By Leo Helmar
In the waning days of 2002, Kristin Snyder became obsessed with the teachings of Keith Raniere, the leader of a self-help organization called Nxivm. In a few short months, her life was taken over by her devotion to the group, and by early February of 2003, she had vanished into the wilderness of Alaska.
Her descent into the rabbit hole universe of Nxivm reads like a fever dream version of Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. The mirror world and doublespeak of the Nxivm cult finds a perfect literary analog in Carroll’s classic tales. In Through the Looking Glass, Alice clambers through a looking glass or mirror and finds herself in a fantastical world where up is down and flowers and plants speak to her. Everything is its opposite.
On her adventure, Alice encounters the tale of the Jabberwock, a fearsome and shapeshifting creature. In later sequels, Alice battles the Jabberwock but in Through the Looking Glass, Alice discovers a book in the beginning of the story. Inside the book, she sees a poem that is written backwards. Alice realizes that if she holds the poem up to a mirror, the words are legible.
“‘Why, it’s a Looking-glass book, of course! And if I hold it up to a glass, the words will all go the right way again.’” Alice says.
The poem, “The Jabberwocky,” is notable for its use of nonsense words that are evocative but elusive in terms of their exact meaning.
“And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!”
In this analogy, Kristin is Alice and Keith is the evil metamorph, the Jabberwock. The real Keith Raniere is just an average man with an overly manicured beard. Nonetheless, he seems to possess a mystical quality of persuasion in the vein of a dastardly sorcerer in a folk tale that casts a spell that locks the princess in her castle.
The aim of this article is to lend my perspective as a 5th generation Alaskan and as a paralegal who has spent the last decade in law offices working on thousands of criminal cases. I have only recently entered the Nxivm rabbit hole and so I am hoping that my fresh eyes and local connection might help to illuminate some aspects of the disappearance of Kristin Snyder that have been overlooked in the past. Snyder went missing in February of 2003 in Anchorage, Alaska.
There are many things that stuck out to me while I was reading everything I could find about the disappearance of Kristin Snyder. The first and perhaps most central aspect of the case that bothers me is the timeline of events.
Snyder’s death is connected to Nxivm because she went missing after leaving an “intensive” course that Nxivm was hosting. The case has never been definitively resolved because Snyder’s body has not been found and there have been no credible sightings of Snyder in the intervening years.
There were reports that Snyder had been mentally destabilized during the Nxivm intensive, known as the Executive Success Program, and as a result, she had multiple outbursts while participating. The Frank Report broke the story in 2017 stating that during one of her outbursts, Snyder claimed that Keith Raniere had impregnated her. This crucial fact was not revealed to police in 2003 during their investigation into Snyder’s disappearance. Snyder’s death was ruled a suicide by a jury in 2004 and a presumptive death certificate was issued that memorialized their findings.
I noticed that the missing person report says that Snyder “was last seen February 7, 2003 leaving [the] Executive Success Program in Anchorage, Alaska.” This date of February 7th is contradicted by the police report which includes an interview from Nina Cowell, a witness who was also at the Executive Success Program intensive with Kristin. Cowell, on page 8 of the report, is interviewed by Alaska State Trooper Jeff Evanoff. Cowell was questioned on February 7th, so the details would’ve been fresh in her mind. “Cowell saw K. Snyder last night, 02/06/03, at about 1600 hours at the Westmark Hotel in Anchorage,” the police report states.
According to witnesses who attended the intensive course with Snyder, she was last seen on the 6th rather than the 7th. Perhaps even more curiously, according to the report, “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’s claim that Snyder was heading off to enjoy a performance after the class on February 6th is befuddling since Snyder was in a very precarious mental state.
In an interview with True Crime Conversations, Frank Parlato outlined the scene at the intensive on February 6th and discussed the multiple outbursts that Snyder had and how Snyder was ejected from class. “[…] during the day, as she was taking the class, she began to make some pronouncements that became very disturbing to the people who were conducting the classes and they announced that they were throwing her out of the class and they had one of their Nxivm members [Elaine Smiloff] pick her up and take her out of the class and she was never seen again.”
