By Joe O’Hara
In reading through the comments on the various posts about Kristin Snyder that have recently appeared in Frank Report, I was reminded about one aspect of the case that has got scant attention over the years: the two “special investigators” that Keith Raniere hired to track down the real story of Kristin’s disappearance.
To put this aspect of the Kristin Snyder story into the proper context, let’s review some of the “key dates” of that story in chronological order:
Kristin Snyder and Heidi Clifford entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2001.
At the time, that was about the most that a lesbian couple could do in order to declare themselves a “couple” to the world. It wasn’t until May 17, 2004 that Massachusetts legalized same-sex couple marriages.
Kristin had moved to Alaska in 1999 to be with Heidi, a woman she had met when she was running her own ecological consulting firm.
Once in Alaska, Kristin quickly became enamored with all the numerous outdoor opportunities the area offered. She became a member of the Anchorage Nordic Ski Patrol – and became qualified in survival training and avalanche rescue.
It was an ESP student that Kristin met in Anchorage who first told her about the group and its classes.
Kristin started out with a couple of weekend classes that cost $1,000 each.
She took her first 16-day intensive course in Anchorage in November 2002. It cost $7,000.
Shortly after completing that course, she visited her family in Dillon, SC.
After a 3-day stay with her family, Kristin traveled to Albany, NY – where she took a couple of Ethos classes at night and was apparently being privately tutored by Keith Raniere during the day.
Upon returning to Alaska, Kristin immediately joined the $7,000 16-day intensive that was scheduled to start then.
It was this second intensive – which was being held at the Westmark Hotel in Anchorage – in which Kristin became disruptive and was asked to leave.
Kristin left the hotel during the afternoon of February 6, 2003 – and was driven to the home she shared with Heidi Clifford by Elaine Smiloff.
She was never seen again.
Her entire involvement with ESP lasted less than 5 months – from sometime in October of 2002 through February 6, 2003.
Though her body had not been found, memorial services were held for the then 35-year-old Kristin in February 2003 at Resurrection Bay. The next month, a Catholic mass was celebrated in her honor on Dillon, SC.
Although the story of Kristin Snyder was well known within the NXIVM/ESP community, it only became known to a broader audience when Dennnis Yusko wrote a story about her in the February 1, 2004 edition of The Albany Times Union, entitled an Espian’s Brief Life..
And that’s when Raniere kicked things into high gear to come up with an alternative explanation for Kristin’s disappearance and presumed death.
My Role as a Consultant for NXIVM/ESP
I was originally hired as a Consultant by NXIVM/ESP for the three month period from October 1, 2003 through December 31, 2003 (This was shortly after the Ross lawsuit had been initiated and just before the Forbes magazine article was published). That period of work was later extended for an additional 12 months.
My main role was to identify and recruit people who could help Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman resolve various issues concerning their NXIVM/ESP business operation.
When they were unhappy that their attorney had not been able to obtain a Preliminary Injunction in the Ross case – and wanted to hire another law firm to take over the case – I went out and recruited Nolan & Heller, one of the top business litigation firms in Albany, NY to take on that task.
When they wanted to resolve Raniere’s unpaid CBI-related debt to the Office of the New York State Attorney General without getting into more trouble and having to pay additional penalties and interest, I went out and recruited Doug Rutnik, a local lobbyist and longtime Democratic operative, to handle that task.
When they wanted to hire a public relations firm to start having positive stories about NXIVM/ESP appear in local and national publications, I went out and recruited Public Strategies, Inc. (PSI), a public relations and crisis management firm where Ann Richards, the former governor of Texas, was a Senior Adviser (After interviewing a delegation of PSI staff, Raniere chose not to hire that firm – and, instead, hired a different public relations firm).
Over the course of the 15 months that I worked as a consultant for NXIVM/ESP, they hired many of the individuals and companies that I suggested. Accountants, lawyers, lobbyists, political operatives, private investigators, etc. But none of them had anything to do with Kristin Snyder.
How I Became Involved in the Kristin Snyder Story
Although I had heard rumblings about a student who had committed suicide in Alaska, I was never tasked to do anything about that matter.
In fact, the only involvement I had concerning Kristin Snyder came about when I received a panicky phone call from Kathy Russell one Monday morning in February 2004.
Having recently read Dennis Yusko’s story about Kristin’s involvement with NXIVM/ESP – and the strange circumstances surrounding her disappearance a year earlier – I had already started thinking about who I might approach if I was asked to find someone to investigate the matter.
