Amy Carlson’s body was mummified in a sleeping bag and wrapped in a cloth adorned with Christmas lights when Colorado sheriff’s deputies found her last week. Glittered makeup decorated her face and around her eyes, according to law enforcement.
That shrine was allegedly erected by Carlson’s followers in her religious group “Love Has Won,” which some officials and former members have described as a cult. Carlson, 45, claimed she was “Mother God,” 19 billion years old, a reincarnation of Jesus and could heal people of cancer “with the power of love,” she said on “Dr. Phil” last year.
On Wednesday, seven alleged members of her group were arrested in Crestone, Colo., and charged with abuse of a corpse, according to the arrest warrant published by KDVR. They also face child abuse charges after law enforcement found a 13-year-old and 2-year-old in a home where the group members were staying.
“The Saguache County Sheriff’s Office has received many complaints from families within the United States saying that the group is brainwashing people and stealing their money,” the arrest warrant said.
Carlson’s death and apparent mummification brought a fittingly strange end to her unexpected arc as a religious leader. Carlson had faced claims that she abused her followers and, most recently, saw her group forced out of Hawaii under police escort after clashing with protesters.
Carlson first grew interested in New Age philosophy in 2006 after leaving her husband and job at McDonald’s. She built a following through hours of proselytizing on live streams to viewers around the world, convincing them she was a divine being who was trying to save humanity and bring world peace, according to a Vice documentary on the group. She also said that she would lead 144,000 “chosen ones” into a mythical, fifth dimension.
Carlson’s most devoted flock lived with her in Colorado, where they also hosted live streams encouraging followers to donate and buy merchandise, while they also attended to Carlson’s every need and desire. Members had to call her “Mother God” or “Mom,” were allowed only four to five hours of sleep, were often underfed and at times were banned from sitting down, former members told Vice.
“It’s … a lot of mental manipulation, a lot of brainwash,” said a former member identified as Taylor. “Everything is revolved around Amy.”
Carlson, who prohibited members from drinking or using drugs, spent countless nights drinking copious amounts of alcohol and becoming belligerent, according to former members. Live streams showed her demeaning followers and yelling obscenities at them.
She also made several outlandish claims: that former president Donald Trump is her father; that she performed over 100,000 “spiritual surgeries”; that she communicates regularly with Robin Williams, who died in 2014; that she has been reincarnated over 530 times. She told Dr. Phil that her past lives include Joan of Arc, Marilyn Monroe and Cleopatra; she claimed to have full memory of her lives, including being hung on the cross as Jesus.
Rick Alan Ross, a cult expert who heads the Cult Education Institute, compared Carlson’s leadership to classic personality traits of other cult leaders. In the “Dr. Phil” episode on the group, Ross said Carlson persuaded her followers to “obey” her and to “be submissive.”
“The one person who is never criticized — there is no critique, there is no questioning — is Amy,” Ross said. “Amy is always right and if you disagree with Amy, you’re wrong.”
Last August, the group rented a house in Kauai but were run out of town in September after neighbors gathered for protests and lit fires outside the house, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Saguache County Sheriff’s Office first learned of Carlson’s death April 28 , when Miguel Lamboy, who has been identified as a member of Love Has Won in past news articles, reported finding the corpse.
Lamboy, 42, told law enforcement that five members of Love Has Won had shown up at his home the day before, saying they needed a place to stay. The following day he woke up early and drove to Denver, according to the arrest warrant, only to return home later that day to find Carlson’s mummified remains on a bed in the back room of his home.
Lamboy told police that he tried to take his 2-year-old son and leave the house, but members would not let him leave. Lamboy then went to police and reported the death, the arrest warrant said.
Just before midnight, law enforcement arrived at Lamboy’s house to perform a welfare check on his son and to search the home for Carlson’s body. Officers found Carlson laid before a shrine in the back room.
They arrested seven people inside the house, including Jason Castillo, 45, who was at one point Carlson’s partner and known as “Father God,” according to Vice.
Police reunited Lamboy with his son and placed a 13-year-old — the daughter of a 47-year-old woman who was among those arrested — with social services, according to the affidavit.
Lamboy told law enforcement that he believed that the seven people who showed up at his house transported the “mummified remains” from California, the warrant said. Police inspected the car outside Lamboy’s home and found the back seats down.
“The position of the rear passenger seat is consistent with someone transporting the mummified remains,” the affidavit said.
Law enforcement booked the seven adults into the Rio Grande County Jail. It is unclear who is representing each person.
It is unclear how Carlson died, and none of the seven adults have been charged in her death. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation is set to do an autopsy of Carlson’s body, according to KCNC.
Despite Carlson’s death, her followers have continued to do daily live streams on their YouTube channel. In a video on the group’s Facebook page, a member said Carlson “did not pass away” but “ascended.”
“Her essence left the body of Amy Carlson at 12:22. She is indeed happy now,” a woman identified as Bobby said in the video, according to the Denver Post.
Saguache County Sheriff’s Department Cpl. Steve Hansen said he wasn’t expecting the members to respond so calmly to Carlson’s death.
“I’m not sure what to think about this whole thing. I’ve never seen a group of people be so nonchalant about a dead person in their back room,” Hansen told KUSA.