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Kirtanananda Swami and murders amongst Hare Krishnas spotlighted on The 1980s: The Deadliest Decade

Kirtanananda Swami
Kirtanananda Swami seen here in India has now died, he was a controversial figure

This week on The 1980s: The Deadliest Decade, murder comes calling to the peace loving Hare Krishnas as murder and betrayal highlight all too human failings.

Keith Ham, later known as Swami Bhaktipada and Kirtanananda Swami, was the son of a Baptist minister and became a Krishna swami un the 1960s. He went on to form the large community and its Palace of Gold that became one of the biggest and the most well known Hare Krishna centers in America.

New Vrindaban, which he founded with his partner Howard Morton Wheeler, had over 600 members by the 1970s but there was dissent rising from various quarters. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or ISKCON, expelled him for deviating morally and theologically from the movement and in 1987 the community was raided by the FBI.

Bhaktipada was accused of ordering the death of two devotees who had threatened his grip on power, with Charles St. Denis, being killed at the complex in 1983 and Stephen Bryant being killed in 1986.

He denied all knowledge of the killing but the man convicted said that Bhaktipada had ordered the murders. There were also various charges of racketeering and he was given a 12 year prison sentence in 1997.

The 1980s: The Deadliest Decade airs on Mondays at 9:00 PM on Investigation Discovery.

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