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UPI Focus: Former cult member: deaths were murder

WASHINGTON, March 30 -- A former cult member says she believes the deaths at Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., were murder, not a mass suicide. Janja Lalich told NBC's 'Meet the Press' Sunday the victims whose bodies were discovered last week were under such intense indoctrination that they had 'long ago given up any free will or any of their own decision-making powers.'

Lalich, the author of the book, 'Captive Hearts, Captive Minds,' also said the appearance of serenity on videotapes of the members of the Heaven's Gate cult is misleading. Lalich said: 'I felt that people were extremely anxious. Their eyes were very jittery.' Also, she said, 'They were sitting around each other, and therefore experiencing peer pressure in terms of making that kind of public commitment, and I think that when you get people to make a public commitment like that in front of each other, it's going to be very difficult, then, to back down from what you said you were going to do.' James Lewis, author of the book, 'The Gods Have Landed,' appeared on NBC with Lalich. His book examined Marshall Applewhite, the leader of Heaven's Gate. He said, 'I don't think simplistic stereotypes about cults or about mind control capture it.' Lewis also said he is trying to publish a book now warning people 'that as we approach the year 2000, you're going to see more of this kind of extreme behavior.' ---

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