But when I went to meet with Kathy in her super-secure office at 455 New Karner Road on that same Monday, I found out that Raniere had already interviewed – and hired – two “special investigators” to look into Kristin’s disappearance.
What Kathy was panicked about is that Keith had ordered Clare Bronfman to send out two $250,000 wire transfers over the weekend – one each to the two “special investigators”.
When I asked to see a copy of the contract that had been signed, I was told that no such document existed. It was just a “handshake deal”.
When I asked to see a copy of whatever materials the “special investigators” had presented to Keith to secure the job, I was told that no such materials existed.
All I was told was that these two “special investigators” had been hired to look into Kristin Snyder’s disappearance – and that Kathy was worried that Clare’s two large wire transfers might get “flagged” by the Feds (They didn’t).
Although I was never tasked to work on the matter, I did hear – over the course of the next few months – bits and pieces of what the two “special investigators” had discovered about Kristin Snyder.
Supposedly, her cell phone was still being used to make and receive calls.
Supposedly, her credit cards were being used in various locations in several states.
Supposedly, a photograph had been taken of her at some location out west.
It was only when the two “special investigators” presented an invoice for an additional $175,000+ that I was asked to get involved.
At that point, I spoke to both guys – one of whom lived in Los Angeles and the other of whom lived in Boston (At least that’s my recollection).
One of them definitely claimed to be an ex-CIA Officer – and I think the other guy claimed to be an ex-Police Captain or something like that.
They didn’t share much information about their findings with me – but did indicate that they would not turn over “all the evidence” they had uncovered about Kristin Snyder unless they got the additional $175,000+.
The “bottom line” is that I don’t think Raniere ever paid them the additional money.
I also don’t know if the “special investigators” ever turned over “all the evidence” to Raniere.
Why Did NXIVM/ESP Wait a Year Before Hiring Private Investigators to Look Into Kristin Snyder’s Disappearance?
When I asked why NXIVM/ESP had waited so long to hire someone to look into Kristin Snyder’s disappearance – and why, when they did so, they had hired what appeared to me to be a couple of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants guys – I was immediately shut down by both Raniere and Nancy Salzman.
Later, I received an in-person reprimand from Nancy for questioning Keith’s motivations and strategies.
Didn’t I know he was the smartest man in the world – and the man with the highest ethics?
Didn’t I understand that whatever plan-of-action he chose had to be the correct one?
All I could think of was how dumb it had been to wait more than a year to start looking for a missing person.
Eventually, the story started circulating throughout NXIVM/ESP that Kristin had gotten into a dispute with some local drug dealers in Anchorage – and had faked her suicide and gone into hiding to avoid them.
At that same time, the stories about her cell phone still being used – and her credit cards still being used – were circulated widely.
Additional pictures of her were described but never shared.
One in particular – which purportedly shows Heidi Clifford with a woman who looks a lot like Kristin in the Grand Canyon – has recently been shared with Frank Report.
Eventually, Kristin Snyder’s name just faded away in the NXIVM lexicon.
Until, of course, Frank Parlato set about to find out what happened to Kristin – and the other missing women of NXIVM.
Now, people who may have been involved in Kristin’s disappearance are being called out by name on the Frank Report – and asked to come forward and tell what they know about her disappearance.
People like Ed Kinum, Esther Chiappone Carlson, Nina Cowell, Karen Abney – and still others that will be mentioned in future posts.
Will they do so?
Will the FBI re-open this “cold case” – and track down what really happened to Kristin Snyder?
Time will tell…
I personally do not believe that Kristin Snyder committed suicide – at least not in the manner that the Alaskan State Police concluded that she did. I think it’s much more likely that she was perceived as a problem and eliminated – either bought out or rubbed out by Raniere and Salzman.
I have more information concerning the two “special investigators” that Raniere hired a year after Kristin’s disappearance to find out what happened to her.
Unfortunately, that information is buried in the nine banker boxes of my materials that are still in the possession of Toni Natalie’s erstwhile attorney.
But I am happy to report some “good news” on that front.
After being provided with a copy of the property receipt that the NYS Police created when they turned over our property to Mike Grygiel, it has now been conclusively proven that Toni’s materials consisted of two manila folders – and that both of those manila folders were properly labeled as to their contents, thus making them very easy to identify.
Based on this new information coming to light, I am hopeful that all my materials will be back in my possession very soon. Whenever that happens, I will share whatever other information I find in those boxes about the two “special investigators”.