Guide to contemporary California cults

On his new blog, 10 Zen Monkeys, RU Sirius has a fun piece about creepy California cults, ones not examined in Erik Davis' new book The Visionary State: A Journey Through California's Spiritual Landscape. My favorite is the Helzer Brothers' group called "Transform America"
The Helzer Brothers’ activities were a tawdry and pallid expression of Manson family values. After being excommunicated from the Mormon Church for taking drugs, Glenn Helzer, from Contra Costa County (a San Francisco suburb) decided to form a self-awareness group to stop Satan and hasten the return of Jesus. He got himself two members, his own brother Justin and a young woman named Dawn Goldman. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Glenn Helzer’s plans “included a bizarre plot to train Brazilian orphans to slaughter the leaders of the Mormon Church so he could become its prophet; and ‘Transform America,’ a self-help group to foster ‘a state of peace and joy.’”

In order to raise money, the Helzer’s sold ecstasy and Glenn got his onetime girlfriend, Keri Mendoza, to pose for Playboy. (She appeared as Kerissa Fare, Miss September 2000). But when drugs and sex didn’t produce enough money fast enough, Helzer’s mind turned towards robbery and murder. The group extorted $100,000 from an elderly couple, Ivan and Annette Stineman, and then killed them, returning the next day to dismember them. (Peace and joy can be such hard work!)

Helzer next planned to incorporate his friend, Selina Bishop (daughter of blues guitarist Elvin Bishop) into his plot by getting her to cash the check. But he decided that she knew too much, so he and his brother bludgeoned her to death and then eviscerated her body. Fearing that Bishop’s stepfather and mother would finger him as a suspect in the murder of their daughter, Helzer dispatched them the following day. On August 7, 2000 the three conspirators were arrested. Glenn Helzer received five death sentences. Brother Justin got only one and Dawn Godman was sentenced to 38 years-to-life.