Gina’s death and a bit of background
Gina knew Keith Alan Raniere for just shy of 20 years — from sometime in 1983 until sometime between October 7 – 11, 2002; within days of her death.
We were luckier than most. The Pipino family on our Mom’s side had a “farm” — 240 acres in Clifton Park, NY.
We called it “the land.” It had woods and relatives’ homes, where we could retreat, thank God, from the brownstone Italian ghetto with a Virgin Mary statue peering out nearly every nook and cranny.
We’d moved temporarily into our Grandmother’s house in Cohoes from Provo, Utah, in 1982, planning to build in Clifton Park on our Mom’s share of the land.
Our parents were in a protracted, on-again, off-again marital break-up. Our Mom worked as a museum curator and made Christmas crafts with her sister for our Aunt’s doll shop in Saratoga.
I stayed at college in Provo, at Brigham Young University, and was home for the holidays in Cohoes in 1984. I was fresh from a semester in Washington, D.C., where I worked on the Reagan-Bush campaign for college credit.
October 11, 2002
It had been raining for days. The creek bank was muddy and full of soggy fallen leaves. The water flowed brick red anyway; there was no discernible blood around her lifeless corpse.
The downpour was so heavy that the German Shepherds on the canine unit didn’t pick up Gina’s scent for hours after someone from the Monastery reported seeing an abandoned car the night before.
The automobile description matched a missing persons dispatch from Clifton Park. Gina had been missing for over a week.
Before her death, she spent some nights in Clifton Park, NY motel rooms. The clerk remembered she was waiting to switch to a final room with a jacuzzi hot tub she’d requested when it came available.
Even the clerk remarked how skinny she and her friends, other young women who’d visited her room, were. But the last guest was a man Gina had spent her last night with. I believe that man was Keith Alan Raniere.
Our Clifton Park relatives Gina was living with made at least one of the missing person reports. They were concerned Gina hadn’t checked in with them. Nor was she answering their calls. It wasn’t like her to just disappear.
Gina’s body was light and stiff to the touch when the sheriff’s deputies turned her over. They said her face was “beautiful” — wholly intact and preserved — and she looked like me. I dared not even glance at those photos from the scene. They said her eyes — Gina’s big, bright, so sincere, baby blue eyes — were open. I had a mutual friend, Serena, who’d flown in from Utah, identify the lifeless likeness as “Gina Rose Hutchinson.”
There were two long, single-barrel shotguns near the body.
I think a single shot was fired from only one. The deadly bullet sped through the roof of Gina’s mouth, ripping a 1/4 inch hole through her skull and her up-turned hoodie. It was surmised that she’d leaned her head over the top of the gun barrel – its butt wedged on the granite beneath — fixed her mouth over the tip, reached down, and yanked the trigger.
Gina’s naked back and shoulders were photographed just before the autopsy. I saw those pictures. She bore tattoos — some new — of intricate Buddhist symbols. The centerpiece was a large lotus blossom on a moon cushion that sat at the small of her back.
Her fast-growing, usually long, silvery-dark hair was sheared and bleached-blonde. It was blood to burnt orange around the jagged edges of the exit wound — I caught an accidental glimpse — like the setting of the black hole sun
The police noted a pack of gum in one of her jean pockets and a Buddhist medallion in another.
The autopsy revealed there were no drugs of any kind in her system. She was in optimal health.
They mentioned her lungs were in “perfect” condition.
The examiners were looking for signs of drug abuse, because someone had written: “Speed Kills” on a “clue” from her car. No one I know ever recalled seeing Gina use any “speed.”
Sure, she smoked her share of weed in the day, but “speed kills” — those words were sticking in my mind — words on that damn, eerie chart on a notebook in the car.
And she was never so thin before — nowhere close. Gina had a mesomorphic frame, still sturdy at her lightest weight. Now, she was down to skin and bones with little muscle tissue. …Speed, what? “SPEED…KILLS.”
Not Gina’s handwriting, except for the words in gold she’d decorated the edges of the chart with.
“Descent” was the other word that stuck. But what did any of it mean?
Gina’s blue Toyota was parked on a dirt road across a nearby field, what was described as a sort of “shrine.”
In her car was a Buddhist Mala or prayer beads draped over a black journal — propped on the dashboard.