Because the Frank Report has obtained and published the class sign-in sheets for the intensive in question, we know that only 20 people were in the class. Did Cowell know that Snyder was in no state to be going to a concert? The fact that the February intensive only had 20 attendees is also an interesting sidelight in its own right as a November 2002 intensive course in Anchorage had about twice as many students.
In a December 8th, 2019 article, Parlato published another round of leaked sign-in sheets from the November class and also relayed an interesting story about Nancy Salzman’s conduct in the November intensive.
From the article: “This intensive was well attended and Susan Dones tells us that during the first five days of the intensive, Nancy Salzman was the head trainer. She also tells us that Salzman went manic when one of the students questioned her teachings and mentioned her daughters.
“Salzman’s angry reaction showed her to be not in control unlike what she taught students. Susan thinks this may be why there were fewer students at the second intensive, the one Kristin disappeared from.”
A friend of Nina Cowell’s owned a cabin near Miller’s Landing where Kristin Snyder’s truck was discovered.
Shivani, a frequent Frank Report contributor, discussed this in a March 6th, 2020 article. The fact that a fellow Nxivm student who attended the same intensive as the missing Snyder had a connection to a cabin in the near vicinity of Miller’s Landing, where Snyder’s truck was found, was also known to the police in the immediate aftermath of Snyder’s disappearance.
From page 8 of the police report: “The Miller’s [sic] provided the name of a cabin owner, Nina Cowell, who owns a cabin North of Miller’s Landing.”
The Alaska State Troopers described their contact with Cowell on February 7th, noting she terminated the conversation with Trooper Jeff Evanoff: “Cowell stated she needed to excuse herself and make some telephone calls to some friends […]”
The report also indicated that Troopers searched Cowell’s cabin at least twice: “Cowell’s cabin was checked again as well as the surrounding wooded areas and shorelines.”
[Editor’s Note on Cowell: During a lengthy recorded interview with Nina Cowell, she stated that she was not the owner of the cabin. It was owned by her boyfriend, which is something public records can confirm. She said her boyfriend was no fan of Nxivm and tried to discourage her from attending the courses…
[To date, there is no evidence that Kristin Snyder or anyone was at the cabin during the time Snyder went missing. According to Cowell, the cabin had been tightly and firmly boarded with heavy lumber for the winter to keep animals out. There was no heat or lights. There was no evidence of any boards being disturbed, which would have been required for entry into the cabin by Snyder or anyone, with or without a key. A TV news report apparently showed the cabin in connection to the missing person with someone apparently reporting they saw a light in or around the cabin. It was later revealed that the light seen was actually the high beam lights coming across Resurrection Bay from the Spring Creek Correctional Center, a maximum-security state prison, which gave the appearance of light around the cabin. This phenomenon was often observed during the winter according to Cowell, where empty cabins line the other side and none of them have light.
[With the debunking of the “Nina had a cabin and someone was spotted there” theory, it appears Nina had nothing to do with Kristin’s disappearance other than she attended the same course, happened to have a boyfriend with a summer cabin there, was known to be a friend of Snyder’s, and had a single conversation with police where she said Kristin was at a concert which was evidently an error, but not necessarily a lie on her part. Cowell told Frank Report that she heard several students planned to attend the show and that she also heard they were going to bring Kristin along to keep an eye on her. When she learned from police that Kristin had disappeared, after speaking with them briefly, she chose to consult with the class leaders, Esther Chiappone Carlson and Ed Kinun, who she thought might be able to provide more accurate information, rather than continue making statements to police. As far as is known, the police never contacted Nina again.]
From “The Lost Women of NXIVM”.
Lieutenant Alan Nickel: There’s nothing in this that even says that she actually left in the kayak.
Frank Parlato: Is it fair to say that it’s also hypothetical that she committed suicide here?
Lieutenant Alan Nickel: Yes, cause it’s unsolved. We don’t know what happened to her.
While the mix-up of the dates between the missing person report and the witness testimony might be a simple clerical error, it is part of a mosaic of conflicting stories and strange inconsistencies. Also contained in the police report and directly related to the conflicting dates is a nugget from an interview with Mike Miller, the owner of Miller’s Landing in Seward, Alaska.
