Terri Hoffman who was also known as Terri Lilya Keanely was born on March 21, 1938, in Fort Stockton, Texas. Her father was allegedly an alcoholic and her mother died of tuberculosis when Terri was still little. She grew up “picking cotton in the stifling heat” and had a difficult childhood. At the age of nine, Terri was sent into a Lutheran orphanage in Round Rock and was adopted and renamed Terri Lee Benson, two years later.
Terri Hoffman who started having visions at the age of four was convinced while at the orphanage that she was the reincarnation of St. Theresa of Avila. Her visions grew with her and became interwoven with her strange idea of metaphysical concepts and reality. Terri carved a lucrative niche for herself as an unlikely metaphysical guru and “spiritualist”. She became known in Dallas in the late 1960s and early ’70s as she attracted hundreds of educated, successful, and elite devoted followers who attended her “meditation classes, a blend of mythology and metaphysics.” In 1974, Terri incorporated her “Conscious Development of Body, Mind, and Soul” movement. She warned against “critical thought” and taught that the line between life and death was meaningless but stressed the concept of reincarnation; An idea that soon became fatal for many of her followers.
In the early 1990s, Terri Hoffman who had an obsession for gemstones made the headlines. This time as a notorious cult leader who allegedly committed “murder through mind control.” Her followers, including two husbands, die mysteriously shortly after willing their possessions to her. Below are stories of 10 members, associates and relatives who committed suicide, mysteriously disappeared or suffered untimely deaths while under her influence.
10. Glenn Cooley – Suicide
Four months after the divorce with former husband, Kerri, a 33-year-old mother of three married a student named Glenn Scott Cooley, who dropped out of school soon afterward. Glenn spent about 6 years at CD Gems, a Conscious Development jewelry business. Terri encouraged her followers to buy her gems that she claimed “[possess] protective and healing properties.” The more expensive an item, the more power it contained, they were instructed.
Near the end of 1976, the then 26-year-old Glenn wanted out of the cult and his marriage to Terri. Again, Terri filed for a divorce which was granted on January 27, 1977. Six days later, Glenn Cooley was found dead in a cabin owned by his parents. He died of “drug overdose”. Terri found a death note Glenn left behind. It reads:
“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.”
9. Devereaux Cleaver – Accidental Drowning
Sandy Cleaver was apparently one of Terri Hoffman’s most loyal followers. She was described as “Terri’s full-time unpaid assistant.” Just like her role model, Sandy divorced her husband and father of her daughter Chunk for “blocking her spiritual development.” Sandy’s daughter, Devereaux Cleaver was 14 years old in 1978. She was an energetic, attractive, and normal young girl who seemed to be embarrassed by her mother’s involvement with Conscious Development. Meanwhile, Sandy believed that her daughter had been taken over by “evil spirits”. Terri encouraged this belief adding that Sandy was being spiritually attacked by her daughter, Devereaux who was “a great powerful negative being.”
Of course, Devereaux was delighted when her mother invited her to travel with her and her fiance (another cult member) to Hawaii. In an inflatable raft, Sandy, and Devereaux wadded into a calm and shallow lagoon. According to Sandy, a wave “knocked them off the raft” and then “another wave knocked them apart.” Devereaux’s lifeless body would be recovered “hours later.” Chuck was stunned to learn that his daughter, Devereaux had willed her trust fund to the Conscious Development group. The questionable document that was supposedly written by the 14-year-old, was witnessed by two of Terri’s followers and sprinkled with concise legal language. It reads:
“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…”
8. Sandy Cleaver – Mysterious Car Wreck
Following the untimely death of Devereaux’s and her questionable will, Sandy had become sucked further into the Conscious Development activities. By December 1979, she had totally alienated herself from friends and family and gave all her “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 wrote a new will and left everything to Terri Hoffman.
Later on in 1981, 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 her maid 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. Terri showed up at a local hospital to claim the bodies two days later.
7. Louise “Weasie” Watson – Mysterious Car Wreck
Louise Watson was Sandy’s 78-year-old loyal maid and mother figure who died with her in the suspicious car crash described above. She believed that Terri dominated Sandy. It was rumored that she had only gone on that trip because Sandy insisted fervently.
Louise also wrote her own will the same day Sandy did in June 1981. She named Sandy as the executrix of her meager estate, with Terri as the alternate executrix.
6. Robin Otstott – Suicide
Robin Otstott became a follower and friend of Terri Hoffman since 1974. The well-educated school counselor who had a Master’s Degree in social work was dominated by Terri’s teachings. Robin was filling Sandy Cleaver’s shoes within the group and had assumed responsibility for rewriting the Conscious Development correspondence courses. She also testified as a character witness for Terri when the lawsuit over Sandy’s estate came to trial.
Robin got into depression after a bizarre love affair with a supernatural patriot named George Geoffrey. She was convinced “nonphysical ‘bodies’– astral, mental, and physical,” had begun to attack herself and others and other members blame her for their various ailments and misfortunes. In mid-April 1987, Robin told her puzzled ex-husband that she had contracted a terminal case of viral hepatitis from a banana peel. Her ex-husband set up a doctor’s appointment for Robin for blood tests after which was allegedly visited Terri later that day, and then, returned home. She shot 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 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.”