NOTE: I do not know if Tristan's activity qualifies as a 'little tin cult.' Details are sparse on the ground; all I have to go on are fourteen letters, eight newspaper articles, and a few pages of court documents. I am listing it under this tag because it's in the general wheelhouse of plurals (or people claiming to be plural) using religion and online activity to control and hurt vulnerable people. Just this time, it's shamanism, rather than fandom.
How We Met
We met Tristan through a penpal prison program in summer of 2014; Sneak was the one who wrote them, and spoke primarily to Tristan. After ze disclosed our plurality, they did as well. Other system member's names were Morgan, Mercy, Nikola, Jullian, and Zerra, but we overwhelmingly heard from Tristan, and occassionally from Morgan, who also went by the name Echo.
At the time, Sneak did not look up why Tristan et al were in prison. Ze felt that zer job was to be a penpal, not a judge, and that if he wanted to tell us, he would.
Asides from being plural, Tristan also claimed to be Native American--specifically Jicarilla Apache. I suspect that this was a lie. All court documentation I can find for this system lists them as white, and they claimed in their second letter, "my Native Name in English is Sitting Winter Wolf or Sitting Gray Wolf. Gray and Winter are the same word in Apache." According to this dictionary, at least, that's not true; winter as a noun is "hai" and gray as a verb is "ba." On top of which, there are multiple Apache languages; Jicarilla is merely one of them.
Tristan claimed that because of their culture, they grew up in a family where seeing and hearing the voices of the dead was a normal, celebrated thing, and that their grandmother (now deceased) did it too. They discussed their plurality as an extension of these beliefs--every system member was a deceased relative. Tristan himself claimed to be Morgan's twin, who was absorbed in the womb. Mercy and Nikola were both sisters who died, while Julian and Zerra were the system's own miscarried children. I have absolutely no idea whether any of this is true.
In hindsight, he might have claimed these spiritual powers to impress us, or to try and form a rapport. If so, he failed. Sneak didn't contest his claims, but ze wasn't particularly interested in them either.
Sneak wrote to Tristan until the start of this year without any real incident. There was some creepiness, but nothing overt enough for us to cut ties over. However, in mid-January, he sent us a card telling us that we were the only letters he received, and that he was lonely. He asked us if we find him more penpals.
At first, Sneak was okay with doing this, but the more ze thought about it, the less okay with it ze was. Feeling a sense of responsibility for anyone ze connected with Tristan, ze finally looked up why Tristan was in jail.
Using the screename 'Tristan Grey,' Tristan met his victims, two teenage sisters who lived near New Braunsfels, Texas, through online roleplaying. All I know about the RP was that it apparently had a shamanistic theme, which meshed with how Tristan described his pagan faith to us. The roleplaying spread into online chatting and phone calls as time went on and steadily took over more and more of the girls' lives, to the point that they spent most of their Christmas break on the computer, not interacting much with friends or family. In January 2010, they racked up over 2000 minutes of phone conversations with Tristan.
It was probably during this time that Tristan was persuading them to come to California to meet him in person. He convinced them to empty their bank accounts, buy disposable cell phones, and on February, 11, 2010, they disappeared.
The sisters were fifteen and sixteen at the time. This age seems to be Tristan's preferred target--we experienced it for ourself. His headmate Echo sent Mori a typewritten letter telling her, "my brother seems to think you are the bee's knees and hung the moon." "My brother has a crush on you... He need (sic) a lovelife its just part of his makeup... try to be nice even if you dont (sic) like him like that."
Mori was the youngest of the system, and he knew that she was sixteen at the time. Unfortunately for him, Mori is also AGGRESSIVELY asexual, and used to hold the system job of getting rid of unwanted suitors. She turned him down flat and promptly forgot about it.
Sadly, Tristan's Texan victims weren't so lucky. He apparently kept them in a car trunk on the drive to San Diego, and then locked them in an apartment "used by a coven of witches," according to their uncle. This might have something to do with Tristan's co-conspirator, Sara Theresa Nadeau, who I know little about. Regardless, while in California, the sisters were sexually abused and forced to perform sexual acts upon each other, and "the uncle said the girls were branded with a hot iron during their time in captivity and left with a mark similar to a tiger's paw."
