If ever circumstantial evidence pointed to one woman having a hand in the disappearance of another woman, it is Nina Cowell.
She attended the last Nxivm intensive with Kristin Snyder, the one from which Kristin disappeared.
Nina was one of her coaches, guiding Kristin on her “issues” concerning her relationship with her spouse, Heidi Clifford.
Nxivm teaches that marriage or monogamous relationships are a form of weakness and attachment, a crutch – and often sought to break people up – all the more so if the woman happened to be slender and attractive – and could be squired to private mentoring sessions with Nxivm sex cult leader Keith Raniere.
Raniere is now in federal custody awaiting sentencing for sex trafficking, racketeering, and other federal crimes.
Almost 17 years ago, Nina Cowell was advising Kristin Snyder during the last few days of Kristin’s attendance in a Nxivm class – from which she left on February 6, 2003 and was never seen again – that her relationship with Heidi was a “disintegration,” a Nxivm term for a problem that needed to be solved in order to obtain a higher level of understanding and consciousness.
This teaching had the twin purpose of advancing Nxivm teachings – which was to break up couples anyway – and, in Kristin’s case, because she was, amazingly, claiming in class that she was pregnant with Raniere’s child – and feeling guilty because she betrayed her spouse by having sex with him.
If Nina, following orders from Nxivm president Nancy Salzman, could persuade Kristin that she really did not have a valid relationship with Heidi, it might serve to quiet her down and get her to accept the fact that, if Keith seduced her, it was no big deal.
Nina was following orders and the overarching order was to gaslight Kristin. Get her so mixed up, dazed, and confused that nobody would believe her when she said she was pregnant with Raniere’s child.
This is what it was about: A group of Nxians trying to unhinge Kristin Snyder – make it appear she was insane. The result was that the already troubled and guilt-stricken woman went deeper and deeper into her spiraling descent that led to her disappearance.
The classes were in Anchorage, Alaska, at the Westmark Hotel. Esther Chiappone was one of two Head Teachers.
Esther was a woman who had slept with Raniere after he seduced her by telling her she would be his monogamous girlfriend. She soon found out he had a harem and, though deeply upset – she refused to join his harem – she remained in Nxivm as a teacher and recruiter and was making good money as a consequence.
Ironically, it was Esther who was leading the on-the-ground gaslighting efforts, telling Kristin that Keith would never sleep with a woman – he was celibate – and trying to get Kristin to think she was imagining that she had sex with Keith.
Esther was lying to her and to the class that Keith was celibate. Esther told the class to ignore what Kristin said about being pregnant. Kristin was just seeking attention, she said.
Of course, Esther knew better.
Then there was Ed Kinum, the other Head Trainer for this class. Even though he is a health professional – a chiropractor – and even though he knew (or should have known) that Kristin needed psychiatric help, he did nothing. Participating in the gaslighting, he ignoring Kristin’s need for medical attention.
Then there was Nina Cowell, counseling Kristin that her relationship with Heidi was invalid.
All the while, Kristin was crying out, trying to get anyone to listen that she did indeed have sex with Keith. She was not imagining this. She thought she was pregnant, she, a lesbian woman in a committed relationship, had gone to Albany for a visit and met Keith. He told her he could help her and wound up seducing her [possibly raping her].
Now she was back in Alaska taking the Nxivm class with students who were told Raniere was a celibate, and teachers who knew he wasn’t.
Finally, probably because Kristin would not stop claiming Keith had sex with her, and she thought she was pregnant, Nancy Salzman, keeping in contact with Esther from Albany, ordered Esther to remove Kristin from class.
[Maybe Kristin was pregnant. Keith and Nancy undoubtedly considered this. That would be trouble. At the least, it would destroy the burgeoning Alaska Nxivm center. If it got out at other centers – and back to Albany – the cult’s headquarters – it could destroy the mission. What was one human life – and her unborn child – worth compared to the Nxivm mission? Keith Raniere was to declare some six years later on a video that, “I’ve had people killed for my beliefs and for theirs.” Maybe Kristin Snyder’s belief got her killed.]
On February 6, 2003, Esther called Nxivm member Elaine Smiloff, who came in her car, picked up Kristin, and drove the distressed woman home. They left around 4 pm.
On the trip home, Kristin cried about being pregnant and said she did not know what to do.