Under the visor on the passenger side was a torn photograph of me, Gina, and my ex-husband, Jeff Apple. My image was ripped off and placed beside Jeff and Gina’s intact images. It fell out in my lap in two pieces when I flipped the visor down to check my makeup in daylight on the way to the funeral days after Gina’s friend, Serena, and I retrieved the car from a police impound down in Woodstock. Guess they hadn’t checked the visor.
I was stunned, knowing she instantly, or whoever had left that photo, left it for me to find.
I habitually checked my makeup in “daylight” the second I got in the car those days. It was a “Cosmo” tip Gina always teased me about, along with my insecurities about my looks sans face paint.
I don’t know what it meant that the picture was torn like that, either. But it hit me hard. It never occurred to me that she was maybe jealous of my marriage.
She had been an influence in our first separation in 1999, which eventually became a divorce in 2004, two years after the picture fell in my lap.
After Gina was out of the picture altogether.
Gina had a bunch of brand new, size “2” and “0” clothes stuffed in the car’s trunk. I guess she was undecided about going through with any plans on wearing them anywhere.
Some DVD cassettes were labeled in Sanskrit-style cursive, marked: “Samayatara” in the glove compartment. One cassette had “Samayatara” written on one side, with “Dakini Cut…Spooky Truth” on the other.
It was her “cut” or edit pass on a Buddhist documentary we shot in India and China a few months before. Another cassette was labeled “Samaya Noir.” That one has an hour’s worth of spooky, dark-negative, static-filled images.
There was only one text message on her cell phone — from “mud flower.” I gasped aloud when I read it. I’d sent it to her days before, and I don’t know why I said, “mud flower.”
I thought she’d like it.
“Lotus Blossom” was taken. She hadn’t been talking to me much for months. Maybe she’d be alive if I hadn’t said “mud flower,” if it hadn’t rained, if I’d said “sun flower” instead.
She might have waited for a sunny day. She might have lived through the whole dreary Upstate NY winter, at least until I could go see her that Christmas.
I’ve wondered if she wasn’t already dead when I’d sent the text. That’s why she couldn’t erase it, as she apparently had all the others?
The “shrine-like” cover of the black journal was a quizzical “chart” that was not in her handwriting. The chart had been slid under the notebook’s clear, plastic front cover. It had a computer-generated date stamp on it that read: 2002.
Gina’s handwriting was on the chart in that same Sanskrit hand she used when she was “channeling”, the alter-ego Keith Raniere conveyed on her, “Samayatara.” Samayatara’s writing was an elegant cursive. The gold ink spelled out: “DREAMS.”
The journal recounts some of Gina’s thoughts, dreams, and actual encounters with her “friends.”
Gina had “worked” for all Keith’s entities as a gopher, computer programmer, and graphic designer. She also did a fair amount of hacking and cyber-stalking for Keith.
Keith had trained us both in sales early on using Neuro-linguistic programming sales methods.
But Gina never quite cut it as a salesperson or recruiter. She was not a manipulative person. Not in the slightest. She cherished her freedom and independence too much to deny another theirs. Still, she longed for a soulmate. The “chart” seems to analyze that proposition as a paradox.
I was pretty good at sales, but never worked for Keith. I never succumbed to Keith’s mandatory “hiring” policy of having sex with him. Gratefully, I almost always had other gainful employment between Keith’s frequent “get-rich” and other offers.
Whenever Keith came onto me, Gina reacted as if she were mortally wounded. I called Keith out on that a few times over the years — how it seemed he deliberately tried to hurt Gina with his obvious lusting after me while convincing Gina she was “special.”
But it never dissuaded him. Not like the swift kick in the balls, I had to lay on him once when he tried to rape me while I was sleeping.
Some of Gina’s “shrine” journal entries from her death site suggest Keith was experimenting on Gina from 1997 to 1999, while what would become “NXIVM” was under development.
I was also recruited at that time and unwittingly participated in those experiments.
Gina was officially back in school at SUNY Albany studying Humanities those years. Some of her schoolwork and class schedules are recorded in the journal.
In it, Gina describes being awoken late in the night. Gina sensed it was “some strange entity” as she described Keith, “looking in on her.” She wrote dreamy accounts of “Keith touching her to energize her,” of how he showed her disturbing “Picasso films,” one entitled “DREAMS.”
Keith also set Gina up on “safe” dates with a gay NXIVM gentleman, “Joe,” who claimed Gina was “Simon du Beauvoir” in one of her past lives while dirty dancing with her.
That entry was in ’98, about three years before she died as “Samayatara.”
The journal also recounts arguments about Keith that upset Gina’s non-NXIVM friends and relatives, about her subtle recruitment into “the business.”
