MANHUNT AS CULT LEADER FLEES COURT

The gut-churning trial of an alleged rapist and Satanic cult leader has suddenly become a city-wide manhunt.


Theo Courvoisier hurled himself through the window of the Santa Ramona Courthouse Saturday and fled after a power outage plunged his high-profile trial into darkness. The court had just heard disturbing allegations of the week-long nightmare of rape and violence that one of his alleged victims said she suffered at his hands.

Santa Ramona Police fanned out across the city as a block-by-block manhunt commenced. However, Courvoisier remained at large as of press time.

Police urged the public to remain vigilant and report any sightings of Courvoisier immediately.

"We appreciate the public's assistance. We intend to return Mr. Courvoisier to prison quickly," said Staff Sgt. Anne Peacey.

During the trial, Courvoisier had been handcuffed to his chair. However, the chair was not secured to the floor. When the lights failed, Courvoisier threw the chair out a nearby window, which was open after the air conditioner was shut off and Judge Gil T. Justice ordered the windows cracked to allow air to circulate in the stifling courtroom.

Despite the Santa Ramona Police Department offices at City Hall being connected to a backup generator, the courtroom was not.

Courvoisier faces three counts of rape, two counts of torture, four counts each of kidnapping and false imprisonment and two counts each of battery of a law enforcement officer, aggravated aassault and possession of narcotics.

During the trial, the victim alleged that Courvoisier - whom she knew as a friend, but whom she believed wanted to be more than that with her - accosted her in a tavern and grabbed her. She said Courvoisier bound her and held her captive for a week, raping and torturing her in the hopes of winning her heart.

The Chronicle is not naming the victim during the trial.

She attempted to fight, but Courvoisier cut her clothing off, raped her and fed from her breast milk.

"He beat me, drugged me, starved me, stopped giving me water, fed me, raped me every day, in every way possible. He ripped my fingernails out. It went on and on. It was a week. A damn week. Every single day," said the married mother, who wept on the stand as she recounted the alleged ordeal.

"He seemed to want me with him, not like he was doing things because something or someone told him to. Like he wanted me to like it."

Through the course of the trial, Courvoisier, who appeared to have not bathed in some time, continually leered and kissed the air in the victim's direction, then blatantly ogled her backside as she returned to the benches.

The psychologist who assessed Courvoisier, Gianna Castle, said he demonstrated behaviour consistent with the symptoms of several personality disorders, including narcissism and anti-social traits.

"He is aware of his actions and has a very clear acknowledgment of what is right and what is wrong, and used that knowledge to further justify his crimes," said Castle. She agreed that her assessment found that Courvoisier expressed no remorse for his actions and described his behaviour as consistent with sociopathy.

"Given the extent of his crimes and the manner they were carried out, he is very organized and seemingly thought them out well," she said.

Courvoisier, she said, never sought help for a mental disorder and was not on medication for any existing mental condition.

Defense lawyer Ren Aquila, cross-examining Castle, asked if the one meeting she held with Courvoisier was enough for a diagnosis. Castle said she did not deliver a diagnosis, simply explaining what Courvoisier's behaviours were symptomatic of. She said many people with mental illness do not seek help due to pride or fear of stigma, but "this does not excuse their behaviour" stemming from the conditions.

In her opening statement, Rau asserted that Courvoisier's claims of insanity amounted to "theatrics."

"What kind of diabolical, satanic mind would think of not only torturing and raping a woman, but then elicit another to do his vicious deeds by coercion or drugs?" said Assistant District Attorney Aquilah Rau. She said Courvoisier was attempting to deceive the public through "blatant theatrics and his own words that some eminent angel chose him, of all the much more worthy, to whisper in his ear."

Courvoisier interjected, "Hail Satan," prompting Justice to warn that he could be muzzled if he continued to interrupt.

Aquila said Courvoisier had been "a disturbed and dangerous individual for some time" and hinged the case on whether or not Courvoisier could be held criminally responsible for his actions. He blamed various state and community agencies for Courvoisier's alleged difficult life.

"Mr. Courvoisier is the result of a system that looks the other way when the care for a child is more costly than what some are comfortable with. His disgusting crimes are our own. His transgression are something we've all had a part in," Aquila said.

The trial was briefly disrupted when an unknown woman approached Courvoisier and attempted to start a conversation, then took a phone call and appeared to discuss her grocery list. Police physically escorted the woman from the courtroom.

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