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Sheriff's Office Records Reflect Turmoil, Mental Health Issues Surrounding Ramtha School

The Thurston County Sheriff's Office (TCSO) continued to provide records responsive to Ramtha's School of Enlightenment after the initial release was reported in September by Expanding Frontiers Research (EFR). The material was obtained as the result of an August 2023 records request. Dozens of total records have been obtained that reference J.Z. Knight's Yelm, Washington, 80-acre compound, stemming from a research collaboration between EFR Executive Director Erica Lukes and this writer. The article posted in September published law enforcement records documenting the erratic and often dangerous behavior of former Ramtha students, many obsessed with gaining access to J.Z. Knight and the compound.


Records received since the first article was published include a police report submitted by an apparent student at Ramtha's School of Enlightenment who complained her mail, “normally sealed documents from the FBI,” was opened and documents were missing. Another responsive record indicated the Seattle FBI office alerted TCSO that, while scouring social media, it observed a post published by an account titled “WA Nazi Watch” that suggested the Ramtha group engaged in right-wing extremism. In yet another report obtained, a person was apparently shot in the back while exploring woods located near the Ramtha property after they and a friend set out to investigate rumors of aliens at the compound. More records provided by the sheriff's office indicated members of Art of Life, a group that split from Ramtha and became involved in a legal dispute with J.Z. Knight, filed numerous reports of harassment they claimed to believe were perpetrated by Ramtha disciples, yet officers were dubious of their reports. These circumstances and more are explored below.


Multiple emails were sent to Ramtha's School of Enlightenment offering opportunities to comment for potential inclusion in this article. No responses were received.



Opened Mail


The morning of Jan. 2, 2019, the TCSO received a message via an email web application, Subject: Opened Mail. The sender was identified as Shannon Miramontez, who wrote, “Picked up open mail from chair in front of landlord's house last night at 8pm. I noticed a [sic] normally sealed documents from the FBI was open. There are missing documents from the large envelope. Landlord is currently not returning my phone call.”


Sgt. Dave Odegaard spoke with Shannon shortly after receiving the report. In a subsequent inner-office email, the sergeant explained Shannon, the landlord, and other students from the Ramtha school used the same mailbox. The landlord, Teresa Rylko, would get the mail and place it all on a chair, apparently to be collected by recipients.


Sgt. Odegaard noted that Shannon does not know if Teresa or another person opened her mail. Shannon had been unsuccessful in trying to reach Teresa, and Sgt. Odegaard was likewise unable to get in touch with her.


EFR attempted to reach Shannon Miramontez by email and offer her opportunities to comment on the circumstances for inclusion in this article. No responses were received.


It is not currently clear if or how the situation was resolved. Neither is it clear what type of documents the apparent Ramtha student was receiving from the FBI, what the purposes of the documents were, or why some of them may have been missing.



Monitoring Social Media


At 12:25 a.m. the morning of June 6, 2020, Sgt. Malcolm McIver emailed fellow officers he had just talked to Cliff Schroff of the FBI in Seattle. “He said they are scouring social media posts,” Sgt. McIver wrote, “and came across 'WA NAZI WATCH' that had a picture of Ramtha's School gate.” There was no threat expressed and the FBI wasn't sure what WA Nazi Watch was, but was passing the information on, as was the sergeant.


Further investigation conducted by EFR revealed WA Nazi Watch was involved in social media circles on the former Twitter website X with accounts associated with Antifa, or anti-fascism. The account was apparently suspended from the social media site for unclear reasons.


Then-Twitter account "New York City Antifa" post

The WA Nazi Watch website posts information about the activities of people it identifies as fascists and right-wing extremists. The Ramtha group may have attracted attention due to reasons including bigotry expressed by J.Z. Knight as reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center and as previously explored in the September post at EFR.


The FBI Seattle Public Affairs Office told EFR in an Oct. 24, 2023, email the FBI does not comment on correspondence from another agency obtained through a public records request. Asked to address Bureau activities from 2020 to present on monitoring internet social media for posts of concern, the Public Affairs Office responded:


Generally speaking, the FBI cannot initiate an investigation based solely on First Amendment protected activity. As offensive as a statement can be, the FBI cannot open an investigation without a threat of violence or alleged violation of federal law. However, when the language does turn to a call for violence or involves federal criminal activity, the FBI is able to undertake investigative activity. The FBI may review, observe, and collect information from public sources as long as the FBI activities are done for a valid law enforcement or national security purpose, and in a manner that does not unduly infringe upon the speaker or author’s ability to deliver his or her message.
Regarding social media, the volume of social media messages has simply exploded so we need cooperation from the public, the private sector, and, of course, our law enforcement partners to spot potential threats.


Example of posts circulating about the Ramtha gate during June 2020


Law enforcement agencies are not the only groups monitoring the social media posts of people in the vicinity of Ramtha. Knight's school employees keep a cautious eye out too.


