Gerald D. Krein Jr., 26, was indicted Monday on one count of solicitation to commit murder and four counts of solicitation to commit manslaughter.
Investigators discovered last week that he had encouraged women to commit suicide for five years, inviting them to die in a group at his home or while participants were all logged onto the Internet at the same time, said Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger.
Combing through old chat room records, investigators discovered that Krein had been trying to entice women across North America to commit suicide as far back as 2000, Evinger said. Krein told investigators he been in touch with 31 women, authorities said.
Krein, 26, was arrested Wednesday at his mother's home in the southern Oregon town of Klamath Falls. He moved to Oregon about a year ago from the Sacramento, California area to take care of his ailing father, Evinger said.
"The common theme is that these were women who were vulnerable, who were depressed. He invited them to engage in certain sexual acts with him — and then they were to hang themselves naked from a beam in his house," the sheriff said. "He was indicating in these chat groups to these women that he had a beam and that it would hold multiple people."
Klamath County Prosecutor Ed Caleb said that because Krein was living in a mobile home while organizing the suicide, the idea of hanging bodies from beams might indicate the plot was a fantasy.
"Because he lived in a mobile home, it's clear that he was either engaging in some kind of fantasy. Or else that he planned for it to happen somewhere else," Caleb said on Sunday.
No deaths had been found that were linked to Krein, the sheriff said, but he said he would not be surprised if someone had killed herself as a result of Krein's alleged activities.
"My concern is if he's been doing this for some time, it's my hope that he hasn't been successful — but it could turn out that he has been," he said.
Detectives learned of the Valentine's Day plan from a woman in Ontario, Canada, who said she saw a message in a Yahoo chat room that had "Suicide Ideology" in the title. Chat room participants supposedly planned to commit suicide on Valentine's Day, possibly while logged on with each other. The chat room is no longer active.
One of them was college senior Jaime Shockman, who was doing schoolwork when Krein sent an instant message to her computer.
"Do you think of suicide?" he asked. "Do you want to die with others," he went on, according to a transcript.
"I was convinced it was a joke," Shockman said, who believes the man picked her out because her screen name was KillToriSpelling. She decided it was something more sinister when Krein told her that a mother from Portland, Oregon, planned to commit suicide along with her five children.
So far, investigators have tracked down four of the women Krein was in contact with: the woman who came forward in Canada and three others living in Oregon, Missouri and Virginia.
"In the Missouri and Virginia case, he was inviting them to bring their children with them," said Evinger. "It would have been four children total."
The woman from Oregon shared a transcript of her online exchange with police. According to a copy obtained by CNN, the conversation went as follows:
Woman: How did you come up with the idea of a party? That's pretty creative.
Answer: Just did. So do you want to join?
Question: Do you want to hang?
Woman: No, gas.
The most recent chat room began in December on Yahoo, about the time Krein moved into the mobile home.
"As our computer specialists have been going through mail groups and old chat rooms and old postings and looking at some things that are in the public domain out there, it became clear that he has a history of doing this," Evinger said.