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Krishna Members Says Drescher Admitted Murder

December 4, 1986

KINGWOOD, W.Va. (AP) _ A man on trial on a charge of killing a fellow resident of a Hare Krishna religious commune admitted killing the man and asked how to ″dissolve″ the body, a witnesses testified Wednesday.

Thomas Drescher, 37, of Ravenna, Ohio, is accused of murdering Charles Saint-Denis, 28, who disappeared in June 1983. His body was ever found.

Nick Tsachrios, who said he was Drescher’s friend and jogging partner, said the defendant confessed to the murder during a morning run.

″He told me he did it. He said ‘I did do it. I killed him.’ Then he described in detail that he had shot him ... 10 to 12 times,″ said Tsachrios, who married Saint-Denis’ common-law wife Debra after he disappeared.

Prosecutors say Saint-Denis was lured to a remote cabin at the Krishna compound near Moundsville in Marshall County with a promise of cocaine, and was then shot and stabbed.

Defense attorney Robert McWilliams calls it ″a case of a missing person, nothing more, nothing less.″

Tsachrios, who has an M.D. degree but is not licensed to practice medicine, said Drescher wouldn’t tell him what he did with Saint-Denis’ body, but asked: ″You’re a medical man. How would you dissolve a body?″

Tsachrios said he didn’t tell authorities his story for several months because he feared for his own life.

A search for Saint-Denis started in early 1984 after California authorities notified state police that two informants reported his body had been wrapped in logging chain and dropped in a lake outside the Krishan property, said state Trooper J.D. Gruzinskas.

Gruzinskas said six divers were unable to find a body. He also told of long searches for Saint-Denis’ body on the 4,000-acre Krishna compound, including excavations with bulldozers.

Earlier Wednesday, Krishna resident Kurt Cleaver, 32, testified that he was a good friend of Sant-Denis, and that he acted as a middle man between him and Drescher during their frequent arguments.

Cross-examining Cleaver, defense lawyers focused on money problems Saint- Denis allegedly was experiencing. Cleaver said Saint-Denis had spent some $45,000 in about a three-month period and was broke when he disappeared.

On Tuesday, when the trial opened, Marshall County Prosecutor Thomas White described Saint-Denis as a ″brash, boisterous″ man who had many run-ins with Drescher and Daniel Reid, who also is charged with taking part in the presumed murder. He said Saint-Denis was a ″fringe″ member of the Krishna community who was involved with drugs and did not obey the sect’s strict rules.

Reid is to be tried separately.

The trial was moved to Preston County because of pretrial publicity.

Mrs. Tsachrios, Saint-Denis’ former common-law wife, also has testified that Saint-Denis and Drescher often argued. She said that late on the night Saint-Denis disappeared, he received a call from Reid and went to meet him, saying he would return shortly.

Drescher also has been charged in California with the murder of dissident Hare Krishna devotee Steve Bryant, who once lived at the West Virginia Krishna commune. Bryant’s body was found in his van in Los Angeles in May near a Krishna temple. He had been shot in the head.

A federal grand jury is investigating Bryant’s death and allegations of corruption and fraud that he made against the sect’s top gurus before he died.

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