But former members say the rod was an offensive weapon, used at the direction of Terri or whoever was leading the group. "We were taught to use these weapons to kill the black lords," Joyce Tepley recalls. Members would make a series of gestures with their swords — north, south, east, west, protect us all around — and then would touch the rod to their shoulders, which they believed to be a "power center" for the body. "And then you’d project it [the rod] outward and with your thought along with it, and know that you were eliminating black lords. That you really were in a battle."
Members knew this because Terri, or her designated group leader, told them. Every week — the battles were scheduled, like football games — the group leader would give a body count: We got so many black lords last week. Regardless of how the battles went, the war got grimmer. Emergency battles were called; Conscious Development’s teachers were up against increasingly evil spirits. They were encircled, alone...
During the battle, the leader — and sometimes other group members — often would indicate that a particular spirit was in the room with the teachers, ready to work mischief. The teachers would swing around in unison, touch their rods to their shoulders, and aim the rods toward the corner where the evil spirit lurked. Frequently the attacker was someone out of favor with the group. Former members often were cited as conduits for the black lords. So was Devereaux Cleaver.
It was after one of the early battles that the group learned that Glenn Cooley had committed suicide. Alice Hoffman, one of the teachers, made the announcement. Alice and her husband Don had joined the group after their 3-year-old son drowned in their backyard swimming pool in 1973. They became rather close friends with Terri and Glenn — later, Don would marry Terri. Alice says she knew Glenn was upset about his recent divorce from Terri, but thought he had gotten over it.
Glenn Cooley’s family had never approved of his marriage to Terri, who was almost twice his age and, from their perspective, even stranger than their drug-consuming son. But Glenn was an unconventional boy; a gentle, creative type who never really fit the mold his parents cut out for him. He and his father would argue about practically anything, until both were blue in the face. He violated curfews and saw friends his parents tried to ban. "Glenn was searching for something — acceptance as he was, not as someone else wanted him to be," his brother Wayne recalls. Terri seemed to offer him that, plus security. She claims that she helped him quit using drugs. And once, Wayne says, Terri told Glenn that a girlfriend of his was headed for a car wreck that Terri prevented through meditation.
After Glenn’s wedding, his mother and father felt that Terri kept him on too tight a leash. If Glenn was at his mother’s house for half an hour, Terri would be on the phone telling him to come home or out in their driveway honking her car horn. Glenn occasionally complained that he was having difficulties shedding his religious background: "You don’t realize how strongly these things are ingrained in you when you’re young."
In late 1976, Glenn’s mother later would testify, Glenn said he wanted out of Conscious Development and his marriage to Terri. On November 24, 1976, Terri filed for what she calls a completely amicable divorce from Glenn. Five days later, he filed a waiver allowing for a speedy processing of the divorce, which was granted on January 27, 1977. Six days later, he was dead.
Terri told investigators that she found a note in her safe on February 2, apparently left there by Glenn the day before. It read:
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.
The investigating judge’s report said that Terri had called Alice Hoffman when she found Glenn’s note and that they, along with group member Ben Johnson, traveled to a cabin Glenn’s parents owned on Lake Grapevine.
There they found Glenn’s body, fully clothed and in bed. There was a foamy substance oozing from his mouth and a half-empty can of Coors beer on the dresser next to the bed. Two pills were discovered under the body. Traces of Librium and Valium were discovered in Glenn’s blood. Death was attributed to a drug overdose.
The final account of Glenn’s estate filed in Dallas County Probate Court listed only $2,565 in assets, including $1,000 in jewelry. That figure puzzled Glenn’s family. In the divorce, he had been awarded "all proceeds arriving from the jewelry business," and they understood him to have $85,000 worth of gems and metals in his house. After his funeral, Terri invited his parents over to her house and let them select some of his handiwork for themselves. There were three display suitcases full of rings to choose from.
Glenn’s mother also was puzzled by Terri’s behavior at his funeral. She might have been prejudiced, she admits, but it seemed to her that Terri was "crying and talking and then she would stop and look up at me to see my reaction. I didn’t understand it."
"Well," Terri’s lawyer would ask her at a later inquisition, "did it appear that she was grieving for Glenn?"
"I think this is what struck me," Mrs. Cooley replied. "It didn’t seem so."
Terri says she was deeply wounded by Glenn’s death. "For them to blame me for Glenn’s death is just totally awful," she says, "because I did nothing but love that man. I tried to help him as long as we were married; I tried to help him after we were divorced." She and Don Hoffman, her current husband, say they tried to talk him out of staying at the cabin by himself.
But Terri was not kind to Glenn Cooley’s memory. When she heard that Glenn’s mother might testify against her in probate court, she called Glenn’s sister and warned that any inquisition was liable to turn into a mudslinging event and that Glenn’s history of drug use was likely to come up in court.
Glenn’s death, which some people blamed on the black lords, shook the faith of some Conscious Development teachers. What came next drove many out of the group. "We were told that our blood was being poisoned" by the black lords, says Joyce Tepley. "We needed to have our blood — bloodletting — taken out of ourselves to drain the poison out." Her recollection, backed by that of several other former members, was that "Sandy got several syringes and just sterilized them and ... took blood out of whoever felt they needed to have their blood let. A little vial, as much as if you went to a doctor to get your blood tested." Terri says the bloodletting was not her idea, but Janine Schneider says that Terri "would call people on the phone and tell them that they had been poisoned and needed to have blood taken."
By mid-1978 Joyce Tepley and several of her friends were leaving Conscious Development. "I was relying on someone else’s judgment of me instead of my own judgment of what’s right and wrong, and using Terri as the ultimate authority of my life, rather than me as the ultimate authority," Ms. Tepley explains. "Once you give up your own decision-making process to someone else, however wonderful they may be, you’ve lost your integrity." At the probate trial, she summed her feelings up by saying that she believed that if she had stayed with the group she could have lost control of her life or her property.
As other members of the group defected, Sandy Cleaver grew more loyal to Terri. Terri said Devereaux had been taken over, that she was "a great powerful negative being" who was attacking her, Janine Schneider recalls. Joyce Tepley — who noted that her colleagues thought Devereaux deserved prayers, not punishment, because the evil spirits weren’t her fault — said Sandy told her that Devereaux "was trying to get her, do some nasty things to her, deviate the energy." Sandy put two Egyptian totems under Devereaux’s bed: a crook and a flail, both symbols of protection.
Other members of the group balked at the notion that Terri was undergoing what she called "pain and agony" at the hands of the black lords, ostensibly taking on punishment for her students, who would not be able to bear the pain. But Sandy believed it. Thinking that Terri would be helped by powerful jewelry — a gem’s power was proportionate to its value — she gave Terri pieces from her fine collection. One exotic piece, Chuck Cleaver recalls, included several diamonds. Terri kept it for some time, he says, and returned it telling Sandy that the stones in it were worthless. Sandy sued the jeweler who had set the diamonds, charging him with making a substitution. She never even thought that Terri might have made a switch. Indeed, she asked a neighbor if she could rent a dazzling ruby bracelet for Terri, saying that Terri needed the power of the stones for "psychosurgery." The neighbor declined to help with the operation.