Three drifters were arrested Wednesday in connection with the fatal shooting of a tantra massage therapist who went missing while he was out hiking in Marin County, California, with his Doberman Pinscher, according to the Marin County Sheriff's Office.
The arrests came about two days after Steve Carter's body was found with multiple gunshot wounds on a trail off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in the Loma Alta Open Space Reserve on Monday night. Carter, 67, had recently moved from Costa Rica to Marin County, where he was taking care of his cancer-stricken wife, Lokita Carter.
The three were caught in Portland, Oregon, and have been identified by the sheriff's office as Sean Michael Angold, 24, Morrison Haze Lampley, 23, and Lila Scott Allgood, 18. The sheriff's office said no permanent addresses were listed for the three suspects. A GPS tracking system in Carter's stolen 2003 Jetta hatchback, which had been parked near the trail head, led authorities to the car, and ultimately to Portland, Lt. Doug Pittman explained at a Wednesday news conference. The three were arrested by Portland police outside a community dining hall.
According to records found with the Multnoma County Sheriff's Office, Lampley has a string of priors that include weapons and marijuana possession, buying alcohol for minors, criminal mischief and grafitti tagging. The criminal history of the other two were not immediately known.
The case "evolved very quickly," Pittman said, adding, "We know they are the people we are looking for."
Still, a motive behind the death of Carter - a beloved teacher of "tantric ecstacy" has not yet been revealed. Questions also remain about how the three came to be in Marin County and whether they knew Carter prior to the slaying, Pittman said.
Even before the three were arrested, authorities had called them "persons of interest" and released their images captured on a surveillance camera inside Greenbridge Gas and Auto Service in Point Reyes about 30 minutes after Carter’s death.
Pittman thanked citizens who live nearby for sending in tips, photos and surveillance videos with which police were able to track the trio's activities and, subsequently, alert Portland's law enforcement officers about their whereabouts.
Early on in the investigation, police knew to "focus" on the three suspects based on a number of community members' reports of people who were "acting strangely" and "seemed out of place,” Pittman said.
"These arrests could not have been made without the assistance and cooperation of people in our community here in Marin County," he said. "I can't begin to express our appreciation for the community's involvement and not wanting to look the other way."
Marin County sheriff's deputies traveled to Oregon on Wednesday to interview the suspects and continue to fill in the pieces of what Pittman called a "puzzle." The sheriff's office said late Wednesday that deputies were bringing the suspects back to Marin County.
Pittman also said he hopes the suspects' arrest will help to "calm the nerves" of people who have been worried about their safety on Marin County's popular trails and hills.
"We share the relief of everybody else, knowing the three people responsible are in custody," he said.
The trio, at minimum, likely will be charged with homicide and burglary, but Pittman expected that they will likely be slapped with additional felonies.
Meanwhile, a shrine has been created on the trail where Steve Carter was gunned down.
Both Steve and Lokita Carter launched the Ecstatic Living Institute in Middletown about 16 years ago to teach tantra to couples around the world. They held workshops nearby at the clothing-optional Harbin Hot Springs, which was destroyed last month in the Valley Fire wildfire.
Stunned students and supporters mourned their beloved teacher, who was still holding the leash of his pet when he was found. The dog was also shot but is expected to recover.
"He was my mentor," said Greg Whitmore, 37, a firefighter who attended several weeklong retreats led by the Carters. "It was intoxicating. People wanted to be around him.''
Followers, students and friends have been pledging money and offering sympathy.
Last year, the couple turned the institute over to a former student, Logan Rose, and moved to Costa Rica in semi-retirement, teaching an occasional class. But soon after moving, Lokita Carter was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"It has been a very traumatic season for us with Lokita's cancer, then the Valley Fire that destroyed our beloved Harbin Hot Springs,'' Rose said.
"This is the most devastating blow,'' Rose said of the homicide. "We are heartbroken.''
Another student, Joya Petra Gallasch, said in an interview that Carter was responsible for adding her new first name during a training session at Harbin Hot Springs. Gallasch said she was depressed at the time and Carter led her to adopt the new first name of Joya.
"I've always been a super joyous person,'' Gallasch said. "He knew intuitively that it was time to get a new name. He exuded a form of brilliance.''
Lokita Carter didn't respond to requests for comment. Her GoFundMe page as of Thursday morning had reached $45,700 - more than double what it was the day before. On it, she thanked everyone for their "outpouring of love, support and messages."
"I am beyond words," she wrote. " And it is only the knowledge how much you all love Steve, and me, that keeps me going at this extremely difficult time."
NBC Bay Area's Lisa Fernandez and Tim Bollinger contributed to this report.