Murder by Samaritan

by David A. Farris

08/06/2014

Allen Ross was a free spirit. He wore thrift-store clothes and Converse tennis shoes to complement his tall, gangling frame. His glasses contributed to his meek, yet intellectual, appearance. 

A filmmaker who worked full time as editor on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, Ross helped found the artists’ cooperative and film society Chicago Filmmakers, which was responsible for helping struggling artists find resources to complete their projects. 

With enthusiasm bordering on eccentric, Ross dove into the paranormal. In 1986, he began to dabble in the occult — or, as he called it, “the mysteries” — with his live-in girlfriend, Flanagan MacKenzie. By early 1992, their relationship was waning, but they remained friends, united by an interest in the supernatural. Then MacKenzie heard about a lady from Guthrie, Oklahoma, who was conducting seminars at a hotel near the O’Hare Airport that involved the use of pendulums for spiritual awareness. 

Allen Ross had everything — the love and support of his family and friends, high status in his professional community — and then one day he abandoned his near-perfect life, left Chicago, and moved to Oklahoma.

***

Linda Greene was the leader of a group of New Age practitioners known as the Samaritans. She began turning heads in Guthrie in 1991 when she bought the old territorial jail as a crash pad for her followers. She was a registered nurse (once featured in a 1980s news story about hospice innovations where she worked), as well as an actress, poet, and author who wrote books about her New Age philosophies. 

MacKenzie attended Greene’s Chicago seminar and then followed her to Guthrie for more. She brought Greene’s lessons back to Ross, who soon began accompanying MacKenzie on her trips to Oklahoma. Then he began to go alone. In one seminar Ross attended, Greene paired the men and women into couples and married them. Ross returned to Chicago with an astonishing announcement — he had married a woman after having known her for only three days. [1] 

But then Greene decided she wanted Ross for herself and took him as her sixth husband. She had only divorced her fifth husband, Denis Greene, a few months prior. “Within six to eight months of our divorce, he had moved to Guthrie, and they were living together,” Denis Greene claimed years later in an interview. “I’m not sure they even went through the legal machinations of marriage. If they did, I never knew about it.” 


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Prior to their divorce — perhaps in an effort to save their marriage — Denis helped Linda establish the Samaritan Foundation so she could teach classes and hold retreats where she explained her New Age beliefs to her students. “But the main focus was on dowsing,” Denis Greene said. “Then her desire to be a guru 
took over.

“I was trying to be Mr. Supportive,” he said. “I was trying to be a family guy. I tried to be supportive of everything she was doing, as weird as it seemed.” After their divorce, Denis Greene remained with the group. 

For a short while, Ross shuttled back and forth between his home and bride before making the decision, in late 1992, to cut his Chicago ties and start a new life in Guthrie. His family and friends were bewildered by his decision. They chocked it up to his free-spirited nature, but those closest to him weren’t sure what to think. 

According to friends, Ross had become obsessed with spirituality. In addition to dowsing, the group studied topics like alien abductions and demonic possession, interpreting such phenomena from Linda’s prospective. Had Ross fallen victim to mental illness, brain washing, or something darker? 

***

In 1993, Nelli George, a 40-year-old native of Beirut, Lebanon, was living in Sommerville, Massachusetts, with her 42-year-old husband, Jonathan George, and their two children, Leila Malini, 7, and Rami, 4. Nelli was receiving literature from the Samaritan Foundation and, like Ross, had a growing interest. Sometime in August, she told her husband about a 10-day seminar being held in Guthrie, Oklahoma, that she described as “a chance of a lifetime.” She persuaded her husband that it would be a good idea for her to take along their children. The trio arrived at the old jail on September 2; afterward Jonathan heard little, then nothing, from his family. The only phone number he had was one connected to Linda Greene’s answering machine. When calls were returned, they were brief and abrupt. He became increasingly alarmed when, after the 10 days, his family did not return. 

The next month, Nelli filed for “separate maintenance”; Jonathan appealed to the Massachusetts State Court and was awarded temporary custody of his children. He left his job doing carpentry work for the TV show This Old House and traveled to Guthrie to retrieve his children. An emergency child custody hearing was held in the courtroom of Judge Penny Howard. In two days of testimony, from which Linda Greene was conspicuously absent, the Samaritan Foundation’s teachings were exposed to the public. 

Jonathan testified to his wife’s “bizarre” behavior, which began 18 months earlier when she started receiving correspondence from the Samaritan Foundation. She was swinging a pendulum over things — including her children — to remove evil. To defeat barcodes on product labels, which Greene also claimed were evil, groceries were placed on circular drawings. He found the same drawings underneath the children’s pillows. 