An Aug. 19, 2019, inner-agency email notified TCSO officers a phone call was received from Ramtha School of Enlightenment (RSE) legal advisor Mike Wright, explaining that an event for some 150 guests was scheduled from Wednesday the 21st to Sunday the 25th. “RSE has been monitoring social media,” the Sheriff's Office email explained, “and it was recently discovered on Facebook that a group of juveniles are planning to 'storm the event.'”


The disruption was planned for Sunday morning. Wright apparently did not take the situation particularly seriously and just wanted to make the TCSO aware.


The email rather interestingly continued, “RSE will have 1 armed security roaming the property, 1 security at the main gate, 3-4 internally non-armed security, and about 20 other staff to help with people who are attending. All of them will have a radio and can communicate with each other if a problem arises. In addition, there are sensors around the perimeter of the campus and security cameras all over.”


Shooting


April 3, 2023, Boyd Stacy submitted a report to the TCSO that in September 2022 he was hearing rumors going around about people seeing aliens and weird stuff occurring at the Ramtha compound. He and a friend headed out to investigate, apparently on all-terrain vehicles through the woods.


After many hours of navigating the forest, they were reportedly “hit with spotlights” in a wooded area. Stacy reported this took place “behind Morgans 300 acre [sic] compound.” A confrontation ensued, the explorers ran, and Stacy was “shot in the back by the man with the AR-15.”


Stacy indicated he knew the incident was previously investigated but was unsatisfied with the results. He emphasized he wanted the shooter held accountable and prosecuted. “I am documenting this because no sheriff office staff has tried to contact me while I was in the hospital,” Stacy wrote.


The relationships among the various parties named in the report is not entirely clear. An April 3 TCSO email indicated the report was rejected. The incident “was investigated in September last year” by several deputies and detectives with the TCSO, the email stated, indicating the Office considered the matter closed.


Missing Persons


As EFR obtained increasing numbers of public records in its ongoing investigations of American cults, a recurring theme became reports of missing persons. Narratives in the reports often reflect circumstances where relatives in distant states stop hearing from a loved one and become concerned, or a family member who resides with the missing person describes how they headed off to an event and didn't return as scheduled. Reading these reports, one might develop a certain sense of mounting dread as law enforcement officers diligently log their efforts to locate the individual, systematically going from one source to the next who saw them before they went missing. One might also cultivate some empathy for the officers who do all this work, typically to discover the person is willingly taking up with a cult, simply doesn't want to talk to their family for whatever reasons, and/or is experiencing some type of mental health issue that may often be dealt with ineffectively by the surrounding community.


Take for instance a 2012 report, in which a woman in North Carolina called the TCSO and reported her concern the family hadn't heard from a male relative in two years who was suspected of getting involved with the Ramtha group. An officer went through the process of eventually locating the individual to discover, according to the report, the man “was fine and didn't want to bother anybody so he never responded to any posts on MySpace or Facebook.” He subsequently “agreed that he would contact someone every six months to let them know he is OK.”


Other missing person cases end much more tragically. Law enforcement officers must be emotionally prepared for a wide range of potential outcomes to their investigations.


On Oct. 2, 2010, a deputy was dispatched on a missing person incident. A woman reported she was concerned for the safety of her friend and neighbor, Patrick L. Parsons, who suffered from depression. She nor the man's brother had heard from him in several days, she explained.


A TCSO detective was quickly assigned to the case, who interviewed mental health service providers who had interacted with Mr. Parsons. The detective distributed bulletins, sought assistance from other law enforcement agencies in searching for the man's vehicle, and similar procedures. Efforts were also coordinated to identify his whereabouts through his social media activity, banking information, and cell phone use, but to no avail.


It was learned, however, that Parsons was taking courses at Ramtha's School of Enlightenment. The detective contacted school administrator Mike Wright and discovered Patrick Parsons paid $500 on Aug. 27 via a website for an event scheduled to be held Oct. 27.


On Oct. 5, 2010, just a day into the detective's investigation, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office notified the TCSO it located the vehicle. The case was subsequently, and sadly, resolved. From the TCSO files, written by the deputy who was originally assigned the missing person call:


I contacted the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and asked to speak to the on scene deputy that was handling the call. I was called by Deputy McCarty who identified himself as the responding deputy. I asked what condition and circumstances that Patrick was found. He informed me that earlier in the evening a passerby, who transients the area daily, of Milepost 9 and Doswallips Road in the Olympic National Forest [sic]. The passerby observed an unresponsive male in the driver's seat and called law enforcement. When aid and law enforcement arrived it was apparent that Patrick was deceased. Deputy McCarty told me that it appeared to him and the coroner that it was suicide. He said it appeared Patrick had cut his wrists and the knife was found in the vehicle. A journal was also located that had suicidal tendencies written within them. I asked if there was any indications of a crime or additional persons and he does not [sic] since Patrick had approximately $400.00 in cash, his identification including passport and other minor valuables within the vehicle. The coroner estimates that Patrick has been in the vehicle approximately eight to nine days.
After receiving the information I asked if any of the family members had been notified. He said their dispatch may have received one phone call but was unsure if they were actual family. I told him I would notify the family and give them his information for further instructions. Jefferson County SO case number is 10-6338.