Elaine dropped her off; those were her orders – drop her off – alone in the house. Don’t stay. Leave the raving woman home alone with no transportation.
Meantime, back in class, Esther told Heidi Clifford, who was also attending the class, that Elaine was going to stay with Kristin until the intensive was over and Heidi came home to her spouse.
When the intensive ended – at about 7 pm, Heidi went to the parking lot of the Westmark Hotel to get the Toyota pickup truck she shared with Kristin. It was gone.
But Kristin had been driven home. Who took the pickup truck?
Heidi got a ride home. Kristin wasn’t there. The pickup truck wasn’t there either.
Heidi had a feeling, a suspicion, or intuition, or something, that Kristin might have gone to Seward, Alaska to Resurrection Bay, a place she loved. It is about 2.5 hours away.
Heidi assumed Kristin must have somehow got the truck, although she did not know how Kristin did so.
Heidi reported Kristin as a missing person and told authorities that she was possibly suicidal.
The following evening, Friday, Feb. 7, 2003, at about 9:20 pm, Kristin’s vehicle was located by Alaska State Troopers in Seward, on Lowell Point, near the Millers Landing resort. The passenger side door was locked. The driver’s side door was open with a key still in the door lock. Two handwritten notes on two separate note pads ware observed resting on the passenger seat.
The notes inside the vehicle suggested that Snyder was planning to commit suicide. The second note simply read “No need to search for my body.”
Police interviewed Sherry Miller of Millers Landing. She told police she did not observe anyone or anything in the past few days. Her husband, Mike, told police he did not observe anyone around the vehicle. He thought he noticed the truck parked in front of their residence on Thursday morning [when Kristin was still in the Nxivm class].
Miller thought he observed the truck to have moved once during the day.
The next closest cabin was a few hundred feet away.
The Millers provided the name of the cabin owner [or tenant], a one Nina Cowell, who had the cabin just north of Miller’s Landing.
How coincidental it was, that the woman who owned/rented the cabin next door to where Kristin’s truck was found was a woman who happened to be in the same intensive as Kristin and was coaching her too.
Alaska State Trooper Jeff Evanoff called Nina Cowell from Seward at 11:31 pm.
According to the police report, when contacted by police, Cowell told them that: “she knew Snyder and they have been friends since June 2O02. Cowell saw K. Snyder last night, 02/06/03, at about 1600 hours at the Westmark Hotel in Anchorage. Cowell said a bunch of them were there in a group and she believed Snyder left to attend a performance at the Performing Arts Center (PAC). Cowell said that Snyder did not seem quite right during the past few days. Cowell stated she needed to excuse herself and make some telephone calls to some friends and asked If she could call the Troopers back.”
She never called them back.
The police report continues: “l telephoned APD [Anchorage Police Department] and provided them with the information about Snyder and Cowell. APD Lt Honeman called the Seward AST [Alaska State Trooper] office and I spoke with him regarding Cowell and her reluctance to speak with AST about Snyder. LI. Honeman stated he would have an officer contact Cowell.”
It is not known if police ever contacted Cowell. I could find no report of any further contact with the evasive woman.
Then commenced a major search for Kristin Snyder.
The report continues, “Myself [Evanoff] and Trooper Zabaia returned to the Lowed Point area and continued a ground search of the area. Cowell’s cabin was checked again as well as the surrounding wooded areas and shorelines. Efforts again met with negative results. I contacted Sgt. Anderson and advised him of the details of the case. The United States Coast Guard was contacted and informed of the case. A Search and Rescue was planned to begin the following morning, 02/08/03.”
The following morning, Mike and Sherry Miller of Millers Landing discovered a kayak was missing from their collection of kayaks at their resort – which was closed for the winter. People normally did not kayak in February in Alaska.
This led police to assume that Kristin had taken the kayak and paddled off into Resurrection Bay to kill herself.
It’s hard to imagine a more thorough search was conducted for anyone in the history of missing persons in and around Seward.
Not only were the official agencies involved, but dozens of Kristin’s friends from her Nordic Ski Patrol club came to Seward to help search for her. All of them had training – as did Kristin herself – in search and rescue operations.
According to the Alaska State Police Report:
“On 2-8 and 2-9 a large search effort was conducted in and around Resurrection Bay. The search consisted of Alaska State Troopers, Seward area fire/EMS volunteers, the U.S. Coast Guard, Forest Service law enforcement, the Seward Police Department, the Civil Air Patrol, and friends of Snyder’s, many of whom were part of an organized search and rescue team as part of the Nordic Ski Club.
