The Fall River Cult Murders: "Satanism" and Crime

Written by: Jenae


Trigger Warning: sexual assault and torture, ritual murder, graphic depictions of murder, necrophilia


This episode deals with Satanism and the myths people often believe about Satanism. If you don't like it, please find another episode. Some of the hyperlinks contain crime scene photos, please click with caution.

Bouncing off the conversation we had in the Manson episode, the 60s began a whole new era in the US. One that was full of uncertainty and fear for many people, because of their unwillingness to understand/or view things differently. The world was changing, with social justice/civil rights movements gaining more traction, and lots of fear was rooted in these changes. Some of the fear was also rooted in the idea of nuclear families being less common.


There was also a new fear on the horizon, one that would get us afraid of something that wasn’t as big of a deal in the past. The 60s would bring on what we now know as Satanic Panic. This was the fear of Satanism, that Satanism would corrupt the children and young adults, and the idea that the religion encouraged crimes, including the one we’re talking about today. The panic that stemmed from this would only be encouraged by the media and Christian officials. The argument made by these people was that there was an organized crime network of people who worshiped the Devil and committed crimes in his name. As we know, this is not a good example of Satanism, if you're interested, please check out the Church of Satanism website. Satanic Panic would play a key role in how crimes were thought of in the public eye for the next 2-3 decades. While this was a far fetched theory, there were crimes committed where the killer or killers claimed that it was rooted in exactly what everyone was fearing, Satanism. This crime is one of those.


Lizzie Borden, ax murderer

The crime we’re talking about today happen in a place that many true crime folks know about, because it’s the home of one of the most famous cases in US history, Lizzie Borden, a woman who ax murdered her family. This took place in Fall River, MA.


The Crimes:

Three murders took place from 10/79-2/80. These crimes were all similar in nature.

The first victim was found in mid-October of 1979. Her name was Doreen Levesque, she was a 17 year old runaway who used sex work to pay for her needs. When her body was found behind a local high school, they discovered that she had been bound, sexually tortured, beaten in the head, and stabbed in the head. When investigating, police initially believed that one of her johns was responsible for Doreen’s murder. Upon further investigation by the coroner, she was believed to be murdered by stoning with the help of more than one person. The forensics also point to a more ritual killing in this case.


About a month later, a strange man walked into the Fall River police station to report his girlfriend missing. His girlfriend, 22 year old Barbara Reposa, was a sex worker who worked in the same area as the first victim. The man who came in to report was Andy Maltais. Andy had a history with the law, he was a rapist and pedophile. He had been involved with Fall River’s seedy underbelly, a cult brewing in the small New England town. Andy explained that he had recently left the cult and had become a Christian. He was able to offer some info about his girlfriend, stating that she had also been apart of the group. He stated that the group had he was once apart of worshiped Satan, but now chose to worship Jesus. He also provided info on the first victim, claiming that Doreen had also been apart of the group. He shared that while he didn’t have specific info on Doreen’s murder, he believed that the cult he left was involved. While the police were hesitant to believe Maltais, he was persistent, even offering to bring two other cult members that he believed would have more info on the murders. Police agreed to this meeting where Andy brought two members of the cult to them, Robin Murphy and Karen Marsden.


Both Robin and Karen were both young sex workers, Karen was 20 while Robin was even younger, only 17 years old. Karen was also a single mother and a drug addict. When questioned, Karen was nervous to be speaking with police, however Robin was different, showed no nerves about speaking to police and police described her as “cold, intelligent, calculated, and domineering”. They’re connection to each was made very clear to investigators, they were roommates but also lovers. The girls acted very differently in questioning, Karen was answering questions while Robin remained silent. Eventually, Karen broke down and stated, “Carl Drew killed Doreen”.


Carl Drew

Carl Drew was a new name in this case, but not a new name to police. Carl was a pimp who ran his business out of the area that both murder victims worked in. He had a violent record and certainly seemed like the perfect suspect, but police were unable to link him to Doreen. Karen told authorities she feared for her life because she had given them info on Drew and she was afraid that she’d become the next victim.


Karen provided more info about the group, the Fall River Cult. She stated that is was a group of pimps and sex workers who practiced “black arts”. She said that Drew was “the Devil” and that this was why she feared him. The story she told about Drew was similar to the one we heard about Manson a few weeks ago, claiming he ruled with an “iron fist” and ran his ring of sex workers as a Satanic coven. He would make threatens to the girls, claiming that “Satan will take his toll” or he’d “offer their souls to Satan and inject them with battery acid” if they stepped out of line. Karen even took police to an area where rituals had been practiced by the group. The more they spoke to Karen, the more it seemed that Carl Drew was their man.


However, Drew wasn’t the only person that Karen had brought up in conversations with the police. From Karen, they learned that her lover, Robin was also caught up in the occult long before her introduction to the life they had come to know in Fall River’s red light district. It emerged that Robin might even be the suspect that police were looking for all along.


