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Many people have been victimized by NXIVM, the self-proclaimed self-help group with an alleged corrupt cult core, but did it lead to one member’s suicide?
Environmental consultant Kristin Marie Snyder began Executive Success Programs, or ESP classes, in November 2002, the Albany Times Union reported in 2004. NXIVM advertised itself as a self-help group that offered workshops and classes aimed at unlocking participants' potential. One of those options was ESP, which NXIVM promoted as a way to improve business and communication skills.
Snyder started off taking classes in "Human Potential," and in addition to the ESP classes, Snyder also traveled to upstate New York where NXIVM was based to meet with ESP leaders, according to the Albany Times Union. Snyder was described as an overachiever and she was hoping that her involvement in the group would improve her life.
By February 2003, however, she became disenchanted while attending a 16-day "intensive'' course in Anchorage, according to the Times Union. Her spouse, Heidi Clifford, later told the outlet that Snyder was suddenly sleep-deprived, delusional, and suicidal. Snyder, then 35, was last seen on Feb. 6 by Clifford as Snyder left an Anchorage hotel where the NXIVM training was being held. She was reportedly distraught at the time.
The Alaska State Police investigators believe that Snyder drove herself to Resurrection Bay so she could intentionally capsize in a kayak. An apparent suicide note was found in a spiral notebook inside the couple's Toyota Tacoma.
"I attended a course called Executive Success Programs (a.k.a. Nexivm) based out of Anchorage, AK, and Albany, NY,'' the note stated, according to the Times Union. "I was brainwashed and my emotional center of the brain was killed/turned off. I still have feeling in my external skin, but my internal organs are rotting. Please contact my parents ... if you find me or this note. I am sorry life, I didn't know I was already dead. May we persist into the future.''
She also wrote in the notebook, "No need to search for my body.''
Snyder's body was never found, though she is presumed dead by suicide, Alaska State Trooper Paul Randall told the Times Union.
Randall also told the outlet that Snyder had no history of psychiatric or emotional problems before joining NXIVM.
"We heard she had been taking courses and that she changed,” he said.
Alaska State Police Sgt. Brandon Anderson told the Times Union that other notes written days before she vanished point to her having a "sort of a mental breakdown'' after getting involved in ESP.
Dennis Yusko, who wrote the Times Union piece, stated in “Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult,” a new Starz docuseries about NXIVM, that he was told in 2003 that ESP courses involved sleep deprivation and mind control tactics.
"Before she was in NXIVM, Kristin Snyder was happy,” cult expert Rick Alan Ross added in "Seduced" Inside the NXIVM Cult." “She had a masters degree, she had her whole life ahead of her. But when she got caught up in their endless maze of courses, she had a meltdown.”
Synder's sister Kim Snyder told Oxygen.com that she suspects foul play. She doesn't believe that her sister wrote the suicide note. The family has not filed any criminal report and the death has been ruled a suicide.
Kim said she saw her sister about a month before she disappeared and noticed that her demeanor had changed.
"She was out of it, and I mean out of it," she told Oxygen.com. "Screaming and crying whereas she was always level headed. Never anything out of the ordinary."
Kim said described her sister as "stable" and "strong" before she began taking the ESP classes.
"I just don't know how she got sucked into this s**t," she said, adding that she thinks her sibling wanted to enhance her career life.
Ross alleged in the docuseries that the group's leader, Keith Raniere, told his followers that the Kristin suicide claim was "a hoax." Instead, Ross said Raniere told his followers that Kristin was alive and living down in Mexico.
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