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Thursday, October 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Man Mimics California Cult Suicides Former Grateful Dead Roadie Had Tin-Foil Spaceship Model

Associated Press

A man was found dead with a plastic bag over his head and a purple scarf over his body in an apparent copycat of the Heaven’s Gate cult suicides.

A suicide note found near the body of 58-year-old Robert Leon Nichols said: “I’m going on the spaceship with Hale-Bopp to be with those who have gone before me.”

Undersheriff Gary Finch said Tuesday there is no evidence that Nichols was a member of the cult.

Friends found him dead late Sunday in his trailer in a remote canyon in Northern California. Nichols was lying on his back in bed with a clear plastic bag over his head, the hose to a propane tank under the bag and a 3-by-3-foot mostly purple scarf covering his upper torso.

“He had made a model of a galaxy with a little spaceship out of aluminum foil and hung it from the ceiling so he could view it from the bed,” Finch said.

Richard Mattarolo, one of the friends who found him, said Nichols was once a roadie for the Grateful Dead and wrote a book about the band in 1984 called “Truckin’ With the Grateful Dead to Egypt.”

The leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult and 38 followers were found dead March 26 in a San Diego-area mansion, their bodies covered by purple pieces of cloth. Investigators said they had taken drugs and vodka and had put plastic bags over their heads.

Unlike the Heaven’s Gate cult members, who were dressed identically in black and had close-cropped hair, Nichols was in a blue-and-white T-shirt and blue briefs. He was bearded and had shoulder-length hair, Finch said.

“He did have a computer - whether he was linked to them, I don’t know,” Finch said.

Nichols had been arrested March 1 on suspicion of stealing a camp stove from a cabin. He was caretaker of some property in Yuba County.

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