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.”
5. Mary Levinson – Suicide
Shortly after joining Hoffman’s teaching in 1987 Mary Levinson severed ties with her family, held secret meetings with Hoffman and was found dead in a hotel room from an overdose.
Her family had been greatly concerned about her well being. She was going through a divorce that they thought was weighing on her financially. In fact, just weeks before her death her mother sent her a check for $1000 to try and help out with any money woes she was having. Meanwhile, Mary was selling off her antique furniture, jewelry, and paintings. She had also stolen her mother’s credit card and bought $3200 worth of jewelry — none of which was found after her death, nor were there any documents showing she had sold it.
Two weeks before her death she changed her will. Her youngest brother was to be her beneficiary but now it was someone named Dr. Larry Keyes, a gentleman Mary had met on a spiritual retreat with Hoffman.
Also just before her death, she received a divorce settlement for $125,000. It was withdrawn before her death and has not been accounted for. Her family suspects that all the missing funds and jewelry have lined Hoffman’s pockets.
While her family admits Mary had personal problems (chronic pain, depression, anxiety) they do not believe she took her own life willingly and they believe that Terri Hoffman coerced her into committing suicide. She left a tape for her family that police recovered at the scene and these were the last words on the tape:
“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… Obviously, with my past work. with animals, I believe in euthanasia for those who were suffering horribly.” – source
4. Charles Southern Jr. – Disappearance
Charles was an English Professor when he became involved with Terri Hoffman. He quickly rose through the ranks and before long was teaching meditation and leading spiritual classes within the group.
Sometime in 1987 (date not found), Charles was found wandering the streets of Chicago, talking incoherently. He was hospitalized for a short period of time. His family visited him daily, and they also state that members of Hoffman’s group visited daily as well. After his release, his family described him as being “disenchanted” with Hoffman’s teachings but stayed with the organization.
Charles had always been interested in other cultures and religions and had planned to visit India in December of 1987 during his college’s Christmas break. His family was worried about him, and they wanted to come visit. He told them he wasn’t feeling well and asked them not to come. He hasn’t been heard from or seen since.
After he was supposed to have returned from India, his family went to visit and discovered his passport was in his apartment and no stamps were present indicating a trip to India. A vial was found in a drawer with a drug in it that once tested was similar to a poison called curare. His winter coat and hat were found folded inside out on a stool. The family and police would later find out that this is a Nigerian tribal symbol of death. Also in the apartment, there were two sloppily written (described as “nearly illegible”) notes that named Terri Hoffman beneficiary to his assets.
Terri Hoffman had denied being involved in his disappearance. The police do not know if he left of his own accord, had a mental breakdown, or was abducted. His family believes he was abducted and murdered by Terri Hoffman.
3. Don Hoffman – Suicide
Don Hoffman was the fourth husband of Terri Hoffman. On September 16, 1988, he checked into a Marriott Hotel where he then committed suicide. After his death, a videotape he had recorded just before he passed was discovered. In the tape, he stated that he had seen several specialists and had terminal cancer. An autopsy was performed and there was no sign of cancer or any other illness discovered. No trace has been found of him visiting any specialists, and no cancer specialists in the area had any history of meeting with him.
His children (unrelated to Terri Hoffman) believe that Terri tricked him into believing he had terminal cancer, and into altering his will to leave all of his estates to her and removing his children from his will. They believe she hypnotized him and forced him to commit suicide.
As far as I was able to find there was really not much of an investigation into this case.
2. Jill Bounds – Murder
Jill Bounds was a psychologist who had a deep belief in all things mystical from other realities to tarot cards. Despite her non-traditional beliefs, she was known for excelling at her job and not mixing her personal life with her work. Unbeknownst to her family, she was deeply involved with Hoffman and her teachings.
After an unremarkable September day in 1988, Jill entered her home at 4:15. The next day after missing two meetings with friends, the police were called. The police, not wanting to break in the house, allowed her friends on the scene to use a spare key to enter the house. They found Jill in her bedroom, beaten to death. They believe whoever murdered her entered through a window; while Jill had an alarm system her windows were not covered by it. However, the window that had been found open had actually had the screen and frame removed which was extremely hard to do from outside of the house, inside of the house it would be fairly easy to do. Also, she had a stained glass owl on the window that had been removed and set aside. Something that would be difficult to do if you were on the outside while trying to get in.
A few things were missing from her house, a journal from 1979 had been rifled through and had pages torn out and bloody smudges on it. There was also blood in the bathroom where apparently the assailant had attempted to clean up.
Expensive jewelry that she kept hidden in her laundry room and her gun she kept in her nightstand was missing. However other expensive pieces were left behind; she was wearing a Cartier watch at the time of death, she had sterling silver place settings in the dining room and all electronics had been left behind. Police ruled out that this seemed to be a random break-in.
No one has ever been charged in the death of Jill Bounds, but her family firmly believes that it was orchestrated by Terri Hoffman.
1. David and Glenda Goodman – Double Suicides
The mysterious deaths of David and Glenda Goodman in 1990 is seemingly when people started connecting the dots around their death and the seven previous mysterious deaths that preceded them.
David was a University Professor at Southern Methodist University, and Glenda was a vice-president for Perfume Oils International, a company started and owned by Hoffman.
Accounts differ; some say they started following her teachings in the early 1980’s while others state they had met her in the early 70’s when she was just starting her spiritual teachings. Regardless, all accounts state they were very close to her and part of her inner circle of followers. In fact, in 1982 Don Goodman testified as a character witness during a trial for the estate of Sandra Cleaver, a fellow follower of Conscious Development who met an untimely end.
Hoffman claims she had no contact with them a few months before their death, however, their house was filled with paraphernalia relating to Conscious Development, including handwritten notes and letters. Here’s the content of one such letter:
“You are no longer David Goodman, son of Alice & Leonard. That person is gone because the programming is wiped out. You are Jupiter now,” says one passage addressed to Goodman in his wife’s hand. – source
Before their death, the Goodmans had written checks to Hoffman totaling more than $110,000 (some sources say ~$100,000), not including the many financial contributions they had given over their at least decade-long relationship with her.
They were found deceased by a neighbor, both had been shot, and two guns were found at the crime scene. Ultimately it was a ruled a double suicide. Their families feel that Hoffman influenced them to commit suicide.