Is a cult responsible for a respected English professor’s disappearance?

An african american man, Charles Southern, in a suit with a mustache and goatee.

Charles Southern disappeared


Gender: Male
DOB: 7/25/48
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 180 lbs.
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Brown
Defining Characteristics: He may have a full beard


A middle aged african american woman wearing a blue suit standing infront of a rose bush.

Terri Hoffman

In a haunting video message to his family, Don Hoffman revealed he had terminal cancer–a diagnosis he said was confirmed by three different doctors. Then, just hours after making the video, Don took his own life. An autopsy, however, found no trace of cancer. On the videotape, Don Hoffman said goodbye to five different family members. But there was no farewell to the heir to Hoffman’s estate–his second wife Terri, founder of a spiritual movement known as Conscious Development of Body, Mind, and Soul.

Terri Hoffman is at the center of what some might call a “circle of death.” The victims include Mary Levinson–drug overdose; David and Glenda Goodman–shot to death, probable double suicide; Jill Bounds–beaten to death; Sandy Cleaver–drove off a cliff in broad daylight; Sandy’s 14-year-old daughter Devereaux–drowned.

Eleven untimely deaths… eleven people with a direct or indirect link to Terri Hoffman. Now some believe a 12 th name should be added to this somber list–Charles Southern, Jr., a respected English professor. Southern mysteriously disappeared and his family now believes it may be no coincidence that he was a disciple of Terri Hoffman.

A person in a red sweater can be seen through a doorway, they are busy doing something we can't see.

Some families took legal action

Peace, harmony, and enlightenment. Hoffman offered all this and more to Charles Southern and the others who joined her group, Conscious Development. Peter Muth was a former member who belonged to Hoffman’s sect for more than a decade:

“Part of the belief system Terri taught us was that death was really just another state of consciousness, and it wasn’t a bad thing. It wasn’t anything to fear. We also learned that the dark forces out in the universe had a name. They were the black lords, black overlords. They worked for Satan. The group we worked with was the White Brotherhood, who are good, benevolent characters. They’re on God’s side. The good guys.”

A man fills out a missing person report on a clipboard.

The Nigerian tribal symbol of death

In Chicago, Charles joined a local branch of Conscious Development. Charles was assistant chairman of the English department at a local junior college. Joining Hoffman’s group was his most recent foray in an ongoing search for spiritual truth, an odyssey that had taken him to India and Africa. Charles rose quickly in Hoffman’s organization. He was soon teaching classes and leading meditation sessions. Eventually, he was invited to Terri Hoffman’s home in Dallas. By then, Terri Hoffman had begun to portray herself as a target of attack by the so-called Black Lords. During special meditation sessions, Hoffman exhorted her trusted inner circle to erect “a psychic shield around her.” Peter Muth says he saw Charles at one of these meetings:

“Now, her inner core group for fighting the battles lives in a kind of constant state of fear, because we’re always under attack from black magicians who supposedly could kill us, who could drive us insane. And as the years went by, you saw people in your group actually start to show signs of the strain, show signs of mental and emotional problems”

According to his sister, Cheryle, Charles was one of those who apparently collapsed under the pressure:

“We found Charles wandering on the street carrying a newspaper, stating, ‘I lived for art.’ We got him in the car and took him to Michael Reese hospital for examination, stating that he might be suicidal, and he also seemed to be reciting something in a strange language over and over and over again.”

An open suitcase with a pair of jeans visible in a patch of tallgrass.

Southern’s last will and testament

After his release from the hospital, Charles stayed active in the group, but eventually became disillusioned with Hoffman. As Christmas neared, he made plans for a trip to India. In the days before he was supposed to leave, his mother, Ingerborg Southern, got a feeling that something was very wrong:

“I told him that I was disturbed and I felt that I should come to Chicago. And he said no, you don’t need to come to Chicago, because I’m perfectly all right, and I will be leaving for India in three days. So he assured me that everything was all right. And with that assurance, I didn’t go.”

That was the last time she spoke to her son. After two weeks and no word from their son, Charles’ father became worried:

“We, of course, wondered why we didn’t hear from him. But he had traveled so much and so often to so many parts of the world, I wasn’t overly concerned until he was overdue.”

Charles’ parents drove the 300 miles from Cincinnati. When they broke into their son’s house, a nagging concern for his well being turned to outright fear. Placed on a ceremonial stool from Africa were Charles’ winter dress hat and his coat, neatly folded inside out. Only later would his family learn that this was a Nigerian tribal symbol of death. Charles’ parents also discovered two barely legible notes–apparently his last will and testament. One said in part, “I came under a bad influence, and I was trying to fight it myself.” Terri Hoffman was mentioned twice and named executor of his estate. Over a 12-year period, two of Hoffman’s four husbands, her only son, six followers, and two people related to or employed by a follower came to an unnatural end. Causes of death: one murder, four fatal accidents, and six suicides.

In over half of these cases, Hoffman was named heir or beneficiary. She was designated to receive over a half a million dollars in cash, plus hundreds of thousands more in real estate, fine art, and jewelry. But authorities have not directly linked her to any of the deaths. Charles Southern is still missing. He is 6’2″ tall, weighs 180 pounds, and may have a full beard.

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season nine with Robert Stack and in season seven with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.




  1. Brian Dennis

    I’m surprised that she ( the cult leader) didn’t take a lie detector test, to see IF there is any hint in lying or not.


  2. Anonymous

    I believe he was murdered by those mysterious people


  3. Charles



  4. Petaa motex

    I strongly believe that Terri Hoffman was involved in these deaths and that of Charles Southern. It’s too much of a coincidence. She has some dark, evil influence over these people and led them to their death. One or two listed may not have anything to do with her but with all those people, there is too much there to call coincidence.


  5. thinkingoutloud

    seems like a typical cult, recruit the weakest and act like you are turning their lives around for the better when in reality they aren’t getting better and are just believing dying is good and this life means nothing. wouldn’t be surprised if he did travel to india or some place and committed suicide.

    charles went there to find peace and mediation, but it wound up driving him crazy. she convinces these people to leave everything to her when they die and they wind up killing themselves or accidentally dying in fatal accidents so of course it cant be traced back to her.


  6. Mmscoot

    He was my teacher at the jr college. After complete his course he went missing after that…he was different very different..hope found what he was looking for


  7. Petaa Motex

    She rivals the Clintons for their list of kills!


  8. Nick

    The off hand comment about Terri worshiping Satan are absurd. Totally a product of the Satanic Panic that was going on at the time. I’ve written extensively on the subject at do a search for Geraldo and you’ll find it.


  9. Anonymous

    Here’s Terri’s website, if you want to have a look. Still up to her old tricks; personally, I wouldn’t send this woman a dime or any property.


  10. Anonamous

    I saw a guy that looks just like this guys in CT he had long braids & beard but he looked way younger that the age it says in here. And he seemed lost & told me he was spiritual.


  11. Teresa

    It appears that Terri Hoffman died in November, 2015, in Dallas, TX. We may never know her exact role in all of these deaths, but it would certainly appear that she did have a role.


  12. Chris R.

    I wonder WHEN Charles Southern went missing, as I noticed the program didn’t mention a date or date range (even approximately if not exact) of when Mr. Southern disappeared. Hopefully, Mr. Southern is still alive and well, even though it seems unlikely due to the circumstances surrounding his disappearance.


  13. