Esther Carlson Chiappone – or is it Esther Chiappone Carlson?
The comely Nxivm leader‘s maiden name is Carlson; she married Rob Chiappone and took his name, then had her name legally changed back to Carlson. For years, after her divorce, she went by Esther Chiappone and this is the name she is best known by Nxivm devotees.
It was her name when she was one of two teachers at a Nxivm intensive in Anchorage, Alaska that began on January 26, 2003 and ended on February 10, 2003.
During this intensive, on February 6, one of the students, Kristin Snyder, was ejected from class, following what was described by witnesses as a psychotic breakdown. It was Esther who insisted on her removal.
Kristin Snyder was never heard from again. She is listed as a “presumptive suicide.”
Before we get into that fateful day and its aftermath – a little history about Esther is important because it will figure into the events leading up to and including February 6.
Esther was living in Sterling, Alaska with her husband and four children when she began taking Nxivm classes in Anchorage.
She was a beautiful woman, slender, young, tall, blonde. She was vivacious and intelligent. Well-spoken and enthusiastic about the courses – which were then known as Executive Success Programs.
That she was married with children was baggage of course, according to the teachings of Keith Raniere and his Nxivm curriculum. But as Esther learned of the bright new world of executive success, she learned to rethink everything in her life.
One of the teachings in the modules is meant to get married women [and men] to rethink the value of their marriage. Students are asked to picture all the advantages that would accrue if their husband or spouse were to die.
The student is not asked to list any disadvantages that would ensue if a spouse died – just the advantages. Maybe that got Esther thinking.
In any event, she loved the first courses she took in Alaska so much she chose to go to Albany to take a 16-day intensive. There, she met the Vanguard, Keith Alan Raniere.
Most likely her being attractive piqued his interest and she was squired to him. She was already enraptured by his teachings and seeing him in the flesh – she had already concocted a vision of him – he was the smartest man in the world – he was the most ethical – a man who eschewed a fortune to serve humankind – a golden visionary – a man without a woman – because he was so dedicated to the mission of improving humankind that he had no time left for a woman consort. Who would understand him?
It’s ironic how similar the approach Raniere used to seduce so many women. The women first heard about him and his greatness – then and only then – were they brought to him – with a very much preconceived notion of his greatness.
They did not see a short, pudgy, smelly, cross-eyed pervert, they saw a genius, a lover of humankind – a divinity.
Keith told Esther he was seeking that one monogamous relationship that would make his life complete. Could it be with her? He thought it was destiny. He thought he loved her. She was meant for him.
He had perhaps more than a sexual motive. Esther was a very good salesperson. She was recruiting people into Nxivm. This was the days when Nxivm was under the radar. There had been no bad press about them then.
Esther was the kind of smart and attractive woman who could teach and bring new students in. A gold mine.
Keith wooed her. Could she not leave her husband and move away from Alaska – come hither to Albany – bring the four kids [if you must] – and be near him?. They could chalk out a life of greatness together.
Esther was the happiest she had ever been in her life. She was in love. She was about to marry the world’s smartest man, move to Albany to be near him, maybe perchance have a fifth child – an avatar baby – and most important of all – she and her lover, Keith Alan Raniere, were going to change the world [and be rich – for it was important for ethical people to control as much of the world’s wealth as possible.]
Susan Dones, a Nxivm head trainer who quit Nxivm in 2009, told me about Esther Chiappone in a recent interview, during our visit to the Snyder family in Dillon, South Carolina. Here is what Susan said:
“Esther told me she had a sexual relationship with Keith. It was in Anchorage during the intensive that Kristin Snyder attended in November 2002.
“I had known Esther for a while before that. We were students together in what was for both of us our very first intensive. Esther was led to believe Keith was attracted to her and she was attracted to him. She divorced her husband and moved her kids from Alaska to Albany, to be with Keith. Then Esther found out Keith was non-monogamous. She was not pleased. She had a reaction to that.
“Nancy Salzman and the ‘wolf pack’ [other women in Ranieres harem[ was sent in to deal with her, to keep her in line. I was at the intensive in Anchorage, in November 2002, for the first five days. This was right after Esther learned Keith was not monogamous. Esther spoke to me about it, that Keith and Nancy are not what I think they are. They are not what they pretend or claim to be.
