In all of my research for the previous four posts about the Bridgewater Triangle, one thing has loomed large: rumors of the occult. Now, as seems to be custom for the United States, creepy forests are magnets for urban legends about the occult. I’d (almost) be willing to bet money that anyone reading this has heard such rumors about their own hometown. Kids love to spread rumors and induce fear. Common rumors I’ve come across both personally and in my research include:
1) accusing an individual (usually an old woman living alone) of being a witch,
2) claiming an individual or group on individuals were Satanists
3) claiming to have seen evidence of rituals in the woods, for example:
a) half-burned candles
b) strange carvings
c) animal bones/carcasses
One problem is that rumors are taken as fact, whether there is evidence to prove them true or not. Another issue is that, sometimes, the rumors are true, and are brushed off because they sound so ridiculous. Which is a bit the case with what we’re discussing today – the Fall River Cult. Buckle in, because this is a very tangled web that will be difficult to summarize in a short blog post. I highly recommend this article for a more full picture of the timeline.
These murders took place under the orders of a 26-year-old man named Carl Drew. Drew was known to be a pimp who had several sex workers he controlled. He portrayed himself to be a Satanist – though I think it is important to note that actual Satanists do not sacrifice people or believe in unfounded violence. Regardless, he molded himself to be a sinister cult leader. And he was the leader of a cult, though it was by no means an expansive cult.
Karen Marsden was a 20-year-old sex worker working under Drew. Though she was a follower, she was deeply uncomfortable with the rituals and sacrifices demanded by Drew. She went on to try and break away from the cult and Drew’s influence, which ultimately led to her death. We’ll get to that in the next section.
Robin Murphy was an 18-year-old sex worker, also working under Drew. While Karen Marseden felt repulsed by the acts of the cult, Robin Murphy leaned into them. She began by simply observing the rituals, but quickly moved onto participating in the violence with Drew.
Drew conducted many supposed rituals with members of his cult. They involved both animal and human sacrifices. Apparently, Drew had announced to his followers that he was Satan himself. It has also been said that he spoke or chanted in a different language, unrecognizable to his followers. This other language was apparently how he prayed. (Side note – he claimed to be Satan, so who was he praying to?)
Another note -Andy Maltias was allegedly another member of the Fall River Cult, though he claimed to have converted to Christianity by the time he went to police to report his girlfriend as missing. He was a convicted pedophile and rapist. In this new state of mind (and likely trying to take the heat off of himself), he offered to set up a meeting between the police and cult members.
Between the fall of 1979 and early spring of 1980, the alleged Fall River Cult was responsible for the murders of three women, though it has been suspected that there may be more undiscovered or unconnected murders. Donna (or Doreen) Levesque was the first known victim of the cult. Her body was discovered on October 13, 1979. She was 17 years old and had recently been reported as a runaway from a nearby town. She was known to be a sex worker in the area. Her body was found with both wrists tied with fishing line and she had suffered several stab wounds to the head. Her body also showed signs of “sexual torture.” The medical examiner could not pinpoint the cause of death, but did put forth that she may have been stoned to death.
Within the next month, Barbara Raposa was reported missing by her boyfriend Andy Maltias. He claimed they were both previous members of the infamous cult, and offered up information that indicated that Donna Levesque had also been a member before her murder. This tip led the police to question Robin Murphy and Karen Marsden – Murphy remained mostly silent apart from accusing Maltias of molesting her from the age of 11. Marsden, on the other hand, blurted out that Carl Drew had murdered Donna Levesque. She told the police about the cult and their rituals. She told them everything they wanted to know. This story did not have a happy ending for Barbara Raposa, however. Her body was discovered on January 26, 1980 in a remote, wooden area. The site was behind a disused factory building. Her body showed signs of sexual assault and her skull had been crushed with a rock.
The last known murder was a member of the cult itself. As we discussed earlier, Karen Marsden was trying to extricate herself from the cult after seeing how vicious and dark they could be. Her life was taken from her on February 8, 1980. According to those that attended the ritualistic murder of Karen Marsden, here’s how it went down: as usual, it took place around the fire with a lot of chanting. Marsden’s hair and nails were ripped out and she was beaten over the head with stones. Drew attempted to snap her neck with his bare hands before persuading Robin Murphy to slash her throat. Marsden’s head was then removed from her body and “kicked around like a football.” Her fingers were removed so her rings could be taken. Drew also allegedly committed an act of necrophilia with the headless corpse before anointing Murphy’s head with Marsden’s blood.
During the investigation into Raposa’s murder, Maltias approached police, claiming to have had some sort of psychic vision about her body. The vision included information that only someone who was present at the time of her murder could know – he shared how and when she died. He was promptly arrested and charged for her murder.
Things really got moving after the remains of Marsden’s skull were discovered. Carol Fletcher, a sex worker who claimed to be a part of Drew’s Satanic cult, came forward to place the blame for Marsden’s death on Drew and Murphy. When the police questioned Robin Murphy, she immediately broke under the pressure. She admitted that the cult, led by Drew, committed a murder every 30 days to fulfill ritual needs. It is unclear whether this is entirely accurate, as the cult was active for at least four months, but there are only three confirmed murders connected to it. It is possible that Murphy was parroting what Drew had told her. It is also possible that there are more women in the woods, lying undiscovered, having been murdered by the cult.
Carl Drew was convicted of the murders of Levesque and Marsden in 1981, and was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Drew had ten years added to his sentence in 1982 for previously assaulting another sex worker with a deadly weapon. Robin Murphy was convicted of second degree murder during the same trial, and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. She was paroled in 2004, but returned to prison in 2011 for fraternizing with a felon and possessing heroin. She has not been granted parole since. Andy Maltias was convicted of first degree murder for the murder of Barbara Raposa, and was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole. He died in prison.