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Titillating Trial Involves Lots of Dirt--and Mr. Clean : Guru Focus of Lurid Murder Case

January 12, 1988|Associated Press

SANTA CRUZ — A self-avowed master of mind control and author of 13 popular books on "neurolinguistic programming" is on trial here for allegedly shooting a prostitute.

Richard Bandler, 37, faces charges of murder in Santa Cruz County Municipal Court for allegedly shooting Corine Christensen, 31, in the head Nov. 3, 1986.

"It's got lots of drugs, lots of bizarre sex and lots of violence," said Assistant Dist. Atty. Gary Fry about the trial, which has captured the imagination of this seaside tourist city.

'Classic' Murder Case

"And besides sensational side references to the CIA and the military's special armed forces, we've got the West Coast guru of pop psychology. It's the classic Santa Cruz case."

Bandler, who attended UC Santa Cruz, is famous for the seminars he taught with Santa Cruz linguistics Professor John Grinder on quickie approaches to behavior modification.

Bandler offered 10-minute phobia cures and fast, easy methods for controlling others. At his peak in the late 1970s, therapists, doctors, lawyers and sales people frequently attended his lectures.

Court documents say that in recent years Bandler's partnership with Grinder disintegrated, he began to have trouble attracting clients and he began to use cocaine.

Role as a Witness

Christensen, the daughter of a San Francisco policeman, and her boyfriend, ex-felon James Marino, were his suppliers, according to court documents. Marino was Bandler's best friend and now is the prosecution's star witness.

Marino says he was nursing a headache on Christensen's couch while Bandler waved a gun and badgered her about money and her rumored lesbian affair with his girlfriend.

Marino, 55, says he shut his eyes just before Bandler pointed the gun at Christensen's head and shot her.

Bandler's San Francisco attorney, Gerald Swartzbach, calls Marino a liar who believed Christensen was enjoying sadomasochistic sex with his friends and was trying to have him killed.

The attorney says Marino had his own reasons for killing her.

His Hands Were Clean

Marino said that on the morning of the slaying, he and Bandler visited Christensen at her townhouse in Live Oak, an unincorporated area just south of Santa Cruz.

After arguing with her, Bandler allegedly sawed off the top of a Mr. Clean bottle to use as a silencer on his .357 Magnum. Spilling liquid soap on himself and the gun, Bandler shot Christensen at the dining room table, where they had been drinking, Marino said.

After the two men left, Bandler, covered with blood, told Marino to throw the gun off the Capitola pier, he said.

Divers retrieved the gun, and Bandler's clothes, covered with blood and lemon-smelling soap, were found.

As Swartzbach begins his defense this week, he promises to put Bandler on the stand.

Since the trial began two months ago, the courtroom of Judge Christopher Cottle has been jammed. Playboy magazine sent a team of reporters, and Santa Cruz residents deluge writers with stories about Bandler and his associates.

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