SAGUACHE – A Saguache County case that captured national headlines and shone a brief but broad spotlight on a controversial religious group known as “Love Has Won” came to a sudden end in court this week when the case was dismissed by the DA’s office for the 12th Judicial District.
Initially, seven defendants were charged with abuse of a corpse, a class six felony, when local law enforcement – acting on a report from someone involved with the group – were led to a residence in Moffat where the defendants were staying. While on the scene, law enforcement discovered the deceased remains of a woman in one of the bedrooms. Known to her followers as “Mother God” and later identified as Amy Carlson, the body of the woman was wrapped in Christmas lights and appeared to be positioned in what was described as a shrine.
Each defendant was also charged with two counts of child abuse related to the presence of two children in the house.
In the initial proceedings, Deputy District Attorney (DDA) Alex Raines indicated to the court his intention to amend the charges against all seven defendants from abuse of a corpse, a class six felony, to tampering with a corpse, a class three felony and more serious charge. However, as proceedings went on, amended charges only applied to four of the seven defendants, including Jason Castillo, known to followers as “Father God” and Carlson’s partner while she was alive.
Court proceedings over the months that followed were largely devoted to matters related to bond, ankle monitor bracelets and expanded media coverage requested by, among others, NBC News and HBO.
However, in August and roughly four months after their first appearance in court, Mr. Hoag, defense counsel for Castillo, informed the court that DDA Raines was working on compliance with the Victims Rights Act for a possible dismissal of charges. At that time, Hoag requested Castillo be allowed to enter a plea of not guilty and the case proceed to trial. The judge granted the request and a hearing was set for September 14, 2021.
On that day, DDA Raines moved to dismiss all charges, which was granted. Defense counsel moved that records be sealed, also granted, and the case that initially grabbed headlines came to a rather abrupt and unspectacular end. It was subsequently reported that DDA Raines had expressed constitutional concerns related to religious freedom.
Court records reveal that all charges against all seven defendants have now been dropped.
This case was not the first time “Love Has Won” and its leader had been in the media. Carlson initially appeared on the Dr. Phil show along with family members who attempted to confront her about the “cult-like” group she had founded. Guru Magazine has written a series of stories about the group that have appeared in a variety of different publications. Members of the group also made headlines when they were asked to leave one of the Hawaiian Islands where they had set up residence.
Since Carlson’s death, “Love Has Won”, which had at one time boasted thousands of members across the globe, has largely split apart with “Father God” Castillo allegedly rebranding the group under the name “Joy Rains”.
Members of “Love Has Won” have been known to reside in the Moffat area for at least several years. While court proceedings were ongoing, some of the defendants charged in the case had been largely prohibited from leaving the valley without permission of the court. Now that all charges have been dropped, the case dismissed and records sealed, it is not known if any or all of those individuals will either return to or remain in the SLV or seek residence and regroup elsewhere.