An article in yesterday's editions did not completely describe the disposition of Amy C. Dardick's murder-conspiracy case. Dardick, who had lived with reputed cult leader Scott Caruthers, pleaded guilty in Carroll County Circuit Court to one count of conspiracy to commit murder and received probation before judgment, meaning that a guilty finding is stayed and that no conviction will be entered against her if she successfully completes the terms of her probation.
A woman who lived with reputed cult leader Scott Caruthers was placed on probation yesterday for her role in a plot to have her ex-husband killed.
Amy C. Dardick, the fifth and final person to plead guilty in the unrealized plot involving Caruthers, was described in court yesterday as "the least culpable" of the defendants. She had undergone deprogramming shortly after her arrest in October 2001 on a murder-conspiracy charge, court records show.
"After reading her extensive psychiatric work-up, I believe she does not present a danger to herself or others," said Carroll Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway.
Dardick, 41, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit murder and was placed on 60 days' probation by Galloway, who also ordered that she continue to report to pre-trial services officials for mental health assessments.
Her lawyer said the woman's involvement with Caruthers' group left her unable to make sound decisions.
"This is obviously an aberration in her life that began when her husband came home one day and told her the people he worked with believed they were aliens," said Kathi Hill, one of two lawyers representing Dardick. "The indoctrination of Mrs. Dardick did not happen overnight, but it began in 1997 and continued through 2001. By the time 2001 came around, Mrs. Dardick's mental status was so impaired by indoctrination, she was not making independent decisions."
Police had charged Dardick with conspiring with Caruthers and three other members of his group to kill her former husband, Lewis Dardick. Lewis Dardick had been among those targeted by Caruthers' Beta Dominion Xenophilia group, according to court documents.
Caruthers is an author, artist and inventor who has been described as a space alien-leader of a Westminster-based cult.
Though the judge sealed Amy Dardick's psychiatric evaluation, her court file includes a letter from Joseph P. Szimhart, who describes himself as a cult specialist and "exit counselor." According to the letter, Szimhart met with Dardick shortly after her arrest and her release on $10,000 bail to enter treatment. He wrote that she consulted with him on her "involvement and defection" from the BDX group.
Szimhart wrote that BDX and Caruthers had cult characteristics. Caruthers has denied being a cult leader, and has said that the group's activities were research for science fiction novels.
Lewis Dardick first made contact with the group in 1997 when he became business partners with friends of Caruthers, who had amassed more than $2.7 million in investments for business ventures.
Amy Dardick divorced her husband and moved in with Caruthers. Lewis Dardick and Timothy S. Hackerman - whose wife, Debra, changed her name to Dulsa Naedek and also lived with Caruthers - hired a private investigator to look into the group, and Dardick successfully sued to regain custody of the couple's children.
That suit, with others, opened the door to newspaper coverage that Caruthers found embarrassing, Tracy Gilmore, senior assistant state's attorney for Carroll County, said yesterday in court. In retaliation, Caruthers and three other members of the group conspired to kill a former business associate and other critics of BDX.
A search of Caruthers' home revealed documents that implicated Amy Dardick as a conspirator in a plot to have her ex-husband killed.
None of the people targeted by the group was injured.
All defendants in the case were released from jail, with the balances of any sentences suspended, after pleading guilty to roles in the plots.
In December, Caruthers' wife, Dashielle Lashra, 43, entered an Alford plea - in which a defendant denies guilt but concedes that prosecutors have enough evidence for a conviction. David S. Pearl, 48, a former Westminster lawyer, entered an Alford plea and was released from jail in February with orders to seek mental treatment. Naedek, 44, pleaded guilty in April to conspiring with Caruthers to kill her ex-husband. In a second case, she entered an Alford plea on the murder-conspiracy charge involving E. David Gable, a business associate of Caruthers. She was released in May and ordered to undergo deprogramming.
In May, Caruthers, 58, formerly of the 500 block of Scott Drive in Westminster, entered an Alford plea. He was released after spending 19 months in jail awaiting trial. Under the plea agreement, he could be required to serve the suspended portion of a 40-year sentence if he runs afoul of the law.
Lewis Dardick and his former wife, who lives with her sister in Baltimore, declined to comment after yesterday's hearing. Gilmore, the prosecutor, said that Lewis Dardick told prosecutors that he did not want to see his ex-wife further punished.