Miller was interviewed by Trooper Evanoff after Evanoff discovered Kristin Snyder’s black Toyota parked in front of Miller’s Landing. Miller’s statement was made on February 7th just about 25 minutes after Trooper Evanoff found Snyder’s truck and Evanoff relayed the following: “M. Miller stated he believed he observed the black truck parked in front of their residence on Thursday morning, 02/06/03. M. Miller thought he observed the truck to have moved once during the day.”
If Miller did indeed see Kristin Snyder’s truck on the 6th during the morning when Snyder was supposed to be in Anchorage at the intensive, that would be an important fact. Another confusing discrepancy involves a kayak and a paddle that were said to have been stolen from the Miller’s property near where the black Toyota was parked. Troopers discovered a suicide note and other personal items in Snyder’s truck. We will return to the kayak and the note later, but it is important to know at this point that the kayak and the paddle were never recovered.
If Kristin Snyder was murdered and the manner of her death was subsequently covered up, someone would’ve had to go to Miller’s Landing and steal the kayak before the ultimate staging of the death scene took place. Then they would’ve had to dispose of the kayak, the paddle, and Snyder’s body somewhere else before returning the truck to the area of Miller’s Landing. So it is possible that Mike Miller did see Kristin’s truck on the morning of the 6th, and it is also possible that someone else had driven it there to steal the kayak and paddle.
From: “The Lost Women of NXIVM”: The vanishing body is not the only oddity of this case. What about the kayak or its remains? Why have they never surfaced? Being a boat person himself, Parlato knows that this is strange. Frank proceeded to Miller’s Landing, the place from where a kayak was stolen that authorities believed would be tied to the fate of Kristin Snyder.
Mike and Sherrie Miller have been there since the ’50s. They know a lot about kayaks and what happens to them in just about every circumstance.
I called Mike Miller to confirm whether the black truck he saw that morning was the same black truck that was eventually identified as Snyder’s vehicle. It could have been another black truck not connected to Snyder. Miller confirmed that the truck he saw that morning was the same vehicle that was ultimately identified as Kristin Snyder’s black Toyota.
How the police were led to look for Snyder in Seward and how they specifically zeroed in on Resurrection Bay in the area of Miller’s Landing in a matter of hours is also a question without a definitive answer. The police report only offers the following explanation: “On 02-07-03 Anchorage Police Department reported that they had an active missing person case involving Kristen [sic] Snyder, and that there was information that she might be in Seward.”
From: “The Lost Women of NXIVM”:
Norman Regis – Harbormaster, Resurrection Bay: I’ve been harbormaster since 2014, but I’ve been in this harbor since (19)94.
Frank: And you’re fairly familiar with what happens to bodies when they drown?
Norman Regis: I pulled a few bodies out of the water since I’ve been working for the city.
Frank: And how many you’d say you searched for?
Norman Regis: I believe 16.
Frank: What’s been your success rate?
Norman Regis: So, we found every one. I would say 100%.
Frank: You always found the bodies. Kristin Snyder is the only one that hasn’t been found.
Norman Regis: Correct.
In an editor’s note included in a March 6th, 2020 article on the Frank Report by Shivani, Frank Parlato confirmed that Snyder’s wife, Heidi Clifford, told police that they should look in Seward. “Clifford told the Frank Report that she did not single out Resurrection Bay exclusively but told police that there were a number of places [Snyder] liked to go including Resurrection Bay.”
Another mystery of the case involves the location of where the kayak was stolen from. In the police report, the status of the kayak was reported as follows: “On the morning of 2-08-03 the Millers of Millers [sic] Landing resort discovered a storage shed containing kayaks and gear had been broken into and an old kayak was missing. The storage shed was close to where Snyder’s vehicle was located.”
According to Mike Miller, no storage shed existed. I asked Miller about this during a telephone interview to try and resolve this strange discrepancy. “No, there was no shed, the kayak was upside down in the yard. We didn’t realize it was missing until after they found the truck and after, you know, they were looking for it. […] I think there was a paddle stuck in it but no life vest or anything else missing.”
As I previously mentioned, a suicide note was found in Snyder’s truck and Frank Parlato investigated the handwriting of the note as part of the television film “Lost Women of NXIVM” that aired on Investigation Discovery. While not conclusive, the handwriting expert Beth Chrisman who Frank consulted in the series cast doubt on the authenticity of the suicide note. The issue of whether or not Kristin Snyder actually wrote the suicide note found in her truck was further pursued in a December 9th, 2019 piece by Frank that revealed new exemplars of Snyder’s handwriting.