“When Nancy found out Esther spoke to me, she became abusive to Esther. Nancy was also there for the first five days of that November 2002 Anchorage intensive Nancy was yelling, screaming at her. Esther and I had had our conversation the night before. The next day I was in the bathroom and Nancy came in in a fury asking me about my conversation with Esther. ‘What did you talk about? I need to know what you talked about.’ I think Nancy was afraid Esther was going to tell others about the promiscuous sex life of Keith Raniere.”
It is clear Esther Chiappone knew Keith was not celibate – as his students were led to believe. He was not monogamous, as some women, including her, had been told when he was trying to seduce them.
Esther found he was having sex with a harem after she relocated all the way from Alaska – uprooted her children – altered her whole life plan – based on Keith’s lie to her about being monogamous.
Salzman helped persuade Esther to stay with Nxivm and tried to persuade her to join Keith’s harem. To her credit, Esther would not join a harem where Keith could have sex with multiple women and she could only have sex with him.
She chose instead to go to the next best available man in Nxivm – and coupled with James Del Negro.
Because Esther was a good teacher and recruiter, Raniere allowed her to stay and earn money for him despite her refusing to be part of his harem. Perhaps he was afraid to cut her off since she might tell others about his sex life. But she promised to keep that a secret.
When Esther Chiappone taught the intensive in January-February 2003, the second one Kristin Snyder attended, the one she was removed from, and then disappeared, Esther knew full well that Keith was not celibate, that he enjoyed having sex with lots of women.
When Kristin Snyder started telling people that Raniere got her pregnant, Esther called Nancy and asked her what to do. Nancy probably asked Keith and a decision was made to discredit Kristin by saying Keith would never have had sex with this gay woman.
He was a celibate.
Actually, Keith had the opportunity to have had sex with Kristin and Esther knew it.
Kristin had been in Albany just days before – from about January 18 to January 25. She stayed at Esther’s house. During the days she was there, witnesses told Frank Report that Kristin left Esther’s house all day long and nobody knew where she went. She had a rental car.
It is now believed she went to Raniere, perhaps at a hotel – and that he was mentoring her with the aim of seducing her.
Esther knew Keith might have gotten Kristin Snyder pregnant. But Nancy told Esther to lie. Esther did lie and it might have led to Kristin’s death.
When she was raving, no one, not Keith, Nancy, or Esther, wanted Kristin to go to the hospital. If she told hospital staff she was pregnant, a pregnancy test might have been done and it might confirm Kristin was, in fact, pregnant.
If that news got out, it could blow up Nxivm.
On top of that, Kristin was raised in a Christian family where abortion is considered murder. What if she was pregnant and did not consent to an abortion? Keith would be exposed as having had sex with his student, a gay woman, and there would be an inconvenient child around – an albatross – to prove to the world that Keith was no celibate.
Keith, Nancy, and Esther had to act fast. There was only one thing to do – make Kristin out as insane. Everybody got together and gaslighted her.
No, she could not be pregnant. No, don’t believe a word she says. Pregnant – how could it be? Keith is a celibate. He is spiritual and so pure. You’re taking his class. You believe in him, and his teachings.
What would have happened if someone, anyone – say, Esther – had taken Kristin Snyder seriously?
“Yes Kristin, I know you’re upset. Keith had sex with you. Let’s get you some help. We’ll get through this. This was very wrong what Keith did – he’s supposed to be your teacher, not your lover. You trusted him you say? Let’s get to the bottom of this. He had sex with me too and had me uproot my children to Albany, promising me a new life with him and when I got there, after I was dependent on him for my living, I found out he was sleeping with lots of women. I understand your pain and I will try to help you.”
What if Esther had done this for Kristin Snyder?
But, no, Esther Chiappone did nothing for Kristin but lie to her and lie to others to make her look crazy.
But why not at least allow Kristin to get proper psychiatric treatment if she was, in fact, raving?
For the same reasons as above: Kristin might have been pregnant.
Besides, they may have had another, better plan cooked up to rid themselves of what was a very serious problem.
In the past, when Keith got a woman pregnant, he simply ordered her to have an abortion and the woman obeyed. Now, he had a gay woman in Alaska not part of his inner circle – who was not only perhaps unwilling to have an abortion but was telling everyone she was pregnant.
On February 6, 2002, Esther arranged to have Kristin removed from class – after telling the students she was lying about having sex with Keith and just wanted attention.
