The Septuagenarian Speaks – published August 26, 2020, Siskiyou Daily News
His Holiness Master David, aka Robert Martin Lloyd, was arrested Christmas Eve, 1997, in Sacramento while attempting to deliver a teddy bear to the governor. He was arrested on a Siskiyou County warrant arising from an October 1995 report from a woman treated in our hospital’s emergency room who claimed that between September and mid-October a man held her against her will, raped and beat her repeatedly, and broke her leg with a rock. She said she managed to escape from an RV park in McCloud where she and other followers had been staying with a man who had taken the name of “His Holiness Master David,” claiming to be an ordained minister with the “Essence Church of the Fields.”
After his arrest, His Holiness Master David was arraigned in my court, the first of many proceedings spanning two years before he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to State Prison in January, 2000. Thus, more than four years went by from when the crimes were initially reported until conviction. He was apparently hiding out for the first two years, but when his arrest did occur, it was because he turned himself in, informing officers in Sacramento that there was a warrant for his arrest from Siskiyou County. He said he wanted to turn himself in to answer the charges. It seems a little weird for him to do that, but “weird” pretty much defined Master David. Although what he was doing for those two years is a mystery, I can account for what happened during the two years following his arrest. A large portion of that was the result of a court determination that he was mentally incompetent to stand trial.
California Penal Code Section 1368 is the central statute that gives direction to the court on how to deal with a person who may be mentally incompetent to stand trial. A defendant is mentally incompetent “if, as a result of mental disorder or developmental disability, the defendant is unable to understand the nature of the criminal proceedings or to assist counsel in the conduct of a defense in a rational manner.” The law further provides that if a doubt arises in the mind of the judge as to the mental competence of the defendant, the judge must state that doubt on the record. When this happens, the criminal proceedings are suspended and psychological evaluations are conducted by court-appointed mental health professionals, followed by a trial to determine mental competency. If after the trial the court determines the defendant to be incompetent, then the defendant is committed to an appropriate facility for treatment, often including the use of psychotropic medications, until the defendant is “restored to competency,” at which time the criminal proceedings are resumed. This all occurred in Master David’s case, and in July, 1998, I found him to be incompetent to stand trial, and committed him to Atascadero State Hospital. He was treated for sixteen months until the hospital staff proclaimed that he was “restored to competency,” and sent him back to Siskiyou County. Apparently, the shrinks at the State Hospital can work miracles.
What caused me to declare a doubt as to Master David’s mental competency? Here are a few of the tell-tale signs. It was reported that at the jail he ate as many as 45 candy bars a week, claiming that the food at the jail was not appropriate for his diet. He was also observed several times drinking from ponding water in an exercise area at the jail. He claimed he had gone 22 days without water, as he could not drink water with chlorine. He later wrote, “my flesh is torn and my heart wounded. I drink from puddles that might form on the floor of concrete and steal (sic) cages.” Daniel Webster was a staff reporter for the Siskiyou Daily News in January, 1998, when Master David was in custody, and obtained some statements from him. Master David refuted the charges against him by saying that if what his victim alleged actually did occur, his acts were “within the bounds of the program.” The “program” he was referring to was his rigorous “Essene Reverence Program,” entered into under a signed, taped, witnessed contract with members of his religious organization. “Those acts are supposed to occur during this program,” he said. “The rod expresses guidance by suffering – the staff guidance by wisdom. It is the truth that has been spoken to me. I teach beings to be free.” Speaking of his arrest, he said, “I claim to be Jesus. It makes me insane or that being. After the father has been away from his children, when he returns, he brings a gift. I left the teddy bear with the governor as a gift for the children of America.” He went on to say that the teddy bear represented the tenderness of Jesus. At the beginning, Master David refused to allow the court to appoint a lawyer for him. He said he would seek a change of venue, as he believed over 1,400 people would be called to testify on his behalf, and most of them were from the Bay Area. “I don’t know much about the law – I only know the higher law,” he said. He also said he believed his case to be a “witch hunt,” stemming from his unsuccessful run for presidency. In a letter to the Siskiyou Daily News, he wrote, “For if I become President, and indeed I shall one day, then I will release every single womyn (sic) held in the prisons of the world by word of love or might of arms.” He signed his letter, “Jesus, Siskiyou County Jail.” After I declared doubt as to his competency, pursuant to the statute, I appointed Public Defender Mario Novello to represent Master David, contrary to his wish. Ignoring the advice of his counsel, Master David continued sending letters to various people about his case, including SDN reporters Daniel Webster and Sherry Coonrod.
In last week’s column I left you hanging with the question of whether SDN reporter Sherry Coonrod accepted Master David’s generous offer to join his cult and participate in his program. I neglected to tell you that Master David also wrote the following to Daniel Webster: “Dear Daniel … We are looking for a staff writer on one of our newspapers, Childs Cry. Would you be interested? We need a new editor.” Did Sherry join his cult? Did Daniel accept his job offer? Well, I guess you are going to have to wait a little longer. More to come …