Seven arrested in 'Love Has Won' death appear in court

The seven people arrested for Abuse of a Corpse and child abuse. Left to right, top row: Jason Castillo, Ryan Kramer, John Robertson, Sarah Rudolph. Bottom row: Ma Obdulia Franco, .Karin Raymond and Christopher Royer. Photos courtesy of the Saguache County Sheriff's Office.

SAGUACHE -- Six of seven defendants appeared in a crowded, albeit virtual, Saguache County courtroom on Wednesday, May 5, regarding charges in connection with the possession and interstate transport of the deceased remains of Amy Carlson, also known as “Mother God” and leader of the controversial religious group “Love Has Won.” The defendants are also charged with two counts of child abuse.

The six defendants are Jason Castillo, also known to the group as “Father God”, as well as Christopher Royer, John Robertson, Sarah Rudolph, Karin Raymond and Ryan Kramer.

The seventh, Ma Obdulia Franco Gonzales, called in for her hearing from a separate location earlier in the day.

Deputy District Attorney Alex Raines was the sole prosecutor appearing on behalf of the state. In contrast, each of the six defendants was represented by a different defense attorney who, in separate proceedings, requested the court release their client(s) from jail on a Personal Recognizance bond based on the lack of severity in the charges.

In each case, DDA Raines countered that the DA’s office is amending the charges from abuse of a corpse, a class six felony, to tampering with a corpse, a class three felony and more serious charge.

Jason Castillo – who, as “Father God”, held a place of prominence in the group – appeared first, represented by his attorney, David Hoag. Of the six hearings, Castillo’s had the most back-and-forth between opposing counsel. Hoag asked Castillo be released on a personal recognizance bond, arguing Castillo was not a flight risk, has no criminal history in Colorado, and the group, which owns several pieces of property, has had a presence in the Crestone area for four years. “Mr. Castillo has nowhere else he could go [outside of Colorado],” Hoag said, adding Castillo plans to stay in the valley for the full duration of the proceedings. 

Hoag also argued that the arrest affidavit did not establish probable cause to charge his client, a point raised by several other attorneys that followed and prompting Judge Ulrich, presiding, to state she would have to consider the legal ramifications of addressing probable cause after already granted by a judge.

Raines responded that Castillo has no criminal history in Colorado but does in Florida, California and Nevada, going further to ask the court to actually increase the bond (currently set at $100,000 cash) commensurate with the class three felony with which Castillo and the others will be charged. But, Raines said, if the court chose to release Castillo on a personal recognizance bond, he requested the court prohibit Castillo and other defendants from residing together while the case progresses through the judicial system.

Hoag countered that Raines’ request was a violation of Castillo’s First Amendment rights and freedom of association, describing it as a “very serious” request.

Throughout the proceeding, Castillo, wearing a yellow prisoner’s uniform, sat without moving and showing very little emotion except for what seemed to be just the slightest hint of a smile.

Judge Ulrich deferred any decision until a bond hearing was held, which she set for a week later on May 12.

With a few exceptions, the hearings that followed ran roughly along the same lines.

Ann Roan, attorney for Christopher Royer, echoed Hoag’s statement that the lack of severity in the charge requires Royer be released and the affidavit does not establish probable cause. She asked for Royer to be released on no bond. Ulrich set a bond hearing for May 12.

Sam Weihman, attorney for John Robertson, also asked for Robertson to be released on a personal recognizance bond, telling the court his client had served in the United States Marine Corps. He also echoed Hoag -- prohibiting the defendants from living together constituted a violation of Robertson’s first amendment rights. 

Raines countered that Robertson had a criminal history in Kansas that was three pages long, including failure to appear in court. He contested the personal recognizance bond but withdrew the motion that the court increase the amount of bond.

Ulrich set the matter for a bond hearing May 12.

After a protracted technical glitch reminiscent of the “can you hear me now” advertisements, Sarah Rudolph and Karin Raymond had their hearings. 

Chip Cutler, representing Rudolph, described a scenario where Rudolph, 35, had moved from her home in Salida to Crestone several months ago and joined “Love Has Won” to “enhance her spirituality" and "for the betterment of society.” He stated she did not have a lengthy stay with the group, was not involved in the transport of Carlson’s body and had no relationship with the two children related to the child abuse charges. Cutler said Rudolph also had accommodations in another city with someone unconnected to “Love Has Won” that would allow her to live separately from the other defendants during court proceedings.

Karin Raymond was described by her attorney, Riley Selleck, as a 47 year old mother with no criminal history and a long and stable employment history in Pennsylvania. Randolph’s 13 year old daughter, who was present in the house where Carlson’s body was being kept, is now living with Raymond’s father in another state.

Raines withdrew the request for increased bond and said the state would not contest the request for Raymond to be released on a personal recognizance bond.

In both Rudolph’s and Randolph’s cases, Ulrich granted the request for reduced bond, setting it at $2,000  and $1,000 cash, respectively. Hearings were set in both cases for a return filing of motion, on the more serious class three felony, for May 12.

The sixth defendant to appear was Ryan Kramer whose attorney argued for personal recognizance bond based on no criminal history in Colorado and his three year uninterrupted residence in the valley.  Raines took a moment to compliment Kramer on his “professionalism” in submitting a letter to the court that contained information that the court may not have already known and stated that Kramer does not have criminal history in Colorado. Nonetheless, due to the severity of the pending class three felony charges, Raines contested the request for a personal recognizance bond but withdrew the motion to increase bond.

Ulrich granted Kramer’s request for a personal recognizance bond for $1,000 and set a return filing date of May 12, as well.

The proceedings were lengthy, lasting more than 90 minutes.  Despite bordering on being tedious, there was a sharp contrast between some of the clips of “Love Has Won” followers posted on social media --  a few of whom appeared in court – and those same individuals appearing in the sterile, almost perfunctory environment of a virtual court proceeding.

At approximately 11:50pm on Thursday, April 28, deputies with the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office served a search warrant on a private residence in Moffat due to a report they had received that a dead body was in the house. Once on the scene, deputies found the “mummified remains” of a woman presumed to be Carlson in a back bedroom wrapped in a sleeping bag with glitter makeup around her eyes and Christmas tree lights wrapped around her body that was positioned "as if in a shrine."

There were seven adults and two children, aged 13 years and 2 years old, in the house when SCSO authorities arrived. The adults were placed in custody. The children were placed in appropriate settings for the night. The children's presence in a house where Carlson's “mummified remains” were in the back bedroom presumably prompted the charges of child abuse.

All six defendants are scheduled for their next appearances in court next week.

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