39 dead in mass suicide Religious group had rented Calif. mansion

  Jonathan T. Lovitt


  USA Today


  Page 01A

  (Copyright 1997)


  RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. -- Police acting on a telephone tip of a mass

  suicide discovered the bodies of 39 young men in a million-dollar mansion here



  Officials said the bodies, all white and ages 18-24, bore no signs of trauma. All

  were dressed in dark pants and tennis shoes. They were found on their backs

  with their hands at the side, said San Diego County Sheriff's Cmdr. Alan Fulmer.


  Investigators found bodies on beds, cots and mattresses in various rooms of the



  There were no suicide notes found or any indication of a motive, Fulmer said.


  He said deputies wearing surgical masks ``encountered a noxious, pungent odor,''

  and two were sent to the hospital for blood tests.


  A hazardous materials crew was on the scene.


  At 11:30 p.m. (1:30 a.m. ET) the bodies remained in the house. Officials were

  still awaiting a search warrant.


  Investigators believe it was a mass suicide due to the number of people involved,

  and no signs of struggle or trauma.


  The home had been rented by a religious group, though the name was



  Real estate broker Scott Warren, who toured the home with prospective buyers,

  told ABC's Nightline the occupants ``were pretty bizarre.''


  Warren and his party were instructed to put on slippers ``because they considered

  the house a temple.''


  Several rooms contained computers where members told Warren they were

  developing World Wide Web pages.


  Tara Buckly, 25, who trains horses for one of the neighbors, said she rode near

  the house every day, and ``I've never seen them.''


  Rancho Santa Fe, an exclusive community in northern San Diego County, is

  home to many wealthy residents, including John Moores, a computer software

  magnate who owns the San Diego Padres.


  Former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle lived there until his death in December.


  ``It sounds pretty damn bizzare,'' said Moores. ``The reason we bought there is

  it's very, very peaceful.''


  While no cult connection had surfaced, the incident comes after a suicide in a

  remote farmhouse outside Saint Casimir, Quebec, last weekend.


  Five members of a notorious doomsday cult died in a blazing house Saturday in

  an apparent ritual suicide pact.


  The five were linked to the Order of the Solar Temple, a sect responsible for the

  deaths of 74 people in collective suicide pacts in Switzerland, France and Quebec

  since 1994.

  GRAPHIC,color, USA TODAY (Map)