Law Enforcement Challenges


Among the clear challenges to law enforcement is that Ramtha followers become hostile and resistant to the very agencies that at times preserve their safety, defend their rights, and protect J.Z. Knight's property itself. In the immediate aftermath of a 2011 hit and run incident, Deputy K. Kimball reported how they followed the trail to a property where two men were encountered. The men acted with resistance and strongly urged the officer to leave. One of the men fled into a house, prompting the deputy to report, “Because I was alone, male's attitude and the unknown whereabouts of the other male, I detained the male subject and placed him in the back of my patrol car.”


After logging several more twists and turns, including a third man and a woman emerging from a trailer to demand the officer leave, Deputy Kimball wrote:


During a conversation with WSP [Washington State Police], the male that I detained, verbally identified himself as Ronald K Brooks... However, Ronald does not go by that name because he does not believe in it. Ronald goes by “August.” Ronald also stated that he did not have a social security number because he does not believe in the “System.” Ronald does believe in the constitution, but he stated that he was not a constitutionalist. Ronald claimed to be a “Rampster.” Ronald builds cement bunkers for JZ Knight and her followers. Ronald does recognize law enforcement, but only if they are doing what he believes is legal.

Burglaries


A potentially concerning circumstance among the dozens of TCSO records responsive to Ramtha's School of Enlightenment was reports of burglary or similar crimes perpetrated against property owners involved with Ramtha. A 2011 burglary was reported, for instance, when a woman “returned home after camping for a week at the Ramtha School and found her house ransacked.” The woman's shotgun and computer equipment were missing, with the point of entry surmised to be a removed pane of glass.


Another burglary involved a 2017 case at the property of the then-recently deceased Joseph Duffield. The executor of the estate, Gary Stevens, reported the burglary, which occurred sometime between July 18-23. Joseph Duffield passed away in April, the report noted, and a memorial service was held for him on July 12 at the J.Z. Knight compound. Gary Stevens indicated that whoever burglarized the residence would have had to have some insider information about Duffield's death and the layout of the property.


The responding deputy documented the manner rummaging was conducted in the home, various outbuildings, and an underground bunker of the property. The deceased owner was described as a “prepper,” reportedly stockpiling gold and precious metals. A metal detector of unknown origin was left in the wake of the crime. The officer concurred with the assessment of the executor, surmising the perpetrators had a desire to find something fairly specific, “which would be consistent with Gary's hunches.”


To add insult to injury, trespassers once again descended upon the property within hours of the deputy clearing the scene. They were considered persons of interest, the officer noted, but there was no evidence directly connecting them to the burglary at the time of the report.


Art of Life


In the 2006-07 time frame, former Ramtha students were making noise of rebellion, criticizing the school and its methods. This included Enlighten Me Free, a website where grievances were aired and related information was posted. Among the groups that splintered from Ramtha was Art of Life Coaching Inc., reportedly founded by WhiteWind Weaver. JZK, Inc. successfully mounted a legal defense to prevent Weaver from using techniques and activities she learned while attending Knight's school or, in effect, what some viewed as taking Ramtha with her when she left.


Weaver and her associates called the TCSO with multiple complaints of harassment they claimed to suspect were perpetrated by Ramtha followers. At one point in 2009, a deputy documented they had submitted some 19 reports of suspicious activity, three within the past year, such as vandalism and burglary which they attributed to Ramtha disciples. Deputies became doubtful and noted the lack of material evidence supporting ongoing claims of sabotaging vehicles, knocking on perimeter walls at night, items moved within the home, a large amount of cash stolen, and one instance where it was claimed the crotch had been cut out of pajamas.


Responding officers, however, noted such inconsistencies as the lack of fresh pry marks on doors. In another instance, a carving on a table was claimed to have been recently left by vandals, but an officer noted the markings were not new.


Deputies came to simply not believe WhiteWind Weaver and her peers. In at least one instance an officer designated the type of call on which they were dispatched as “mental.”


This is unfortunate for all parties involved and could be argued does not reflect any better on the Ramtha School of Enlightenment than it does on Art of Life. After all, many of the people whose actions are explored in the two EFR posts on the Ramtha files were at some point students, which means they, in all likelihood, paid their money to the “school.” If it's not an impressive class of alumni, it's not solely the fault of vulnerable populations who went looking for enlightenment.

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Great work Erica & Jack! Ramtha's "Enlightenment" seems to be teaching deliquent behavior

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Thank you for your comments and encouragement. Very glad you find the post a worthwhile read!

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