A Choice to Share Death : Final Act of Couple’s Mystical Beliefs Confirmed 6 Years Later
The wedding was unusual, even for Hollywood. The setting was a storefront occult shop near Hollywood Boulevard. The young bride and groom wore matching black sweat shirts with metal studs. In the glow of candles, they vowed to merge together into “the light.”
A ceremonial priestess then conferred upon them a marriage of the spirits. They very much looked to be a couple: Both their heads, even their eyebrows, had been shaved.
Although they had known each other just a few months, Patricia Chilcote Lutz, 26, and Robin K. Waters, 31, seemed eager to share a lifetime together, according to one guest at the small ceremony in early 1983.
But instead, they chose to share death.
About three weeks later, the couple said farewell to their housemates and trudged off in Army fatigues and backpacks toward what the friends thought was a new home somewhere in the Sierra Nevada. A suicide note reached the friends a day or two later by mail. It alluded to the title of a song, “White Wedding” by rock singer Billy Idol, and it promised that the couple’s remains would be found in Griffith Park.
That promise came true last week, six years after the housemates filed a missing-persons report. A skull and debris, found by hikers in a rugged ravine northwest of the park’s observatory, were officially identified Monday as the remains of Lutz and Waters.
Occult symbols on rusted, weather-worn jewelry and a pair of .22-caliber handguns told only a part of a story of what appears to have been a death pact, the final expression of the couple’s mystical beliefs, according to Los Angeles police investigators. One detective described it as a case of a popular young woman falling in with the wrong company--another life “lost to Hollywood.”
Former roommates said Lutz, the daughter of a retired Baltimore police officer, seemed to have every reason for living. She was a trained chef, a student of yoga and meditation, and was dating recording-company executives and agents before she met Waters, a one-time professional dancer who claimed to have the power to contact spirits, recalled D. W. Cook, one former housemate.
Liked to Live It Up
Until she shaved her head, Lutz had beautiful red hair. She was a vegetarian who carefully guarded her health and who liked to live it up at Hollywood dance clubs, Cook said.
“Patricia didn’t drink or do drugs,” the former housemate recalled. “She ate papaya, she chanted, she did yoga. She laughed a lot. She was very outgoing, very gregarious. She seemed to come from a good home . . . from a nice family.”
Rhonda Alexander, another roommate, described Lutz as “full of energy . . . a flit, an elf . . . giddy. She was light and airy, in some ways innocent. But she had seen a lot. She knew people. She had been places. Men were easily attracted to her.”
Waters, too, attracted people, but for other reasons. His head was shaved, he was sallow and extremely thin, and he wore a dark goatee. His most striking feature, acquaintances recalled, were his eyes: a piercing, clear blue. He had had a tough childhood, mostly in California. He had once been married. He had rings and a belt buckle embellished with the designs of human skulls.
‘Could Be Witty’
“He was withdrawn unless he knew you,” one former acquaintance said. “But he could be witty, sociable. He was not a threatening monster. There was a definite fascination, a strange fascination, about him.”
The brief romance between the two occurred largely by chance, five years after Lutz moved here from Baltimore. Her husband, who disliked Los Angeles, returned home in 1981, but Lutz found the city fascinating. In the fall of 1982, she was invited to join a small group sharing a house in Hollywood.
Three people--Cook, Alexander and another male--were sharing the four-bedroom house. They were all college buddies from the East, come West for jobs and adventure.
After Lutz moved in, the housemates ardently sampled social clubs, health foods, jobs, music and friends. They dabbled in mysticism and meditation.
Occasionally they walked to the Ram Center, a storefront occult shop, to buy candles, herbs and incense. They told their own fates with tarot cards.
“It was a very creative environment,” Cook remembered of the house. “We were at that age where you want to taste everything, try everything. We were just playing Hollywood, having a good time.”
In that spirit of adventure, the housemates said, Waters entered the scene. Alexander said she met him through a friend. Waters seemed to have an instant telepathic understanding of her, Alexander remembered.
“He had almost a shine in his eyes,” she said.
Alexander introduced him to Lutz. Before long, all of the housemates came to believe that Waters could contact spirits in a calm, candle-lighted room.
Had Psychic Talents
Waters’ former wife, Sharon Summer Parness, who now lives in Santa Monica, said Waters had many psychic talents ranging from telekinesis to astral travel. According to Parness, Waters once locked his keys in a truck. “We really wanted to get home,” she said. “He stroked the glass and popped the plunger up,” which unlocked the door. “I witnessed that. People could be gone for two years and he’d suddenly say, ‘Oh, so-and-so’s back in town.’ And . . . he could get them on the phone.”
Parness described her former husband as a gentle man who was also extremely ill when he met Lutz, probably dying of cancer. He had become ill in 1981, giving up his profession as a dancer. He lost 60 pounds and began suffering seizures and blackouts.
Changed His Mind
Waters sought treatment at UCLA Medical Center, but he changed his mind before undergoing a brain scan, afraid that he had waited too long anyway, Parness said.
He was afraid of the drastic steps doctors might take to try to save him.
