The 'deprogramming' of Stephanie Riethmiller

Richard Raskin

MS Magazine
Sept 1982

This article shows how the "mind-control" allegation is used despite the fact that Riethmiller wasn't part of any group, she was just engaged in an alleged lesbian relationship. As for cult deprogramming victims, the mind-control rhetoric succeeded to get the deprogrammers acquitted despite the fact that they kidnapped her, raped her, and tried to forcefully impose their own values to her.

In October, 1981, two young women were walking to their suburban Cincinnati home when they were approached by two men. One of the men asked directions; as the women responded, one woman was Maced, the other seized and thrown into a van that whisked her away from the scene.

Thus began the bizarre 'deprogramming' of Stephanie Riethmiller. Suspected by her parents, Marita and William Riethmiller, of becoming a lesbian, Riethmiller, then 19, was driven to a house in Alabama where, she claimed, she was subjected to seven days of forced captivity, verbal harassment, and rape. Last April, the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court in Cincinnatti heard the criminal trial of Riethmiller's captors. In proceedings that drew the attention of gay and women's rights observers from across the country, controversial deprogrammer Ted Patrick and two of his associates - James Roe and Naomi Goss - were variously charged with abduction, assault, and sexual battery. Patrick has built a reputation as a deprogrammer of converts to religious sects.


Before a packed courtroom [...] testified that James Roe raped her on the second night in Alabama and every night thereafter. Terrified, she could not scream or offer resistance, she said. Insisting that everyone in the house was fully aware of what was happening, she quoted her mother as later saying that 'it was all right I was raped and anything was better than what I was doing.'

At the house in Alabama, her treatment included nearly constant yelling about her roommate, Patty Thiemann. Defense witnesses at the trial portrayed Thiemann as a dominering lesbian bent on controlling Riethmiller's lifestyle and mind. They focused on Thiemann's footwear (boots), her car (a pickp truck), and dog (Doberman pinscher) as evidence of her overbearing style.

The prosecutor in the trial, Hamilton County's Simon L. Leis, came under criticism for his unsympathetic treatment of the victim's lifestyle as well as for granting immunity to her parents who had paid $8,000 for the deprogramming. It was reported that Leis in the past had called homosexality immoral, and in addressing the jury, he said that though her lifestyle wasn't at issue, "I'm not going to represent to you that I approve of the victim's sexual preference." He referred to lesbianism as "unnatural." Although he said the parents' action was 'totally wrong', he declared: 'I don't think there's any question that what the parents did in the matter was done totally out of love for their daughter.' As to the deprogrammers, Leis described their tactics in court papers as 'sexual intercourse to detract [...] from her lesbianism and attract her to heterosexual activity.'

Thus observers were only moderately surprised when, after two weeks of testimony and 16 hours of jury deliberation, none of the criminal charges under consideration was upheld. The jury, however, deadlocked on the abduction charge for Roe and Goss, and a retrial was scheduled."

Stephanie Riethmiller Saga: She says it was abduction; her parents say it was a rescue

Cheryl Lavin

Colorado Gazette Telegraph
19 Nov. 1982

This article shows how the same mind-control rhetoric as for cults is being used: demonization of the cult leader (her partner), change of personality, "glassy eyed", "it's not the sex we object to but the mind-control", she "gave up a 'fantastic' social life". Then we have the classical anti-cult story that "parents turned to all officials for 'help' and after finding none turned to Ted Patrick."


"I was in total shock. I mean I was afraid for myself because, you know, I had reason to believe that I was in danger," Stephanie says of that night. "I knew I didn't have a friend in the world. ... I didn't know what they were going to do to me."

What they did to her - again, according to Stephanie - was to drive her to Alabama and keep her there for seven days. To deprogram her. To cure her of lesbianism. To reintroduce her to men. During the day the women, Naomi Goss, 25, yelled at her and ridiculed lesbians, especially Patty. At night the white man, Jim Roe, 25, made love to her. They pulled a variation of the old good cop/bad cop routine on her. Goss was strident and tough. Roe was tender and loving. The implication was obvious: Women were butches and dykes; men made better lovers.

All this was done with the full knowledge of her mother, according to Stephanie, who says she heard her mother and Roe discussing whether she was taking birth control pills. [...]

Stephanie says she was held against her will in a locked house with the windows nailed shut. She was handcuffed periodically, threatened, denied food, harassed, raped. She had no privacy, no freedom. After just two days, she said, "I was so messed up I didn't even think I would know my name. If someone had told me to jump out of the window, I probably would have jumped out the window, I did not have any thoughts of my own. Everyting I did I was told to do. ... I was totally at their mercy." [...]

The Riethmillers tell a different story, of a different Stephanie, of an emotionally disturbed girl, [...] who gave up a 'fantastic' social life and fell under the spell of Patty Thiemann [...]

The Riethmillers were horrified. Stephanie was losing weight; she wasn't taking her iron medicine (she is anemic); her personality was changing.

