Despite Toni Natalie’s near herculean efforts to prevent me from meeting Jonnie Snyder and her daughter, Kim, I met them at their home in Dillon, South Carolina on Tuesday.
Susan Dones and Heidi Hutchinson were with me.
The purpose of our meeting was to investigate the disappearance of Kristin Marie Snyder who went missing more than 16 years ago.
The reason Natalie did not want me to meet with the Snyders is a little unclear. Toni had told me Kim Snyder was mentally retarded and Jonnie was too old and just wanted to forget.
Jonnie Snyder’s daughter, Kristin, was ejected from a Nxivm class on February 6, 2003. A Nxivm member named Elaine Smiloff picked Kristin up at the Westmark Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska – where the Nxivm classes were being held – and took Kristin to her home in Anchorage.
She was never seen again.
Kristin Snyder left the Westmark Hotel were Nxivm classes were being held on Feb. 6, 2002 and was never seen again. That was a Thursday afternoon. The following evening, police found Kristin’s vehicle, a Toyota pickup, in Seward, Alaska – some 2.5 hours’ drive away. There was a suicide note inside the vehicle but Kristin was never found. She was 35 years old.
We met at the Snyder’s 1890s era farmhouse in rural Dillon. The home has been in Jonnie’s family since it had been built. It was large and elegant, and the farm fields were leased to a farmer who did the planting. This year it had been soybeans. All around the rural countryside were November cotton fields.
I was astonished when I saw Jonnie, for I had been told by Toni that she was quite elderly and nearly out of it. Instead, I met an attractive, youthful-looking, well-spoken southern lady, a widow, a devout Christian. A thoughtful person who spoke carefully and articulately.
She was fairly recently widowed. Her husband Robert, a former career Marine, religious teacher, and professor, had died almost four years ago.
Jonnie was keenly interested to learn, if she could, what happened to her daughter.
“What a liar Toni is,” I thought to myself when I met Jonnie and we chatted on her couch in her comfortable family room looking at pictures of her long-missing daughter. She read aloud a poem written by Kristin – about being saved by Jesus Christ – written when she was 20.
Jonnie also showed me Kristin’s diary – including pages for January 26, 2003, 11 days before she disappeared. In it, she mentions the Nxivm intensive she started that day.
I found out a lot about Kristin during our visit, including the days she spent with her mother, father and sister – a last weekend – the last time they were to meet – on January 16-18, 2002.
I found out also – thanks to help from Susan Dones and others I interviewed- that Kristin left the family farmhouse in Dillon, and went to Albany New York. It was there she met the man who may have been responsible for her disappearance – Keith Alan Raniere, the fiunder and leader of Nxivm.
Susan Dones happened to be in Albany at the time and she ran into Kristin at Nxivm headquarters on New Karner Road. They had first met in Alaska at a previous intensive they both attended in November 2002.
[A Nxivm intensive is a more than 12-hour class day which runs consecutively from 5- 16 straight days, where the Nxivm curriculum is taught.]
Kristin said she loved her first 16-day Nxivm intensive so much that she planned to take a second one in February. She had come to Albany, in between [just after visiting her parents and sister], because she wanted to visit the “mother ship”, she told Susan.
Nxivm was headquartered in Albany.
While there, Kristin planned to take more, shorter classes called Ethos, Susan told me.
Susan also said that Kristin seemed cheerful and completely stable – like she was when she first met Kristin in Alaska – and nothing like she was described to be in the days leading up to her disappearance in Alaska.
Susan was there the first day Kristin arrived in Albany and Susan left that day, so they only met once in Albany.
Apparently, from Albany – after spending no more than a week there – Kristin went back to Anchorage, where she lived with her domestic partner, Heidi Clifford, and, on January 26, along with Heidi and Heidi’s mother, Kristin began her second 16-day Nxivm intensive.
She was to be ejected on day 11 – and, as we know, was never seen again.
Kristin Snyder had a relatively short career as a student of Nxivm.
I was able to pinpoint at least one of the dates of Kristin’s first 16-day intensive in Alaska. Susan recalled that an earthquake occurred while they were there. That was the Denali Earthquake which occurred on November 3, 2002. Since Susan was only there for the first five days of the intensive, that meant Kristin would have started her Nxivm classes no earlier than October 30, and completed her first 16-day Nxivm intensive no later than November 19.
Kristin’s life as a student in Nxivm lasted a little more than three months, before she would disappear, after being ejected from a Nxivm intensive – for behavior that was said by several sources to be erratic and unstable.
Yet, in mid-January, on the day she arrived in Albany, she appeared to be stable and cheerful. Did something happen to her in Albany that set her spiraling out of control?
In Dillon, yesterday, I also met Kim Snyder in person – this bright, friendly woman – with a great sense of humor – sister to Kristin – is anything but mentally retarded [like Natalie said]. She’s had her share of trouble, including a serious but successful bout with cancer and, of course, losing her older sister who was also her closest friend.
It became clear that Natalie lied about this family. As I spoke with them, I found a possible motive: Toni did not want me to investigate the Kristin Snyder disappearance. She evidently wanted to tell the story herself, her way, in her book, and on a podcast she plans to begin broadcasting at some point in time.
To keep the Snyders away from me, Toni told them, among other things, that I would tell their story wrong, something Toni actually did in her book. Toni got it wrong in her book, a crucial mistake that upset the family.