Shivani contributed further information regarding the suicide note on the Frank Report with a December 20th, 2019 article questioning why Snyder did not mention her pregnancy in the note. During her outbursts that eventually led to her ejection from the intensive class, Snyder repeatedly claimed that Keith Raniere had impregnated her. If Snyder believed that she was pregnant as she said multiple times in the day or so leading up to her death, Shivani points out, it would certainly weigh heavily on her if she was going to kill herself and her unborn child.
After Kristin Snyder’s outbursts, she was removed from the class by one of the class instructors, Esther Carlson Chiappone. The details of the scene in the class, as told by students who witnessed it, are described in an article by Frank from November 19th, 2019.
Esther is an interesting figure in the Nxivm saga because she left her husband in Alaska and set off with her four children to join Keith Raniere in Albany.
Esther knew that Raniere was lying, or permitting his women lieutenants to lie to students, like those participating in the November 2002 and February 2003 intensives in Anchorage, because Raniere claimed to be a celibate monk. This was a total fabrication. Esther herself was sexually involved with Raniere.
The issue of Raniere’s celibacy is a crucial detail, and it is perhaps the reason that other people in the intensive might not have believed Kristin Snyder’s repeated claims to have been impregnated by Raniere. The public at large had not been exposed to the torrent of negative press about Raniere and Nxivm that erupted in the ensuing years. It wasn’t until October of 2003 when Forbes published its landmark article “Cult of Personality” that Nxivm was branded as a cult in the mainstream press.
Elaine Smiloff was the first person to publicly reveal that Kristin Snyder claimed Keith Raniere impregnated her.
[Editor’s note: This shocking revelation was made by Smiloff to Frank Parlato in the summer of 2017, and Frank Report broke the news that in essence reopened this cold case.]
Smiloff may also have been the last person to see Snyder before she died. Smiloff is yet another player in this tale that unfurls like an Agatha Christie mystery. Like a crime novel, the riddle of Kristen Snyder’s evaporation into the mists of Alaska has an ensemble cast of suspects and red herring clues that aim suspicions in scattershot directions.
Smiloff was a Nxivm student who apparently was not attending the February 2003 intensive. But it was Smiloff who was called to pick up Kristin Snyder after she had been ejected from class. In a January 22, 2020 update to the Kristin Snyder story, Frank said that Smiloff’s admission about Kristin Snyder’s pregnancy was the most significant new piece of information unveiled in the 17 years since Snyder’s disappearance.
Smiloff was in a position to be compromised by the Nxivm group because she had recently been charged with attempted sexual abuse of a minor on August 21st, 2002. She was convicted of that offense on March 20th, 2003, just a month and a half after the disappearance of Snyder. It did seem odd to me that Smiloff would drop everything and head to the Westmark in Anchorage where the intensive was being held to drive what must have been described to her as an unstable woman home. The potential significance of Smiloff’s criminal record was discussed by Shivani in a January 4th, 2020 Frank Report article.
This piece cannot hope to be comprehensive in such a complicated tale, but it would be an egregious omission if I did not mention a couple of intriguing trails of breadcrumbs that beg to be followed.
A commenter only known as “The Rat” made a prescient statement over ten years ago that alleged that Keith Raniere was a molester of underaged women. The Rat also implicated himself and Raniere in contributing to the deaths of Kristin Snyder and Gina Hutchinson.
Hutchinson is another young woman who was sexually involved with Raniere who died in an apparent suicide which has many suspicious elements, and her case is also explored in the excellent “Thed Lost Women of NXIVM” program.
The Rat came out from his/her hiding hole on October 24th, 2010 to document his/her displeasure with Raniere and Nxivm on a blog operated by John Tighe, known as Saratoga In Decline. The Rat’s post was garbled with typos and misspellings but it clearly called out Raniere as a statutory rapist years before anyone from the general public could have been aware of Raniere’s conduct with underage women. The true identity of the Rat remains unknown.