Esther said this knowing full well Keith likely had sex with the trusting, beautiful, slender Kristin Snyder – and that he likely deceived her just like he deceived Esther herself when he first seduced her.
Esther lied to the class, told them Kristin was deranged but she would get past this, this was just part of the necessary growth for her in Nxivm. It was not necessary for her to go to the hospital. She should be taken home to rest.
Esther called Elaine Smiloff, a Nxivm student, and asked her to pick up Kristin and take her home – about 8 miles away.
Elaine told me as she was driving Kristin home, “Kristin said she did not know what to do. She thought she was pregnant. Keith told her she would have a special [avatar?] baby. She did not know if she could go through with it.”
Elaine added that she did not know what Kristin meant by that last part: Did she mean ‘go through with it’ by having the child – or ‘go through with it’ by having an abortion?
Based on his record of requiring the women of his harem to have abortions, Keith would have wanted Kristin to have an abortion, if she was pregnant. If she refused, he might have tried to drive her crazy. Might have used his group, including Esther, to make her appear insane. But he had one problem. Even if she was fully discredited – and no one believed her: What if she was really pregnant?
If it got out that he had impregnated a gay woman, his student, his whole operation could be upended. People would quit. His good reputation would be tarnished. He was just recruiting wealthy heiresses and trust fund babies then – he might lose them – and some of his women would go to – for he was conning them that they were the only one. One would talk to the other and he would be outed as the fraud and the phony that he was.
How far was Keith willing to go to ensure Kristin Snyder’s silence? She has been silent ever since she left the class on February. 6, 2003.
Who were his helpers.? How far did Nancy, Esther, and others go to save the mission?
After Elaine drove Kristin home and dropped her off and left her, Kristin Snyder was never seen again.
But Kristin’s pickup truck – a vehicle she shared with her spouse, Heidi Clifford, was in the parking lot at the Westmark hotel where the Nxivm intensive was held. Kristin did not take the pickup truck when she left.
But when the intensive for the day was complete – and Heidi Clifford went outside to drive the truck home – the truck was missing.
Who took the pickup truck? How did it leave the Westmark hotel?
Where was Esther Chiappone after Kristin was removed from class? At least one student suggests that she was gone away from the class.
The truck was found the following night in Seward, Alaska, a 2.5-hour drive from Anchorage. It was parked on a road near Resurrection Bay. Inside the truck was a suicide note, written on a spiral notebook, purportedly written by Kristin.
Here are the contents of the purported suicide note:
“I attended a course called Executive Success Programs (a.k.a. Nexivm) based out of Anchorage, AK, and Albany, NY. I was brainwashed and my emotional center of the brain was killed/turned off. I still have feeling in my external skin, but my internal organs are rotting. Please contact my parents … if you find me or this note. I am sorry life, I didn’t know I was already dead. May we persist into the future,”
On another page in the notebook it read:
“No need to search for my body.”
How did the truck get to Seward? How did it leave the Westmark Hotel?
Did Kristin actually write the suicide note? Was it dictated to her?
Kristin was alone in her house in Anchorage without a vehicle. Elaine, who dropped her off, did not think Kristin would have been capable in her condition to drive to Seward on that dark February night.
The official story is that Kristin committed suicide by taking a kayak out in Resurrection Bay in Seward Alaska and tipping it over on purpose.
Her body was never found.
She was an environmental consultant in Anchorage. She was a member of the Anchorage Nordic Ski Patrol, qualified in survival training and avalanche rescue. She was an avid kayaker and a respected business person.
A few weeks after Kristin Snyder disappeared, Esther Chiappone went from Albany to Anchorage to conduct another Nxivm intensive.
Some of the students wondered what happened to Kristin Snyder and seemed to be upset.
After class one evening, Esther told students that they were all going to drive up to Seward – to take the same route that Kristin Snyder took before she “committed suicide” to try to commune with her spirit.
It was spooky said one of the women who went on that trip – a caravan of several cars.
“It seemed like Esther was trying to persuade us all that Kristin really had committed suicide.”
She said she felt her spirit and that the way officials said she died was precisely the way it happened.
But maybe way deep down, she knew better.
Stay tuned for our next in this series where we will discuss the curious and amazing role that Nina Cowell – a student in Nxivm who attended the class with Kristin Snyder -– had in Kristin’s disappearance and how Nina profited shortly after by moving herself from Alaska to Albany.