Toni wrote that, while Kristin was in Alaska, during the time she was taking the second intensive, she called the family, “raving maniacally”, saying she was responsible for the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated in space on February 1, 2003.
Toni decided that it was a nice touch for her book, but that phone call never happened.
Jonnie explained that, if Kristin had called her, and told her she was responsible for the Columbia disaster, she would have flown up to Alaska that very day to ensure her daughter was hospitalized and got treatment.
The truth, I learned, was that Kristin did call her mother. She sounded fine. During that last phone call, Kristin asked her mom about a Halloween when she was a child and whether she correctly recalled what costumes she and her sister wore. Jonnie confirmed that her recollection was correct.
Jonnie did not think anything much about the call at the time. Kristin was often inquisitive and regularly called her mother. When Kristin said goodbye she said, as she usually did, “I love you,” then added, “I really, really love you.”
In retrospect, Jonnie told me, perhaps she might have thought more about the last part where Kristin said, “I really, really love you,” but how was she to know that these were the very last words her daughter would ever say to her?
What Happened to Kristin Snyder?
There are several theories.
The State of Alaska says she is a presumptive suicide. It has to be “presumptive” since her body was never found.
The State of Alaska says Kristin drove her pickup to Seward, and parked it on Beach Drive, in front of Miller’s Landing – a summer camping resort. She wrote a suicide note, left it in her truck, stole a kayak from Miller’s, paddled out into the cold February waters of Resurrection Bay, deliberately tipped the kayak and drowned.
No one ever found the body, or the kayak, or the paddle despite searching extensively for several days.
This failing to find the body led to other, unofficial theories. The Nxivm version – the story they told students for years – was that Kristin faked her own death and escaped to a new life somewhere. She was fleeing the law and/or the drug cartels.
Kristin was not known to have used drugs or sold them, and those who knew Kristin say the theory is ridiculous.
I developed another theory, about two years ago – which was that Kristin may not have committed suicide. Perhaps she had been murdered. Or, if she did commit suicide, she got plenty of prompting to do so – prompting by those connected to Nxivm, maybe first and foremost, prompted by Raniere himself.
This is why I was in Dillon. To try to find out.
I was not there to learn more about Toni Natalie, but I did learn [or at least a previous notion was reinforced] that Toni lies consistently, constantly; that all she knows how to do it seems is lie; a grifter by heart and by occupation – seeking small or large gains over people by lying to them – which is precisely what a grifter is. And, in her capacity as a grifter, she almost succeeded in keeping the Snyders from meeting me.
For months, they had declined to meet me and it was only a series I wrote about Toni exposing her many lies in her book – and the Snyders reading the dreadful lie Toni told about them and Kristin in her book – that prompted Kim to call me recently. This led to our meeting.
So while Toni did her best to keep us apart, it was, in fact, Toni Natalie that brought us together.
Who Can Help?
Almost all sources agree that after Kristin left Albany and began her second intensive, she began to spiral out of control. She started the intensive on January 26 and by early February, she was acting increasingly erratically.
On day 11 of the intensive, she was causing a commotion in class and Esther Carlson Chiappone and Ed Kinnum, who were running the intensive, threw her out of class.
Instead of sending her for medical treatment, Esther called Elaine Smiloff and asked her to pick Kristin up and take her home. Elaine showed up and Kristin went with her in Elaine’s car.
Kristin’s Toyota pickup was left behind at the Westmark Hotel. Kristin was dropped off at home – the home she shared with Heidi, in the late afternoon.
When the Nxivm intensive ended in the evening, Heidi – who I spoke with on numerous occasions – went outside to get the Toyota in the parking lot to drive home. It was not there. So, she got a ride home. The Toyota pickup truck wasn’t in the driveway either. She went into the house. No one was home.
Somehow, Kristin disappeared from her home and somehow the pickup truck disappeared from the Westmark Hotel.
Then she knew, she said, that something was wrong.
Before we conclude Part 1 of this series, I will share with you what Elaine Smiloff told me by phone on August 7, 2017.
Elaine was the last person known to have seen Kristin alive. It was this phone call that made me think Kristin Snyder was murdered – or led to suicide deliberately.
She told me a lot about that fateful ride – which we will go into in a later post, but she added this important point.
Elaine said, “This has been on my conscience for 15 years. I never told anybody. But when I drove her home, Kristin was deeply upset, and acting irrationally – upset and not knowing what to do about it. She kept saying, ‘Can I go through with it?’ She was irrational to the point where I don’t think she could have driven all the way from Anchorage to Seward in the cold February snow in the night. Here’s the thing, she kept saying ‘Can I go through with it?’ Kristin Snyder told me she was pregnant and Keith Raniere was the father.”
Elaine thought the “Can I go through with it?” meant, could she have the baby?
Was this a motive for her murder?
Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will discuss the six people who likely know more about the disappearance of Kristin Snyder and who have all refused to talk to me. They are Keith Raniere, Nancy Salzman, Esther Carlson Chiappone, Ed Kinnum, Karen Abney, and Nina Cowell.
And we will discuss what each of them likely knows.
In Part 3, we will discuss whether or not Kristin told others in the Nxivm class that she was pregnant with Keith’s baby and that this was the real disruption – and whether this might have been a motive – at the time – for Keith Raniere to take a life.