Gina notes how Keith sent her on field trips to local Indian Ashrams, about the “profound effect Keith had on her life” and how during these experiments, Gina developed suicidal ideation, along with a deepening belief that she was, in fact, the living reincarnate embodiment of the Buddhist Earth Goddess, “Samayatara.”
My first recollection of Keith was seeing his hiney stuffed through Gina’s bedroom window over Christmas break 1984. Gina was in bed with the covers pulled up to her chin over her half-naked body. I believe she was 14 but may have been 15, I’m not sure which, as her birthday is January 8 and I can’t say for certain it was Christmas Eve.
I only remember the Christmas lights were blinking — creating a strobe effect on Keith’s plumber’s crack — and me making a snarky remark about how Santa Clause normally uses the chimney, not the window.
Of course, we also had front and back doors for normal human entry.
For me, the immediate issue wasn’t about age — maybe because Keith had a chubby, boyish face and pudgy, elfin stature. Even for years after that, it seemed like Keith and Gina were closer in age than the actual 9-year difference. I was more shocked that Gina agreed to give up her virginity before marriage. And with Keith “sneaking in” like that, I thought maybe he’d raped her — not only statutorily, but must have forced himself on her.
We were brought up Mormon in our domineering Dad’s household when he was there — which was less and less each year since we moved from Utah to Mom’s childhood home in Cohoes, NY. We were planning to build a house in Clifton Park on the Pipino family land Mom stood to inherit some portion of.
Our Dad left for good in 1988, but he ruled the roost until then. Mom was lenient, but a traditional Roman Catholic girl — pious, saintly, and chaste. Virgin brides still placed white roses at the feet of the Virgin Mary statue in Catholic Church wedding ceremonies. A symbol of the bride’s “purity.”
Omitting this ritual from the ceremony meant shame to the bride and her family. Non-virgin Mormon brides and grooms were denied a prized “temple wedding” ceremony. Everyone knew what THAT meant, too. Gina had long vowed to save herself for marriage.
Gina defended Keith and confided he had “talked” her into the sex. He told her that she was a reincarnate Buddhist Goddess born to be his consort, while he was none other than the very God she was born to “consort” with. It was a pure, holy union in somebody’s — Bruce Lee’s, I supposed — religion. Keith assured me that they’d already exchanged eternal vows. In their past life.
It was a persuasive argument Keith conjured up just for Gina. Gina was already intrigued with all things Asian and Martial Arts. She had a major crush on Bruce Lee, wore our brothers’ Judo robes, punched the air with spins and kicks, and had a prized pair of numb chucks she could do stunning tricks with.
Her Asia-Fantasia began with a career military uncle of ours, a bomb detonator, who’d done tours in Vietnam and all over Asia.
Uncle J.C. fascinated us with mind-bending tales of martial arts masters who could snap telephone poles with their mind power alone. He practiced Transcendental Meditation and recited Zen.
Uncle J.C. had an arsenal of U.S., German and Japanese official military weapons, photography equipment, survival and “spy” gear, a year’s supply of dried food, and stacks of Mother Earth News. He prepared us for the apocalypse by showing us how to make a meal of a live mouse by scooping it up with one hand, while gently thumb-stroking its belly until it was subdued.
Then slicing open its innards with his thumb nail and popping them into his mouth. He was so cool.
Keith bequeathed Gina with a book titled “Sky Dancer,” about this Buddhist consort cum Goddess. There aren’t many female deities in Buddhism. This was a rare reincarnation find or “recognition.” Keith calculated the astronomically rare probability once, I think. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t true. Gina believed.
Gina carried a tattered, marked copy of “Skydancer” around with her everywhere for years as a teenager into her 20’s. She had it memorized, recited, and pondered on it constantly.
She found all the monasteries around, including the most ornate one, K.T.D., where she was a regular visitor. She studied other books on Samayatara and Tibetan Buddhism. She discussed her findings and queries with her Buddhist God-mentor, Keith Raniere.
They secretly consummated their eternal vows often.
Keith assured our family that he and Gina would legally marry once she was old enough to leave home. He’d made some career out of his 3 R.P.I. degrees and general genius-ness he, now notoriously, boasted of. Though only I knew Gina wouldn’t be putting any flowers at the feet of the Virgin or having a Mormon temple ceremony.
Didn’t stop me or some of Gina’s Mormon friends from trying to convert Keith to Mormonism.