fifty years in jail.
However, Terri appealed the conviction in May 1995, arguing that there was insufficient evidence that she “knowingly and fraudulently” made false declarations. Ultimately, the conviction was reversed, the entire fraud case was dismissed, and she was acquitted.
A seemingly-defunct website called Heaven and Earth Photo (.com) displays a photo of Terri Hoffman and refers to her as the artist Terri Lilya Keanely. This website sells photographs of angels and heavenly beings, which are usually just clouds and sunsets, although some of them do have cartoon faces and bodies ‘Microsoft painted’ onto them.
“So our leader has left us on the physio-astral but nevertheless still exists on all the other levels. …Until we meet again.”
Please also read our first Noir Editorial post, Conscious Manipulation: Terri Hoffman & Mind Control, which examines the claims that Terri Hoffman was able to the control the minds of her followers and whether she should she have been held legally responsible for the fates of her devout followers.