Amidst the investigation into Barbara’s whereabouts and Doreen’s murder, police found Barabra’s body. Similar to Doreen, Barbara had been sexually assaulted, bound, and had been hit in the head with rocks. When police found Barbra dead, they immediately went to Andy, the man who had initially reported her missing and was the last known person to see her alive. Andy swore that he had nothing to do with the crime, but soon contacted police, saying he had gotten details about the murder from a “psychic dream”. The police followed along, bringing Andy to the crime scene. When he correctly predicted where the body had been found, police arrested him and they were charging him for the murder of his girlfriend Barbara. Once they had Andy in custody, Robin came forward and claimed to be a witness to the murder, she also stated that she had witnessed the murder of Doreen and could help the investigation. She told police that after an argument that she was present for, Andy took Barbara out of the car and beat her where her body was found. Robin stated that Andy killed Barbara because she was cheating on him. She asked for a deal in exchange for her testimony, immunity in both trials and placement in a protective custody program. She stated that she was too scared to come forward until Andy was arrested, as he had threatened to kill her too.


Robin Murphy

Robin stuck to a different story when it came to Doreen. She stated that Doreen’s murder was a sacrifice to Satan and that Drew had done it after an altercation when Doreen tried to leave the group. Robin claimed she saw nothing and heard nothing and even that those who murdered Doreen came back without a spot of blood on them. However, this didn’t quite add up. Based on the evidence, investigators determined that this death had been bloody and torturous, and there would be no way that Robin wouldn’t have heard the screams of Doreen or see her blood on her killers. Police are starting to doubt Robin as a credible witness.


Karen stuck to her story, Drew had been the ringleader but Robin had played a “leading role” in the murders. Karen claimed that Robin forced other members to participate in the dismemberment of the bodies, that way no one was innocent and for ritual use. The courts considered Karen to be an unreliable witness due to her lifestyle. Because of this police didn’t take her seriously, even when in one interview she claimed that she was scared of becoming the next victim. Unfortunately, her fears would come true. Karen was reported missing in February of 1980.


In April, police were notified of a human skull found in a nearby town along with dead cat bodies, a high heel, and pieces of a woman’s sweater. The skull belonged to Karen Marsden. Upon discovering who the skull belonged to, another member of the cult called the police and stated that Robin Murphy was the killer. The woman claimed that Robin had confessed to her on the phone and that she herself had hosted meetings for this cult. Another woman and member of the group corroborated that story, stating that both Robin Murphy and Carl Drew were responsible for the murder.


When police questioned Robin, she broke down and told them the story, that Drew had killed Karen and forced her to participate in Karen’s murder as an “act of loyalty” to the group. Robin told investigators that she was in a “trance-like state” while she pulled out fistfuls of Karen’s hair and watched while Drew cut off her finger, broke her neck, and then “forced” Robin to slit Karen’s throat. Drew then tore Karen’s head off with the help of another male accomplice. Finally, she described what was done to Karen’s body after her death. Robin claimed that Drew carved an X into Karen’s body and started speaking in tongues as he offered her soul to the Devil. Then he placed an X on Robin’s forehead in Karen’s blood before forcing Robin to go down on Karen’s dead, headless body. They then set the body on fire with the help of gas.


It’s believed that the extent of occultism involved in many crimes and murders in this time is fictionalized, but it remains completely horrifying. Many of the crimes that happen in this era claimed to have some connection to the occult, but this one was/is believed to be connected to a warped version of Satanist practices. During the investigation, two officers in the area were even able to witness a ritual conducted by the group where Drew and Murphy were both in attendance. This ritual was rather tame compared to other conducted by the group. Ultimately, all that was done by the group was one group’s interpretation of Satanism, they weren’t part of a bigger group like the Church of Satan.


Robin Murphy during a parole hearing.

When the trial began, the media was all over these cases. Because of the intense and frankly scary media coverage of the trial, locals were panicked and believed that there were more dangerous Satanists operating in the area. Andy was charged with the murder of his girlfriend and spent his life in prison, where he died in 1998. During Robin’s trial, her lawyer claimed that she was under the influence of this cult and dropped Robin’s charge to second degree manslaughter. She was still sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. She was released on parole in 2004, which she violated 7 years later and was returned to prison, where she remains. Carl Drew is thought of as the mastermind of the whole group, he is spending life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of Karen Marsden. He has appealed a few times (most recent in 2006) for a new trial but has yet to receive one. Unfortunately, Doreen’s murder never went to trial due to the DA’s decision. In an attempt to plea for parole in 1984, Robin recanted her confession and said she made it up because she believed Drew belonged in prison, but she hadn’t actually witnessed any murders. This parole attempt was unsuccessful. Many investigators believe that Robin was the mastermind of the group, not Drew.

Unfortunately, this version of Satanism is often what is perpetuated and this was the version that the media and Christians believed Satanism to look like. This would misunderstanding and ignorance would only perpetuate incorrect ideas about Satanism, with few willing to look farther into the religion.


Freetown Fall River State Forest, a hot bed of paranormal and occult activity

The area in which the group held rituals in nestled in the Freetown State Forest, which is known as an area high in paranormal activity. This space would remain an area for Satanists to practice into the 90s, if not beyond. In all the murders that had taken place in the area, all were suspected to be rooted in cult-like activity. Some believe that the Fall River Cult murders were only a small sampling of the cult activity in the area and the media didn’t help. For years, locals were still troubled by the idea that a Satanic criminal organization was operating from their forest, believing that many other rapes, murders, and kidnappings in the area were the work of this group. Of course Satanic Panic has gone down quite a bit and it’s often not what we find as an explanation for crimes today.


If you're interested in learning more about this crime, I got a lot of info from two places: CVLT Nation article and My Favorite Murder episode on it.

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