In literature mailed by the Samaritan Foundation, Greene made reference to spiritual “waste” and how it can be disposed. Her remedy was to “propel such waste” into celebrities because “many movie stars are zombies” who “feel nothing from the procedure” since they don’t have souls. She then gave examples of various celebrities and their zombie type:

Rosanne Arquette is a “ray / octave zombie.”
Madonna is a “nephilim zombie.” 
Bill Clinton is “an animal-mutant zombie.”
Hillary Clinton is a “three-virtue type zombie.”
Saddam Hussein is a “five-virtue zombie.”

She then suggested that if no celebrities are available, one could direct “stray obsessive energy” into soy milk and then pour it down the drain. Greene also claimed in her writings that she was Christ because she “willingly gave her soul so that all of yours could survive.” 

The court ruled in favor of Jonathan George, who took his children back to Massachusetts, and the custody hearing marked the beginning of the end for the Samaritan Foundation. State agencies began paying attention to the unusual group in Guthrie. 

By the end of 1993, the Department of Human Services had condemned the old jail as living quarters. Officials had become concerned about the conditions there, especially because there were children involved. “There appeared to be about 14 or 15 children staying in the building,” Officer Rex Smith said. 

By 1994, the increased scrutiny had taken a toll on the foundation. All of the unwanted attention had driven members away from Guthrie. Linda stated that her following had dwindled from 350 worldwide, to three — her friend Julia Williams, Denis Greene, and Allen Ross. 

In 1995, things hadn’t improved for the foundation, and then Oklahoma City was rocked by the bombing of the Murrah Building on April 19. As investigators pored through thousands of leads, the odd group from Guthrie, rumored to have ties to the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, was once again under scrutiny. By this time, there was no illusion of solidarity; the Samaritan Foundation had been disbanded. It was also clear that it was time to leave the Sooner State. Linda’s pendulum swung toward Cheyenne, Wyoming, where Julia Williams purchased a house to share with Allen and Linda. Denis chose to settle in Loveland, Colorado. 

Soon after their move, Allen was collaborating with Christian Bauer on their seventh and final film, Ol’ Man River, about the Mississippi River. “We traveled by car from Lake Itasca (in Minnesota) to the Delta of the Mississippi,” Bauer recalled. 

Linda showed up suddenly and without any notice twice during the filming. The first time was in Saint Louis. “One morning Genevieve [an alias she sometimes used] was sitting there having breakfast with Allen,” Bauer said. “She was not what I had expected her to be. She was very demanding. She was very controlling. She was not the caring, kind of woman I had imagined her to be when I saw her picture.”

In the fall of 1995, as the two wrapped up their filming in New Orleans, Linda again suddenly appeared. Allen seemed to be embarrassed of her as she became a distraction to him. On the last day of shooting, Bauer witnessed the couple in a serious argument. “You spend too much time with your work,” he recalled Linda saying. 

“I tried to take Allen’s side in the fight,” Bauer said. “We wanted to go to a restaurant. We had arranged a farewell dinner. And I made my speech, trying to defend Allen and tell how difficult the situation was. Allen wanted to be with his wife, and he wanted to do the job he had to do.”

Allen interrupted Bauer to say that they would meet him later at the restaurant, but the couple never made it. “I saw him the next morning when we packed our things,” Bauer said. “We hugged each other and said farewell. I think we spoke twice after that. He called me once from Cheyenne. He seemed in good spirits.” But that morning was the last time Bauer saw his friend alive.

***

Ross went missing sometime in late November of 1995. His family and friends hadn’t heard from him in days. Bauer’s production manager had called Allen from Germany to set up a wire transfer so he could be paid for his work, but the money sat in his account, unclaimed.

Brad Ross, Allen’s twin brother, told reporter Dennis Murphy in an interview for Dateline: “He would never miss a holiday, never miss a birthday. So when Thanksgiving came and we didn’t hear from him, that was just, like, unbelievable. …Christmas was the real turning point because we knew Al wouldn’t  miss Christmas.” 

In December, the Cheyenne police received a phone call from Denis Greene, who said Linda killed Ross and buried him in the crawl space under their house. He said that the last time he saw Allen alive was in October when he stopped by the couple’s Cheyenne home for a visit. About a month and a half later, Linda appeared at his Colorado home. He had been concerned about Linda’s recent erratic behavior. “For quite some time, she had not been making sense to me,” Denis said. He described her “sending faxes all over kingdom come about alien invasions and all kinds of stuff.”

Linda began telling Denis about Allen. “She told me a long story about their extreme marital conflicts,” Denis Greene said. “Why she was telling me, I don’t know.” He said she told him that she and Ross fought, that she was afraid of him, and that “she had done something to him that would ensure that he would no longer be able to hurt her.”

