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Ohio man linked to second Krishna murder, Gorby explosion also linked

By COLIN McNICKLE, United Press International

An Ohio man accused of the 1983 murder of a Hare Krishna devotee near the Krishnas' New Vrindaban community in northern West Virginia was charged Thursday with the May murder of a dissident Krishna in California.

Thomas Drescher of Ravenna, Ohio, is charged with Steven Bryant's death. Drescher also was denied bond Thursday for the June 1983 killing of Charles Saint Denis.

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Marshall County Prosecutor Thomas White told Marshall Circuit Judge Richard Warmuth that Drescher was ready to flee to Canada and then to India at the time of his arrest.

Authorities in Los Angeles (Calif.) County Thursday charged Drescher with first-degree murder, White revealed during the bond hearing.

'We've been in contact with Los Angeles authorities for the past several days and the detectives and district attorney in Los Angeles County have been exploring the possibility of the connection of Thomas Drescher with the death of Steve Bryant,' White said. 'The investigation revealed that Mr. Drescher is the culpable individual.'

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Drescher is a one-time Krishna devotee who lived near New Vrindaban. While Saint Denis' body has never been found, authorities said they had found probable cause. The nature of the evidence has not been disclosed.

California authorities will seek Drescher's extradition, White said.

In 1984, authorities, dragging a lake near New Vrindaban for Saint Denis' body, indicated he may have been killed over a personal loan or alleged child abuse at or near the Krishna community.

Authorities speculated Saint Denis was shot, then bound in logging chains and thrown into Burches Run Lake.

Some information linking Drescher to the Bryant killing came from Randall Gorby of Bethany, who was seriously injured in a May 28 explosion at his home, White said. Authorities said they are attempting to link the explosion to Drescher.

White confirmed Thursday that authorities believe Gorby witnessed the Saint Denis murder.

State police and the FBI have been trying to determine if the explosion was caused by natural gas or propane or possibly a bomb.

Gorby has had a long association with the Krishnas, a group spokesman said Wednesday, either having arranged for the purchase of land for the group or helped to arrange such purchases, spokesman Dick Dezio said.

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Gorby remained hospitalized Thursday. His condition is not being released.

Bryant, a frequent and vocal critic of the Krishnas -- including allegations of child abuse, homosexuality and wife-swapping -- was found shot to death in a van in which he often slept in Los Angeles on May 22.

Bryant told UPI in February he feared for his life at the Krishnas' hands and members of the group were stalking him.

The Krishnas have denied any knowledge of either man's death. They claim Saint Denis and Drescher had been only so-called fringe members of the community and Bryant visited the community only on two occassions.

Sources also have told UPI that federal authorities are attempting to link both murders and the Gorby explosion to Krishna members at New Vrindaban. Authorities are exploring the possibility that those within the Krishna organization in Marshall County conspired with Drescher in all three incidents, sources said.

Federal investigators declined comment on any such investigation.

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