“After two full days of active searching, no sign of Kristen Snyder was located. The organized search effort was curtailed after that with only a planned C.A.P. flight of the outer bay beaches … an aerial search of the western shoreline of Resurrection Bay Including Tonsina Point, Cajnes Head, Carsto Head, the Bear Glacier beach and Bulldog Cove … We also did an aerial search of the Fox Island shoreline and landed and checked the cabins at the Fox Island Resort. We picked up two dog handlers and their dogs at the summit of Caines Head and returned to the Seward airport.
“We did not find any sign of Snyder. The dog handlers said that the only clue they had found was a set of recent footprint near the Calisto Cabin at Derby Cove.
“[The US Coast Guard cutter] Mustang …searched cabins and shoreline in Thumb Cove and Humpy Cove…. the Coast Guard … insert[ed] ground search teams using Helo 1 [Helicopter] to more thoroughly search likely landing spots and cabins. A volunteer landing craft … insert[ed] search teams to check remote landing sites. …
“Helo 1 … use[d] volunteers from the Anchorage Nordic Ski Patrol and insert[ed] them onto beaches in Thumb Cove, south beach of Caines Head and the beach at Bear Glacier… [to] … search for clues.”
The search was intense.
There were shoreline searches – and ground teams went to Porcupine Cove and Bulldog Cove and conducted a ground search. The Coast Guard Cutter Mustang searched Kayaker’s Cove, the eastern shoreline of Resurrection Bay to Cape Resurrection,. and Ragged and Fox islands.
The USCG helicopter searched the western shore of Resurrection Bay to the tip of Cape Aialik, around the cape and into Aialik Bay.
The Civil Air Patrol conducted a shoreline search around the tip of Cape Resurrection and ground searchers hiked the trail from Lowell Point to Tonsina Point.
The Mustang searched Sunny Cove, Bear Glacier beach, Porcupine Cove, Bulldog Cove, Thumb Cove, Agnes Bay. Areas were searched on foot, and then the craft went to Thumb Cove for a second look at private cabins. No sign of Snyder was found at any location.
According to the police report, “Experienced kayakers on this search effort expressed the opinion that based on the sea conditions near the tip of Aialik Cape, that it was unlikely that a kayak could have rounded either Aiailik or Resurrection Capes during the past few days.
The police report continues:
“The team went to Thumb Cove and searched the shoreline, woods and private cabins with no results. A second team went to the south beach of Caines Head and searched with no results. A third team went to the beach at the outlet of Bear Glacier and searched with negative results. Review of the search efforts showed that the Caines Head team had not checked the southern end of the trail to the fort site and the camping spot and the south beach. Helo 1 did not detect anything during its flights….
“The CAP [Civil Air Patrol] flew a grid search at 500 to 700 feet aver Resurrection Bay from Fox Island north, with leg spacing of 5 miles. They reported very good visibility on the surface and no clues found.
“The Mustang started its search at Kayaker Cove and searched private cabins there. It went on with the cutter and small boat to search the sandspit on Fox Island, the east side of Resurrection Bay to Cape Resurrection and Barwell Island, around Ragged Island to Fox Island and a search of the cabin in Sunny Cove. It then conducted a grid search of the surface of the bay from Fox Island back to Seward. It found no clues….
“At dusk, a helicopter flew a shoreline search of Cape Aialik with negative results.
“A team of ground searchers walked from Lowell Point lo Tonsina Point, and searched extensively there, with negative results…”
Some believe if there had been a body or a kayak or a paddle, it would have been found. But nothing, no trace of Kristin Snyder was discovered, which led her sister, Kim Snyder, to declare, “The crime scene was not at Resurrection Bay.”
Back to Nina Cowell
Perhaps, if it ended here, with Nina Cowell merely lying to Alaska State Police about Kristin going to the Performing Arts Center – when she knew Kristin was in no condition to attend a concert – then cutting her interview short because she had to call friends – maybe it would be as simple as Nina was lying to protect Nxivm.
The fact that Nina happened to have a cabin right next to where Kristin’s truck was found could be a coincidence.
