A former follower of the Heaven's Gate cult apparently killed himself in the desert of western Arizona, wearing dark clothes like the 39 cult members who committed suicide last year near San Diego.
Charles Edward Humphrey's body was found Tuesday in a small tent near Ehrenberg, a small town just across the Colorado River from Blythe, Calif., said Lt. Don Davis, a spokesman for the La Paz County Sheriff's Department.
His head was sealed in a plastic bag with pipes running to a car's exhaust pipe and a tank marked "carbon dioxide," Davis said.
Suicide was the likely cause, but nothing has been ruled out, said Mike Downing, an investigator with the medical examiner's office in Pima County, where Humphrey's body was taken for autopsy.
Next to Humphrey in the tent was a purple shroud, an item found with the cult members who killed themselves March 27, 1997, in a mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, a posh San Diego suburb. He was wearing black sweatpants and a black T-shirt with a patch on the sleeve saying "Heaven's Gate Away Team," Davis said.
Humphrey had served as spokesman for a group of former Heaven's Gate members who called themselves the Away Team and staged a public showing of a videotape by Marshall Herff Applewhite, the cult's leader who perished at the mansion.
A note next to Humphrey said "Do not revive" and had two phone numbers to contact his daughter, who lives in the Los Angeles area, Davis said. There also was a personal note for the daughter, Davis said.
Humphrey carried a $5 bill and four quarters, similar to the money Heaven's Gate members had on them in the mass suicide.
Formed by Applewhite in the early 1970s, the Heaven's Gate cult followed a bizarre theology of Christianity and UFOs. The cultists who killed themselves last year left videotaped messages saying they were shedding their bodies which they called "containers" for a trip to a "level beyond human" aboard a spaceship trailing the Hale-Bopp comet.
Humphrey, of Denver, unsuccessfully attempted suicide two months later in a hotel room a few miles from the Rancho Santa Fe mansion by taking alcohol and phenobarbital. Wayne Cooke, of Las Vegas, died but authorities saved Humphrey.
Afterward, Humphrey told the Contra Costa Times, "I still don't want to be here. I have no plans to go out and do this. However, I also have no plans to stay on this planet until the vehicle dies of old age."
On a page posted on the World Wide Web, Humphrey said he met cult co-founders Applewhite and Bonnie Lu Nettles Trusdale in 1975 and was converted from family man to follower.
Trusdale, also known as Ti to Applewhite's Do, died in 1985 of cancer.
"Now, according to this world and all of what it measures sanity by, I am definitely, 100 percent just as crazy as those two people," wrote Humphrey, whose cult name is Rkkody, pronounced Rick-o-de.
The doctrines of Heaven's Gate blended science ficton with New Age mysticism, borrowing some terms from the popular Star Trek TV series. The "Away Team," for instance, is a fixture of Star Trek missions.
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