On Monday evening, a Marin County hiker near the Old Railroad Grade Trail discovered the body of 67-year old Steve Carter, one hand still on the leash of his brown Doberman pinscher.
CBS SF reports that Carter was walking his dog on a scenic fire trail in the Loma Alta Open Space Preserve just off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard north of Fairfax. There, he was shot multiple times along with his dog, who survived and is being treated at a veterinary hospital.
The Chronicle writes that Carter and his wife Lokita had recently sold the noted Middletown tantric yoga, massage, and meditation business Ecstatic Living, which they founded together, producing DVDs and teaching classes such as yoga for lovers, in order to move to their "dream home" in Costa Rica and lead a "simpler life." However, just months after the relocation, Lokita was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of breast cancer this summer. The couple returned to California for her treatment.
"The side effects of chemotherapy can knock down even the best meditator, the most docile patient, and Steve has been nothing but exemplary, loving, kind, patient,” she wrote in a recent blog post. “I so admire his ability to self-care. He goes to Yoga every single day and for a 2-hour walk with the dog so that he can be in a clear, grounded caregiver space.”
Authorities are searching for two men and a woman, identified as persons of interest in Carter's death, who reportedly stole Carter's car keys and fled in his 2003 Volkswagon Jetta station wagon, license plate 6PPG662, parked in a nearby lot. "Right now we're considering anyone that might be connected with that vehicle at this point to be armed and dangerous," Marin Sheriff's Lt. Doug Pittman told ABC 7. Officers and search dogs are scouring the area, which has been closed and is being treated as an active crime scene, for clues and evidence.
Two of the three persons of interest, who were seen near the trailhead around the time of the homicide, were also caught on security camera footage at a Fairfax 7-11. They are a white man with a hat and backpack and a white woman with dreadlocks described as "dirty."
Locals have noted the trio and their "strange" behavior, with one Marin County resident remarking that he "saw a small group of people that don't really fit in up here. So I just I let the sheriff know."
Fairfax Mayor Barbara Coler urges caution among residents until such time as arrests are made. "We're so used to our safe town that we need to be extra careful and extra watchful and make sure we lock our doors," she said. The County Sheriff's office is telling residents who spot the Volkswagon not to approach the stolen vehicle but to call authorities immediately at (415) 473-7265.
Update: Three suspects have been arrested in Portland, Oregon, per the Chronicle.
As KRON 4 has since elaborated, those arrested were 23-year-old Morrison Haze Lampley, 24-year-old Sean Michael Angold and 18-year-old Lila Scott Allgood. None has a known permanent address.
"It has been a very traumatic season for us with Lokita's cancer, then the Valley Fire that destroyed our beloved Harbin Hot Springs where we offered the majority of our workshops," Said Logan Rose, director of the Ecstatic Living Institute. The beloved nude hot springs was a casualty of the massive blaze last month, and Ecstatic Living also offered tantric couples retreats to Costa Rica. "This is the most devastating blow," Rose continued. "We are heartbroken."
Of their mode of yoga and massage, the Ecstatic Living Institute writes to customers on their website that "Our life force energy is our sexual energy. In Tantra we believe that its source is at the base of our spine. Tantric practices are used to awaken this energy and to channel it through our chakras, or energy centers."
The site also explains of the institute's founding couple that "Steve and Lokita Carter are equal, creative and sexy tantric life partners. Often they are asked if they are 'polyamorous' or in an 'open' relationship. Their chosen relationship model is monogamy. While this works for them, it might not work for you." Together, Steve and Lokita taught over 500 workshops since 1999.
Tantric practices vary greatly and are poorly understood. By way of example, the institute writes that, "Recently a male friend said that he thought Tantra was all about strategies for ‘not coming’. This is not exactly how we see it. In tantric lovemaking we dedicate ourselves to enjoy the journey without being goal oriented. We stop to smell the roses, rather than rushing by in an attempt to reach the end of the road."
“Steve was one of the most gentle, kind, sweet and funny men I have ever known,” said a Montezuma, Costa Rica resident and a new neighbor of the late Carter. “He’s all about love, this guy. He was the most loving, beautiful man you can imagine. This is such a violent waste — an absolute incredible tragedy.”