Raniere was ultimately convicted of a litany of crimes including sex trafficking, attempted sex trafficking, and racketeering which included predicate acts of sexual exploitation of a child, and possession of child pornography. In the Rat’s ramblings, he made an allusion to the culpability the Rat and Raniere shared for the deaths of Snyder and Hutchinson:
“i see my responsibiy [sic] in the deaths of both kristen’s friend in the monistary [sic] and ester’s friend in AK. He did not kill, I did for him. I put the idea in thier [sic] heads. It was suicide, so it could not be linked to me and keith. But we still encouraged it to happen.”
Another beguiling loose end in the ongoing Frank Report investigation into the death of Kristin Snyder is a missed phone call that Frank received late one night. It was from a number Frank was given to attempt to follow up on reports that Kristin might have faked her own suicide and was still alive. Yes, there is a conspiracy theory that Kristin Snyder is still alive and in hiding.
Frank describes getting a number for Kristin from a non-Nxivm source. The number had a 606 area code which denotes it is a Kentucky number. Kristin lived in Kentucky before moving to Alaska. Frank called the number several times months earlier and had left messages indicating that he was looking for Kristin Snyder and also relaying that Keith Raniere was now in prison and could no longer be a looming threat to Snyder.
Months later, the return call came in at 3 am from the number that Frank had saved as Kristin Snyder. He was asleep and did not hear the phone ringing and the caller left no message. It was unlikely that someone would call to let Frank know he had the wrong number months after his last call to that number. Evidently, someone saved the number.
“Did someone, whoever it was, early in the morning muster up the courage to call me, knowing it was the right thing to do?,” Frank said. “And then changed their mind?”
Frank attempted to call the number back but there have been no further developments in the story of the phantasmal phone call.
The narrative that Keith Raniere developed to tell his followers about the disappearance of Snyder is also worth meditating on.
The evolving tale of Keith’s version of events is covered in the above-linked article on the phantom phone call. Keith and his supporters are said to have spent nearly a million dollars investigating whether or not Snyder was actually dead.
In a deposition for Nxivm’s lawsuit against cult deprogramming expert Rick Ross, Nancy Salzman was grilled about the Nxivm cult’s business dealings with the private investigation firm Interfor. An excerpt of Salzman’s testimony is contained in a December 8th, 2019 Frank Report article that debunks aspects of Nxivm’s theory that Snyder faked her own suicide.
Salzman said in the deposition that she was dubious about the details of the disappearance of Snyder including wondering why Heidi Clifford, Kristin Snyder’s spouse, held a memorial service within three weeks of Snyder’s apparent suicide.
The breakdown of Nxivm’s efforts to investigate the disappearance of Kristin Snyder is documented further in “The Lost Women of NXIVM”. The particulars of the Nxivm investigatory efforts are also fleshed out in Frank Report articles like this one by Bangkok and another by AnonyMaker. Among the interesting questions raised in these explorations of the facts is why Nxivm waited an entire year before initiating its inquiry – and why did they send both inner circle member Kristin Keeffe and the Interfor firm on the same wild goose chase.
Nxivm higher-ups tried to convince the rank-and-file membership that Snyder was still alive by producing a photo that allegedly showed Snyder with her spouse, Heidi Clifford, at the Grand Canyon after February of 2003. Clifford rebutted Nxivm’s implication that the photo proved that Kristin Snyder was still alive. The picture showed two figures at such a distance that making any sort of definitive identification was a stretch.
Clifford additionally added important context to the photo stating that it was taken on a trip that had been arranged and paid for before Snyder’s presumed death in February. Clifford confirmed that she had traveled to the Grand Canyon shortly after Snyder had gone missing but said that she was with another woman who looked vaguely similar to Kristin Snyder.
These obvious red herrings showed how much Raniere and Nxivm were willing to grasp at straws to attempt to reinforce a version of events that removed Nxivm from any sort of responsibility for foul play. The conspiracy theory that Nxivm was trying to sell included far-fetched logic. One iteration of the Nxivm-approved theory concluded that Snyder faked her own death to escape a drug gang. Snyder had no previous connections to the drug trade or drugs in general.
Another absurd conspiracy theory is covered in the above-linked AnonyMaker piece having to do with the hair-brained notion that somehow Kristin Snyder’s death was caused by her involvement in some imaginary top-secret work she had undertaken under the auspices of the National Guard.