Parness said Waters read extensively on death and the occult, from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ “On Death and Dying” to Anton LaVey’s “The Satanic Bible.” Whether by design or coincidence, Waters’ shaved head and goatee were trademarks of LaVey, who founded his Church of Satan in 1966. But the former wife insisted that Waters’ unusual appearance and occult jewelry were mostly for show.
He was less interested in Satanic literature than in books about reincarnation and about medical patients who had been brought back from near death, reporting visions of a “white light” and feelings of peace.
‘Not a Devil Worshiper’
“He was not a devil worshiper,” the former wife said.
Lutz became infatuated with Waters almost as soon as they met, according to Alexander. Before long, Waters moved in and shared Lutz’s bedroom. Cook, who had been Lutz’s closest friend, resented the attention she gave to him. At the same time, interest in the occult within the house flared.
“Things got very intense,” Cook recalled. “It was kind of like a freak show. . . . . He would call spirits from beyond and pull them down for knowledge. He would do it in her bedroom. He’d light a candle; he’d say the spirit has come down. . . . You would experience feelings, sensations. A presence was very apparent. It was pretty amazing. He wasn’t of this world. He wasn’t real.”
Alexander, like other housemates, was open-minded to Waters’ professed powers. Twice, she said, Waters helped her to concentrate on an ordinary egg-timer and the sand stopped flowing.
But Alexander also wonders how much Waters might have exploited the blind following that the roommates showed to him. Only in retrospect did she question her own naivete, and the mind games he seemed to play.
“There was a sense of control going on . . . a sense of mind manipulation,” she said.
Waters was a hazy figure to pin down, a man whose nature was not clearly apparent, the former housemate said. Sometimes he and Lutz were funny; they laughed. Waters would sit quietly for hours, petting Cook’s cat. He also had mood swings when he groused bitterly, complaining that the world was hell.
“You didn’t get a feeling this was a black-cloaked, evil figure,” Alexander recalled.
Complained About Her Health
Still, his influence over Lutz disturbed the roommates. She complained mildly about her own health. “One time she told me, ‘Everything’s starting to go--my liver, my bowels, my stomach,’ ” Alexander recalled. “They would make running jokes about how they were old before their time. It was sort of said in a light vein, but I do think she had some problems.”
Lutz shocked the roommates when she shaved her head. Then came the spiritual wedding--not a legally recognized marriage--at the Ram Center. The shop had a small chapel in the back and, hidden away, a rich inventory of ghoulish objects--bottled fetuses, skeletons, a shrunken head.
After the ceremony, Lutz kept in touch with her family in Baltimore. She called two or three times a week, remembered her father, Charles Chilcote. Never did she mention Waters or health problems or difficulties in the house.
But tensions within the household were mounting. In March of 1983, Lutz and Waters decided to move out. They sold many of their belongings--a dresser, a bed and jewelry. They left one morning, saying they had found a place in the mountains.
The roommates understood Lutz to be a month pregnant, Cook said.
“They said goodby to us very sweetly. They both told me they loved me--no hard feelings,” Cook recalled. “They made sure they said goodby to everybody.”
Just a day or two earlier, Charles Chilcote talked with his daughter by phone for what would be the last time. The conversation was like any other.
“She said, ‘Everything’s great, Dad,’ ” the father remembered. “She gave no indication of anything being wrong. . . . If she was pregnant, I didn’t know anything about it.”
‘Ultimate Earthly Action’
The suicide note was a torment to friends and family members who hoped, for six agonizing years, that it was a hoax. It was written in Lutz’s handwriting on stationery kept in the house. The tone was upbeat: “In case your (sic) wondering, the two bald ones have gone to do their ultimate earthly action of the highest degree: self-release. To those who will be shocked, don’t be. To those who see clearly what it was, we are proud of you. Be strong!!!”
It went on to say where the remains would be found. Almost six years to the day, hikers in a steep, remote ravine discovered the bones. The angle of the wounds and the size of the guns--they had six-inch barrels--led authorities to conclude that Lutz and Waters had stood side by side and fired into the back of each other’s head.
Hint at Unhappiness
The evidence left friends and relatives bewildered. The rock song “White Wedding,” mentioned briefly in the suicide note, seemed, with its haunting lyrics, to hint at Waters’ unhappiness and his interest in the “white light”:
“There is nothing fair in this world/There is nothing safe in this world/And there’s nothing sure in this world/And there’s nothing pure in this world/Look for something left in this world/Start again--come on/It’s a nice day for a white wedding/Wow--It’s a nice day. . . .”
Waters’ former wife, who also knew Lutz, said both were ill and looking for a way out. “They jumped into the abyss holding hands,” she said. “I think it was a love story, in a way.”
But Lutz’s father insists that she was brainwashed or drugged. Her former housemates say she may have simply taken a wrong turn.
“Patricia was not sick,” Cook said. “I never saw an emotional drama inside her. I never saw her angry. I never saw depression.
“I’ve tried to figure this out a thousand times, and I guess I’ll never know.
“I thought they were going up in the mountains to live. To live.”
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