Meanwhile, Linda Greene had sent faxes to police in Guthrie and in other states claiming that Allen had in fact been killed — by her ex-husband Denis. Officer Smith said he received faxes from Linda Greene in late 1996 “claiming that people were out to get her and set her up for killing Allen Ross.”

Ross’ family hired private investigators in both Wyoming and Oklahoma City, and they consulted a couple of psychics, one of whom had worked with police in past investigations. Independent of each other, both psychics concluded that Allen was alive and in Texas, but was not well. One had concluded that he had suffered a mental breakdown; the other made a similar reference to Allen’s head, referring to trauma or that he had been hit. They also both stated that Ross did not want to be found and that when he was, he wouldn’t want to talk about it when he returned. Only one of the aforementioned predictions would prove true.

Unfortunately for the investigation, the psychics’ pronouncement of Allen did not seem out of character to those who knew him. The Samaritans valued their privacy and so did Ross. Before disappearing, he left a series of old post office boxes, phone numbers no longer in service, and a street address that didn’t exist. He had also discussed with friends the concept of disappearing and how easy it would be to create a new identity. Bauer recalled a conversation when he mentioned to Allen that in America, people leave trails that can be tracked. Allen replied: “Well, what you do is build up a new persona by obtaining credit cards, new phone cards. It’s all possible. You build up a second or third identity, and then you lose your first one.” 

In 1999, Allen’s family and his friends in the film community joined forces to conduct their own investigation. The Ross family did research while Bauer and filmmaker Gaylon Emerzian traveled, their cameras documenting every step.

It became an investigation mired in contradictions and misinformation. Neither Bauer, Emerzian, nor the Ross family knew much about the Samaritan Foundation. They were shocked to learn about their beliefs and had no idea that Allen’s wife was the group’s spiritual leader. Bauer explained in his Dateline interview with Dennis Murphy: 

Bauer: “I had absolutely no clue. And I wondered, why did my friend not tell me about it?”

Murphy: “What was the lure of the cult to the followers?”

Bauer: “What is the lure of any cult might be a good question. I think we have people who are looking for a meaning in life and they don’t have any answers. I think that was what was happening to Allen, too.”

Murphy: “And Linda had answers and tests and the path to go?”

Bauer: “And she chose him as her mate.” 

The only one available for interview who had direct knowledge of the case was Denis Greene. At this point, he had told his account of events to police in four states and the FBI. “They just didn’t pursue his disappearance with what I think was adequate vigor,” Greene complained.

Linda’s whereabouts were still unknown. She was alleged to be traveling with her wealthy friend Julia Williams. Bauer and Emerzian had tried for months to contact her without any luck. Then, to Bauer’s surprise, Linda called him. She had changed her story regarding who killed Allen and why, but still maintained that Denis was present. 

Bauer: “I read a fax by you saying that Denis, your ex-husband, had killed Allen.”

Linda: “No, he buried him.”

Bauer: “He buried him?”

Linda: “Yes.”

Bauer: “So who killed him then?”

Linda: “The specialists, once they go too far into the mind control, shit, they terminate(d) him! That’s all I’m allowed to say. It’s top secret.”

Could Linda be setting the stage for an insanity defense? The filmmakers learned that shortly after her visit with Denis in December of 1995, when she claimed that she had “done something to Allen,” her family had committed her to a mental institution. The only thing consistent about Linda’s story is that Allen was buried in the basement of their former home in Wyoming. Bauer told Murphy, “She warned us to stay away from the whole story because who was involved — the government, the CIA.”

After her interview with Bauer, Linda disappeared again. With nowhere left to go, the filmmakers returned to Cheyenne and shared with police what little they had uncovered, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough evidence to make an arrest. Brad made a desperate final plea for authorities to make one more search of the house. A detective agreed, but stipulated that if nothing was found, then the investigation would go cold. Officers inspected the crawl space in the basement once again and, this time, they noticed something protruding from the hastily laid cement floor. It was the heel of a Converse 
tennis shoe. 

Investigators chipped the cement away to reveal a grave. After four years and thousands of miles, the search for Allen ended. His body had never left the house. It was found exactly where both Denis and Linda Greene had told police he was buried. 

*** 

An autopsy determined that Allen had been shot twice — once in the head — with a 9mm handgun. Technically, that would count as head trauma — the only prediction the psychics got right. In addition, Ross’ corpse had been castrated. 

When the coroner’s investigation was finished, Allen’s family was finally able to take possession of the remains. The Ross family had the satisfaction of laying their loved one to rest, but convicting anyone for his murder would be another challenge. Authorities had confirmed how Allen was killed, but there was no evidence to indicate who pulled the trigger. The Cheyenne police found Linda and again questioned her, this time about murder. She had changed her story since talking to Bauer, returning to her original charge that Denis was the killer. Linda’s grasp on reality seemed too tenuous for her to be a reliable witness, and there was no way to confirm Denis’ account, so authorities were left without enough evidence for an arrest warrant. 