"I didn't know the person inside my daughter's body," says Mrs. Riethmiller.

"It was as thought I didn't recognize her at times," her father says. "She wasn't my daughter anymore. ..."

Mrs. Riethmiller refers to Patty as "that lesbian," but she says sex was not the issue: "I don't approve of it (homosexuality), but the main concern was the control that Patty had over her. ... My daughter became like a robot. She was glassy-eyed."

The Riethmiller contacted a priest, a rabbi, a religion reporter and various counselors. No one could help them. Then they called Ted Patrick. Patrick is a deprogrammer who usally works with cult members. He is black and his nickname is "Black Lightning." Mrs Riethmiller told him that her daughter was "in a lesbian situation and she was being totally controlled, and we had no contact with her, and we were frantic." They were willing to pay $8,000 to have her deprogrammed. They would pull the money from their IRA account.

Patrick said he couldn't help. He was on probation on a kidnapping charge, and if he engaged in another deprogramming, he would go to jail. But he said he might be able to put them in touch with some people who could. A few days later the Riethmillers got a call telling them where to send the money. They were told to purchase handcuffs, plastic gloves and Maces.

[follows the account of the deprogramming from each viewpoint: complete different versions. But this is not the issue here.>

Charges of abduction and assault were brought against the Riethmillers, Ted Patrick, Jim Roe, Naomi Goss and the black man, known as "Ray". In addition, six counts of sexual battery were brought against Roe.

Heading the prosecution case was Simon L. Leis Jr., 48, a former Marine, and the Hamilton County prosecutor for nearly 12 years. He is against pornography; the ERA - "it undermines God's law of authority" - and homosexuality - "an unnatural act." He is for the Moral Majority and the familty. If his daughter got herself involved in a situation like Stephanie Riethmiller's, "I'd grab that daughter of mine myself," he has said.

Yes, as prosecutor, Leis' duty was to represent the victims, Stephanie Riethmiller and Patty Thiemann, and to prosecute the defendants. He granted immunity to the Riethmillers, whom he identified as "concerned parents" and referred to Stephany and Patty as lesbians. Leis could never bring himself actually to say the word "lesbian." Throughout the eight-day trial in April he referred to the women as liz-bians.


After 16 hours of deliberation, the seven woman and five men of the jury acquitted all the defendants on all charges except the abduction charge against Roe and Goss. They could not agree on it, and it is scheduled to be retried Nov. 22.

But the case is far from over. Stephanie is suing her parents and the other defendants for $2.75 million in a civil suit set to be tried in March 1983. She charges them with 'assault, battery, false imprisonment, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.'"

[Note: I don't know the final issue of the case. It's another story anyway. Large discussion is also possible on the fact that the deprogramming actually worked initially, but the victim 'snapped out' of it too soon by being interrogated by the police. Also another story. For those interested.]

Her Roommate Isnít Gay, Stephanie Riethmiller Says

Georgene Kaleina

Cincinnati Enquirer
16 Apr. 1982

Shows that, like for cult deprogramming victims, the mind-control rhetoric has for effect to put the victim on trial rather than the aggressors.

Stephanie Riethmiller testified Thursday that her roommate is not a homosexual and repeated that she didnít think her sexual conduct should be part of the trial of those accused of kidnapping her.


The issue of homosexuality continued to dominate the trial [...].


Judge Gilbert Bettman decided Wednesday not to allow questioning about Miss Riethmillerís sexual activity prior the abduction, reversing his own earlier ruling.

But on Thursday, Hellings, representing Mrs. Goss, again tried to determine the intimacy between the two.

What is your relationship with Patty Thiemann? he asked. Patricia is my roommate. She is my friend, Miss Riethmiller said.

What is your sexual relationship with Patty Thiemann? he asked. She said: There is none.

You have had no sexual relationsip with Patty Thiemann? he continued.

I donít think I have to answer that, she said. I think thatís an invasion of privacy, and thatís not what Iím here for, I donít think.


Patrick indicted on Ohio Sex, Kidnap Counts

Mitch Himaka

San Diego Union
3 Oct. 1981

Shows Ted Patrick indirect involvement.

"Jailed cult deprogrammer Ted Patrick was indicted by a Cincinnati grand jury yesterday for kidnapping, assault and sexual battery charges involving an alleged plot to remove a woman from a lesbian relationship.

Patrick currently is serving a one-year jail term here after Superior Court Judge Norbert Ehrenfreund revoked his bail earlier this month because of the reports coming out of Ohio.

Hamilton County, Ohio, authorities said Patrick; two of his employees, James Roe and Naomi Kelly Goss of Center, Ala., and a fourth individual identified only as John Doe, were indicted [...]

[...] Ehrenfreund revoked Patrick's appeal bond when Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard D. Huffman presented evidence that Patrick had cashed an $8,000 cashier's check the woman's parents had made out [...]"

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