[The fact that Mike Miller of Millers Landing thought he saw Kristin’s pickup truck at Millers Landing while Kristin was still in the intensive could be his mistake.]
We know Kristin was never found.
Within a few weeks, however, Nina Cowell left Alaska where she lived for years. She moved to Albany – headquarters of Nxivm – to work for Nxivm.
She was a student in Alaska. Now she was leaving home and going to Albany to work for the cult.
Nina was offered by Nancy Salzman an opportunity to run the Nxivm Café – to own and operate it.
The small café was located inside their headquarters at 455 New Karner Road in Colonie, a suburb of Albany, where the main Nxivm classes were held.
It’s hard to say how profitable that would be by itself, but Nina took the new position and ran the cafe. It is not known how much she was paid or how much the profits were from the operation.
But there was more than that.
Nancy also offered Nina a free residence to live in. A nice home in Clifton Park, all hers and no rent to pay.
Yes, Nina was being well taken care of.
There was one more thing to sweeten the deal: Nancy Salzman gave Nina a “loan” of $50,000 which Nina never had to pay back.
Let’s call it what it is – a gift – of $50,000.
Those who know Raniere and Salzman know they do not often make gifts or loans. Generous they aren’t. The flow of money always goes from student to them, not vice versa.
Let’s look at circumstantial evidence
Her pickup truck disappears.
Nina happens to have a cabin a few hundred feet from where Kristin’s pickup truck is found.
Nina is called by police and lies, saying Kristin went to a concert. When asked if Kristin seemed to be acting strangely, Nina admits she had, then quickly ends the call, for, at 11:31 pm, she has to call friends. [Were those friends Nancy, Esther or Ed Kinum?]
Police note that Nina was uncooperative.
Soon after Kristin’s disappearance, Nina moves to Albany and works at Nxivm headquarters operating her own business. She gets free housing and a $50,000 gift.
Maybe Nina Cowell had nothing to do with the disappearance of Kristin Snyder. Maybe these are just a series of coincidences. But, as they say in law enforcement, “enough coincidences make a fact.”
I have tried to reach Nina Cowell numerous times, but she has declined to return my calls. I had others contact her and she told them she will not talk to me.
Nina Was Part of the Nxivm 9
In 2009, Nina Cowell left Nxivm, along with Barbara Bouchey and Susan Dones. She was one of the Nxivm 9, a group of nine women who left the cult in solidarity. Nina has never spoken publicly about why she left or what she knows about Nxivm.
Unlike some of the others, Nina was never sued.
At the time she left Nxivm, she had been working for Dr. Michael Salzman, the ex-husband of Nancy Salzman and the father of Lauren and Michelle Salzman.
It is not known why Dr. Salzman hired Nina in the first place or whether it had been at the request of Nancy Salzman, Nina’s benefactor.
After Nina quit NXIVM, Keith demanded Nancy tell her ex-husband to fire Nina.
Dr. Salzman refused.
In retaliation for Dr. Salzman’s refusal to fire Nina, Keith ordered Lauren and Michelle to shun their father. As a result, Lauren and Michelle did not speak to their father again – from 2009 until at least the time Lauren was arrested for her role in the Nxivm racketeering cult in 2018.
Nancy also was ordered to shun her ex-husband and father of their children and she did.
Nina may know nothing about Kristin Snyder’s disappearance and may be totally innocent of any wrongdoing. Or she may be complicit in her disappearance.
If there was foul play, Nina probably does not know Keith’s role in masterminding the disappearance – for Keith always had his women do the front work for him.
Nina, Nancy and Esther – and maybe Ed Kinum – might have conspired to “disappear” Kristin Snyder. There may have been others. Nina might know Esther’s role – and Esther might know Nancy’s role – if there was foul play.
But only Nancy would likely know Keith’s role.
One thing is certain, however, the first person – it has been observed – on the plea deal bus always gets the best seat.
Ask Nancy Salzman, who was first in the Nxivm racketeering case.
Now might be the time for Nina to tell all she knows.
Message to Nina:
I can be reached at 716-990-5740 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you fear that you may have some legal liability regarding the disappearance of Kristin Snyder [there is no statute of limitations for murder], I can help you get legal representation.
Proper legal representation might lessen your criminal exposure and perhaps procure immunity for you – if you cooperate with law enforcement and provide truthful information.
And if you are innocent, now may be the time for you to speak on the record.