I would bet good money that it wasn't a tiger's paw, but a wolf's. Tristan told us he had a tattoo of a wolf's paw on his forearm, because the wolf was his spirit animal. He also drew a picture of it for us, included here. The wolf seems more likely than the tiger, seeing his claims to Native American spirituality and the link between that and the kidnapping.
Tristan apparently called the victims' family to ask how he could help. He also spoke with their lawyer and the cops. I'm not sure what transpired, or why Tristan contacted them; the newspaper articles are vague, saying only that Tristan claimed to have been role-playing with one of the girls for three years "and they had developed their own 'online language.'"
Apparently one man--his relationship to the girls isn't stated, and he wouldn't give his name to the press--tracked Tristan and Nadeau to San Diego and gave them "several opportunities to release the girls," whatever that means. It's not clear how things ended, only that the sisters were found in mid-March 2010.
Tristan was arrested in April, charged with unlawful restraint in June, and it was only during an investigation did the sexual abuse come to light. Tristan pled guilty to the charges (four counts of sexual performance by a child, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, and seven counts of sexual assault) in August 2011, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, followed by ten years of probation. He will be released in 2030.
For completion's sake, Sara Theresa Nadeau pled guilty to two counts of aggravated kidnapping. She was sentenced to five years in prison, has since got out, and is now a registered sex offender living in Auburn, Maine, and working at Dunkin Donuts. I don't know what her relationship to Tristan was; he was only 22, while she was in her late thirties, and he never mentioned her in any of his letters or photos. Their court documents also show them as having different addresses--Tristan was from San Diego, Nadeau from Fresno, a good five hours away. Seeing as how she got called a witch in the courthouse, maybe she was part of whatever pagan circle existed. I suppose I'll never know.
So, that was quite a shock to find out about our penpal. There are a million ways a person can end up in prison; we can safely say, we did not predict this.
Sneak was horrified and immediately knew ze could not in good faith connect Tristan to fellow plurals and find him new penpals. Ze considered telling people about their penpal listing and went in search of it, only to discover it was gone. Ze contacted the organization, who informed zer that they had removed Tristan's listing because it was their policy to do so if someone had over three penpals, and Tristan had over twenty.
Sneak realized that ze had been duped, and cut ties. They told the organization about Tristan's behavior, sent him one final letter asking him not to contact us again, and that was yesterday.
Today, we finished going through and taking notes on all the letters of his we still retained. In hindsight, and reading the letters all together instead of all spread out over the space of years, there were warning signs. In our next post about Tristan, we'll cover some of the tricks he tried to use on us and why they worked or didn't, in the hopes that other people will find the information useful.
- Shettig, Bryan. "Woman indicted in sisters' disappearance." Herald-Zeitung 12 August 2010. Herald-Zeitung. Web. Accessed 2 February 2017.
- Smith, Glenn. "Woman indicted on kidnapping counts." The Post and Courier. 19 August 2010. The Post and Courier. Web. Accessed 9 February 2017.
- Weilbacher, Eric J. "Hamm pre-trial hearing postponed." Herald-Zeitung 2 September 2010. Herald-Zeitung. Web. Accessed 2 February 2017.
- Larson, J. Louise. "California woman indicted as co-conspirator in kidnapping." Herald-Zeitung 10 January 2011. Herald-Zeitung. Web. Accessed 2 February 2017.
- Moultrie, Dalondo. "Hamm pleads guilty to several sex-related crimes." Herald-Zeitung 12 August 2011. Herald-Zeitung. Web. Accessed 2 February 2017.
- Moultrie, Dalondo. "Woman pleads guilty in kidnapping case." Herald-Zeitung. 10 November 2011. Herald-Zeitung. Web. Accessed 2 February 2017.
- "Registry Search." Maine Sex Offender Registry. State of Maine. 9 February 2017. Web. Accessed 9 February 2017.
- Grey, Tristan. Personal correspondence. 23 September 2014.
- Grey, Tristan. Personal correspondence. 21 October 2014.
- Grey, Tristan. Personal correspondence. 10 December 2014.
- Grey, Tristan. Personal correspondence. 3 September 2015. Letter #10