Posted by: Damon Whitsell | October 23, 2010

Faith healing or foul play? 2008 cliff fall victim sues Bethel students

H/T to Closing Stages

Rather than call police when their drinking partner fell — or was pushed — off a nearly 200-foot cliff, two students at a Redding Bible school tried first to reach the severely wounded man and pray him back to life, a lawsuit alleges.

In a lawsuit filed this month in Shasta County Superior Court exactly two years to the day after he was pulled by search-and-rescue crews from the banks of the Sacramento River, Jason Michael Carlsen alleges that when Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry students Sarah Elisabeth Koivumaki and Zachary Gudelunas couldn’t reach him to heal him with their prayers, they spent hours debating whether to call the police.

Bethel’s members purport to have the ability to heal people through prayer and bring the dead back to life.

The two later told police they thought Carlsen was killed in the fall.

Worried that they would be exiled from the church, the two Bethel students also went so far as to try to cover up evidence they’d even been at the top of the cliff, the lawsuit alleges.

“(The) defendants’ refusal to summon assistance was willful, malicious, morally outrageous and indefensible,” the lawsuit says.

Carlsen, now a 25-year-old paraplegic living in Petaluma, fell just a few yards south from where police say a Redding man died Tuesday morning after intentionally driving his SUV off the sheer earthen wall at the end of Palisades Drive.

When investigating Tuesday’s crash, Redding officials discovered a 10-foot tall cross sunk into the ground at the top of the cliff. Chris Carmona, a risk management official with the city attorney’s office, said the cross was at the exact location where Carlsen plummeted off the side on Oct. 5, 2008. The cross was taken down Wednesday by Redding employees, he said.

Carmona said he didn’t know who put it there.

No charges ever filed

In an e-mail, Koivumaki, 21, declined to be interviewed. Gudelunas, 27, didn’t respond to a message sent Thursday to his Facebook account. Koivumaki is a Canadian citizen from British Columbia who was in California on a temporary visa in 2008, according to Redding police. Gudelunas’ Facebook profile lists his current residence as Atlantic City, N.J.

After the fall, Carlsen spent more than a month in a coma at U.C. Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, his San Francisco attorney, Marc Libarle, said Wednesday.

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