Deal clears way for sale of cult property

Ex-members get to keep some Heaven's Gate items

July 25, 1999|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

San Diego County officials say that an agreement reached with two former Heaven's Gate cult members has paved the way for a public auction of many of the infamous group's belongings.

But under the agreement, which must be approved by a judge, some of the most notable possessions will go to the couple for safekeeping rather than to the auction block.

Mark and Sarah King of Phoenix, Ariz., had threatened to appeal a judge's February ruling that the cult's estate belonged to the county and that the items could be sold at auction, according to Don Billings, a county public administrator. The couple agreed to drop any appeal as part of the deal worked out last week, Billings said.

In return, the Kings will receive religious writings, artwork and more than 20 arm patches embossed with the group's logo, which they plan to keep in memory of the 39 deceased cult members. The couple have agreed not to sell the objects, which include a videotape left behind by the group explaining that they planned to catch a ride on the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet to reach a higher level of consciousness.

The agreement would allow the county auction as early as September. It would include less notorious items owned by the cult, such as furniture, vans and television sets. The proceeds would go toward paying $100,000 in claims filed against the Heaven's Gate estate by ex-members' relatives for burial expenses. Because the group's members left no wills, the county handled the group's estate.

Pub Date: 7/25/99

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