'They're Brushing It Under the Rug,' Says Mom of Sect Leader Found Mummified and Wrapped in Christmas Lights

Amy Carlson's mom and the local sheriff, both speaking to Dateline NBC, challenged a decision to drop criminal charges in the sect leader's mysterious death

cult leader found dead
Lia “Amy” Carlson. Photo: Dr.phil

A startling discovery by Colorado sheriff's deputies in April grabbed headlines: a mummified body was found wrapped in Christmas lights in someone's home, where it appeared to be the subject of worship by members of a religious sect.

Identified as those of Lia "Amy" Carlson — known as "Mother God" by followers of the now-defunct Love Has Won group, who shared Carlson's spiritual teachings on YouTube — the remains were further covered in a sleeping bag, with glitter makeup surrounding the eye sockets.

"I used to say I've seen it all," Saguache County Sheriff Dan Warwick tells Dateline NBC in a broadcast airing Friday (9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT). "I don't say that anymore."

Seven of Carlson's followers were arrested, three on charges of abuse of a corpse and four on charges of tampering with a deceased human body. Authorities alleged that Carlson, 45, had died in California and then was transported to the sect's headquarters in Moffat, Colo., reports The Denver Post.

Because two children were inside the home at the time of the April 28 discovery, all seven adults also were charged with misdemeanor child abuse.

But Saguache County District Attorney Alonzo Payne later dropped all charges, according to The Denver Gazette.

"You think these people should have faced charges for abuse of a corpse?" Dateline correspondent Keith Morrison asked the sheriff after Payne's decision.

"I do," says Warwick. (An excerpt from the show is below.)

Carlson's mother, Linda Haythorne, also objected to the prosecutor's decision, she tells the show.

"It seems like they're kind of brushing it under the rug," she says. "That's the way I feel, anyway."

The prosecutor defended his decision. "Our office looked at all the documents and everything that was provided," says Payne. "And from our perspective the allegations could not be met beyond a reasonable doubt."

In an arrest affidavit previously obtained by PEOPLE, local law enforcement said they were tipped off to the corpse by Miguel Lamboy, who they believed was a member of the sect, about which the sheriff's department said they had "received many complaints from families within the United States saying that the group is brainwashing people and stealing their money."

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The affidavit states that Lamboy told investigators that five members of the group had asked to stay at his place on April 27. Lamboy ran several errands and when he returned, he found the deceased Carlson there.

Lamboy told authorities that Carlson's eyes appeared to be missing, she looked "mummified" and her teeth were "exposed through the lips," according to the affidavit.

The affidavit further stated the corpse had "glitter type makeup on around the eyes" and "the mummified remains were decorated with Christmas tree lights" in what authorities described as a "shrine."

A livestream from "Love Has Won" members on April 16 stated that Carlson was "very, very, very close to dying" and that "she's slowly, slowly going out of her vessel."

In another livestream on April 21, members claimed Carlson was "in stasis" and refusing medical care.

The Saguache County coroner who identified Carlson's remains through DNA testing said in July that he had not been able to identify a cause of death, reports the Denver Post, because he was still searching for a lab that could test the body for heavy metals such as those that sect members broke down through electrolysis to sell online as health aids.

"I watched some of their YouTube videos," coroner Tom Perrin told the outlet. "It seems like they were claiming it would cure certain things or improve your health."

The two-hour Dateline episode, "The Ascension of Mother God," airs Friday (9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT).

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