In the spring of 2001, the two filmmakers, Christian Bauer and Gaylon Emerzian, caught up with Linda in New Orleans, and she agreed to an on-camera interview. The last few years had been hard on the formerly charismatic leader. She no longer seemed as spirited, perhaps due to psychotropic medication, but she was still Linda. “It’s beyond my framework of reality, how somebody could do something so terrible,” she told them. 

Whichever version of events Linda told, it was with conviction. She continued to accuse Denis Greene of murder. “He killed Allen Ross!” she said. “He killed him and then he said he would kill me and my son if I opened my mouth!”

When Murphy asked Emerzian whether she thought that Linda was telling the truth she said, “It’s hard for me to fathom what the truth is as far as Linda’s concerned, because she had so many different versions she rattled off during the course of the interview.” 

In 2001, Bauer’s film, Missing Allen, was released. The following year, in Berryville, Arkansas, Linda Greene died at age 50 of liver failure. According to her family, she drank excessively to stop the voices in her head. Investigators were left with one other person besides Denis who may have direct knowledge of what occurred on the day that Allen was murdered. Police had also repeatedly interviewed Julia Williams; she gave bizarre, conflicting accounts that all led away from Linda as a suspect. Shortly after Linda’s death, she was interviewed again, and this time she admitted to investigators helping move Ross’ body to the basement, cleaning up the crime scene, and disposing of the murder weapon. But she was adamant that Denis Greene killed Allen Ross.

The Cheyenne police had considered Denis a suspect in Allen’s disappearance since he first contacted their office with his bizarre story in December of 1995. Despite being forthcoming with information, they believed that he knew more than he was telling. Early in their investigation, Denis had agreed to take a lie detector test, which he failed. Yet, even with the testimony of two witnesses naming him as the killer, both of whom investigators could place 
at the house on the day of the murder, he was never arrested. 

After examining the evidence, Cheyenne authorities developed their own series of events. They concluded that Julia Williams was telling the truth about everything, except the identity of the killer. Cheyenne prosecutors charged Williams as an accessory after the fact in Ross’ murder. Her trial began November of 2004, almost nine years after the event. 

The prosecution began by presenting their theory of events leading to the murder. They had established two possible motives for Linda being the killer: The first involved profits from book sales, which Linda claimed Ross was stealing. The second was that Allen had had enough of Linda’s antics and was planning to leave her and resume his life in Chicago. None of the prosecution’s theories had anything to do with the charges against Williams; however, it was important to name Linda as the shooter so that they could call their star witness in the case, Denis Greene. 

The prosecution also called to the stand Denis and Linda Greene’s 18-year-old son, who was nine at the time of Allen’s death. He testified that his mother did own a 9mm pistol that she kept in her purse, the same caliber of weapon used in the murder. He told the court how he once watched his mother use her gun to shoot the lock off of a gate. 

The prosecution established that Linda Greene had the motive, means, and opportunity to murder Allen Ross. However, this part of the trial seemed like an unnecessary formality regarding the defendant. Williams had already admitted her participation in the crime after the fact, regardless of who pulled the trigger. Williams’ defense attorney didn’t challenge his client’s guilt. Instead, pointing out that the prosecution’s theories were not fact. And that, unlike Linda, Williams had consistently named Denis as the killer. There was little more to say; no witnesses were called and no evidence was presented. 

It took the jury only an hour to return with a guilty verdict. The 51-year-old woman was sentenced to serve at least 24 month in prison, but not more than 34 months. In addition, Williams was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine and $3,500 in public defender fees. The judicial system had done all it could to hold someone accountable for the murder of Allen Ross. After years of investigation, thousands of miles traveled, numerous bum leads, and much expense, William’s modest sentence for her participation in such a horrible crime hardly seemed worth it.

Denis Greene is free to live his life, comforted by the fact that Cheyenne investigators have officially closed the case on the murder of Allen Ross. Williams served her sentence and was then free to rebuild her life; just like Allen’s family and friends were free to resume their lives, without the perplexing mystery that had haunted them for so many years. The answers they received were far from satisfying and provided loved ones with little comfort.  

Footnote:

1. At a subsequent meeting, Greene told her students that she was dying and that, in order to save her life, Ross and his new bride must have sex on top of her. Afterward, Greene announced that their efforts had not been in vain and that she had fully recovered.

 


Originally published in This Land, Vol. 5, Issue 14, July 15. 2014.