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Siskiyou Legal: The curious case of Master David, Part 1

Bob Kaster

Before retiring in 2008, I worked in Siskiyou County’s legal community for 36 years, the first 16 as a lawyer, and the last 20 as a judge. Our county’s history is chock-a-block full of remarkable law-related stories. When I first began writing this column four years ago, sharing some of those stories was one of my objectives, and still is. The problem is, I keep getting distracted. Every damn morning, I wake up hearing something in the news that sets me off, thinking it’s so crazy I’ve got to write about it. Either the country is going off course and headed for total destruction, or maybe it’s just my perception of it, fueled by the COVID-19 virus that’s infecting all our brains.

This morning, I will take a deep breath, ignore the world spinning out of control, and tell you a true story from Siskiyou County’s recent legal history. This one is not a happy story, but then, most cases that make their way to the criminal court aren’t. It’s bizarre and evil, and involves a very strange and bad dude.

He is, or at least was, a British citizen. His given name was Robert Martin Lloyd, but he called himself “Master David.” Initially, when his court proceedings began in early 1998, I refused to call him “Master David,” and referred to him by his birth name. But later, his defense attorney showed me the documentation and convinced me that his client had legally changed his name.

I called him Master David from then on.

The investigation of Master David began in October, 1995, when a woman was treated in our hospital’s emergency room and reported that a man held her against her will, raped and beat her repeatedly, and broke her leg with a rock. She said she managed to escape from an RV park in McCloud where she and other followers had been staying with a man who had taken the name of “His Holiness Master David,” an ordained minister with the “Essence Church of the Fields.”

She said that she, Master David, and others who had joined their group had traveled throughout the western states and eventually arrived at the RV park in McCloud, where she managed to escape by climbing out a window and going to a neighbor, who contacted authorities.

A Sheriff’s Department press release at the time reported that she had numerous wounds, scars, bruises, and contusions all over her body.

For more than two years, His Holiness Master David escaped being caught until he was finally arrested on Christmas Eve, 1997, in Sacramento. The circumstances leading to his arrest were unusual.

He was arrested while attempting to deliver a teddy bear to the governor. He approached an officer and told him he believed there was a warrant for his arrest, which the officer confirmed.

He was transported to Siskiyou County where he initially insisted on representing himself in court, proclaiming that he was Jesus and “knew all.”

Shortly after his arrest, he filed handwritten court papers purporting to sue his victim, claiming she brought “false charges” against him. He wrote in the court documents, “If I could spend a few hours with her no doubt she would apologize.” And then he wrote, “Unfortunately she is the perpetrator.” He claimed the “womyn” (he spelled it w-o-m-y-n) signed a binding contract as did all his other followers, and that she had broken that contract by leaving the path of “truth and love.” He also wrote that the “womyn” took his training course willingly for two and a half years, explaining that, “under the intense strain of the program one aspires for perfection.” He described her “training” to be part of a program that “teaches someone to respond to violence with love while finding peace within.”

Have I piqued your curiosity about Master David? Have I sufficiently diverted your attention from our COVID-19-induced woes that you want to hear more of the saga of Master David?

There is plenty more to tell. Sherry Coonrod was a staff reporter for the Siskiyou Daily News at the time, and covered the case from beginning to end. Sherry graciously gave me access to her file, which has some amazing content, much of which didn’t make the newspaper at the time. For example, while incarcerated in the Siskiyou County jail, Master David closely followed Sherry’s Siskiyou Daily News articles about his case. He had taken note of her byline, and started writing “love letters” to her wherein, among other things, he invited her to join his cult. Did she accept? Do you want to find out?

Stay tuned for Part Two next week.

Bob Kaster is a long-time Yreka resident and retired Superior Court judge. As a lawyer and judge he wrote many legal briefs and judicial opinions but after retiring has enjoyed writing for fun. He is working on a sequel to his full-length novel, “The Septuagenarian: An R-rated Thriller” and some short stories for his grandkids. You can reach him at septuagenarianspeaks@gmail.com.