The efforts by Nxivm to locate Snyder were a sharp departure from Raniere’s previous position that he had never engaged in sexual relations with Snyder. A simple denial of culpability seemed to be the cult’s original response to the Snyder matter, but over time, I suspect that this explanation was unsatisfying to Keith’s minions. Keith then did what he does best and spun a more elaborate set of tales like Rumpelstiltskin weaving straw into gold.
In a February 11th, 2020 story from the Frank Report, another piece of evidence shifts the story of Raniere’s investigation into the Snyder matter. Matt Malone, a former IT employee and investigator for Nxivm, was engaged in an effort to track down recently departed Nxivm member Kristin Keeffe. The Nxivm daisy chain of weirdness never seems to end because at one point, the reader will recall that earlier in this story, Kristin Keeffe was sent to Alaska to investigate the fate of Kristin Snyder.
Keeffe had just undertaken a harrowing escape from the clutches of the Nxivm cult with her child who was sired by Keith Raniere. Keeffe left after she fell out with other powerful women close to Raniere like Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman. Malone’s assignment was described to him as an effort to reconnect Raniere and his son who Keeffe had absconded with. Malone later revealed to Parlato that Clare Bronfman told him that Kristin Snyder wasn’t lying about having sex with Keith, and could have been pregnant with his child. This is discussed in Shivani’s December 6th, 2019 story.
From “The Lost Women of NXIVM”:
Matt Malone – Ex-NXIVM IT Specialist: A friend of mine had been asked to look into Kristin Snyder, to see where she was. […] The understanding was, that they think she faked her own death, that she wasn’t really dead. […] Maybe he killed her, or she faked her own death and escaped. […] You know, Kristin Snyder, he’d gotten her pregnant, you know?
Frank: Keith Raniere?
Matt Malone: We had known that Kristin Snyder was pregnant with one of his kids.
Frank: How do you know?
Matt Malone: Clare Bronfman. From Clare’s mouth – from her words.
So, just to keep score, Keith went from saying he was a celibate monk who would never dream of having intercourse with a student like Kristin Snyder, to indicating that he was investigating Snyder’s apparent suicide because it didn’t make sense, and then settling on version number three, which was that he was interested in tracking down Snyder, who he thought was still alive and had faked her own untimely death because he wanted his child.
Further details and speculation about why Raniere waited a year to begin the investigation into what happened to Kristin Snyder are filled in by former Nxivm consultant Joe O’Hara who worked for the cult right around the time of the Snyder mystery. O’Hara says he was not directly involved in the matter but he provides details of a conversation that he had with Kathy Russell, a bookkeeper and member of the Nxivm inner circle who was convicted of fraud for her role in the cult’s reign of terror.
Russell called O’Hara in a panic in February of 2004 because Raniere, via his wealthy sponsor Clare Bronfman, had sent two wire transfers of $250,000 each to a pair of shadowy “special investigators” to look into the Kristin Snyder matter. Russell was worried that the Feds might flag the transfers, and she was also straining to understand why Raniere would hire two goofballs who claimed to be ex-CIA but who could not produce any legitimate credentials.
O’Hara references an early, damning article by Dennis Yusko in the Albany Times Union that had just been published on February 1st, 2004. The article had greatly increased O’Hara’s concerns about working for Raniere. O’Hara spoke about his suspicions surrounding these “special investigators” and his efforts to understand why they were making wild claims with no attribution about improbable discoveries including that Snyder’s cell phone was still in use, and that Snyder’s credit cards were still active.
The investigators told Raniere and Bronfman that they would happily turn over all of their significant information if Nxivm would pay them an additional $175,000. The punch line to the O’Hara story is that he doesn’t think that Raniere ever coughed up the additional funds and so the $500,000 was essentially lit on fire and nothing useful was obtained from the pair of super sleuths. It is also possible that the detectives were just another apparition in the wilderness of mirrors surrounding Keith Raniere and Raniere invented the investigators as a pretext to siphon away the $500,000 from Bronfman’s treasure chest.
Among the many questions that I cannot answer at this point are the following:
Why would Kristin keep a gas receipt, dated February 6th, 2003 at 6:47 pm, and then place it neatly in a pile of paperwork on the passenger seat of her truck? The papers sitting conveniently in plain view for anyone passing by her vehicle consisted of her suicide note and a page describing the Executive Success Program intensive she was participating in.
Why would someone save a fuel receipt if they were going to kill themselves hours later? Even more inexplicably, why place this receipt in a conspicuous location next to their suicide note? The inclusion of the gas receipt makes a lot more sense if it was an element of staging that reinforced that Snyder, in her manic state, was able to make the 120-mile drive from Anchorage to Seward.
Why was the memorial planned so quickly? A Frank Report article includes a copy of the email that Snyder’s partner, Heidi Clifford, sent out on February 13th, 2003 just six days after Clifford reported Snyder’s disappearance. The memorial was held on February 17th. The email is surreal to read as it very explicitly details the alleged condition and mental illness of Snyder and how Snyder felt she needed to kill herself. In my experience, at memorial services for people who have committed suicide, the topic of how and why they killed themselves is very taboo and almost always is not broached because it is so insensitive to do so.
What was the significance of Kristin Snyder’s trip to Albany, New York only weeks before her death? It is a testament to the depth of the rabbit hole of Kristin Snyder’s death that her January 2003 visit to Albany was reported first in the Frank Report.
Susan Dones and Kristin Keeffe both saw Snyder in Albany and Snyder’s credit card statement also confirms that Snyder made purchases in the Albany area during the timeframe she is said to have done an intensive class there.
The fact that Snyder was in Albany and possibly spent time with Keith Raniere lends itself to a timeline that indicates she could have had sex with him, and then noticed that she missed her period in the ensuing month. This could explain why she was so certain she was pregnant and why she might have had a destabilizing reaction.
From “The Lost Women of NXIVM”:
Frank: Did she ever meet Keith Raniere?
Susan Dones – Former NXIVM Trainer: Yes, absolutely. My suspicion is that he might even have had sex with her. […] The other thing is like – Keith didn’t like women being lesbians. Being gay, period, was an act of defiance. So, could he possibly try to ‘turn’ her? You know, it’s kind of like a notch on his belt.
The outbursts that were witnessed in the February 2003 intensives back in Anchorage become a lot more understandable if one realizes that these courses were marathons, sometimes extending to 12 or more hours a day for 16 days in a row. Snyder had mentioned to her partner, Heidi Clifford, that she was becoming sleep-deprived. Snyder was also being gaslighted by her instructors and classmates, who told her that she was imagining things. She must have felt like she was falling down an endless tunnel into the abyss.
At the beginning of this piece, I compared the dizzying narrative of Kristin Snyder’s encounter with Nxivm to the fanciful fairy tale of Alice in Wonderland. Perhaps this characterization is not true to life in that Keith Raniere is much more sinister than an imaginary shapeshifting Jabberwock.
Keith Raniere is real, believe it or not, and whatever happened to Kristin Snyder is not a fairy tale because it is so grim and irredeemably terrible. The link between Alice and Kristin is illusory after all, and it says more about what is rumbling around in my head than it does about the disappearance of a young and promising woman like Kristin Snyder.
From “The Lost Women of NXIVM”:
Helicopter Pilot: I could be at 2000ft. and I can see one kayak.
Frank: There’s no question that, if the kayak or even the paddle was visible, if it was around here, it could be seen.
There is, though, a much more definite relationship between this sordid story and the fantasy world of Lewis Carroll. The etymology of the term “rabbit hole”, after all, comes down through the ages to our contemporary lexicon from the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The history of how the term “rabbit hole” has been used and has morphed over the years is chronicled in an excellent New Yorker article which is fittingly titled “The Rabbit-Hole Rabbit Hole”.
I fell down the Nxivm rabbit hole and crawled through the warrens and up and out of the underground with an important story. Kristin Snyder deserves to be remembered for the vivacious and happy person she was during her 35 years of life. The Nxivm chapter only encompassed a small fraction of her essence during the last few months of her time on earth. As I read Through the Looking Glass to prepare for writing this piece, I was dumbstruck by the poem that opens the story. The first stanza seems like it could’ve been written about Kristin Snyder.
“Child of the pure unclouded brow
And dreaming eyes of wonder!
Though time be fleet, and I and thou
Are half a life asunder,
Thy loving smile will surely hail
The love-gift of a fairy-tale.”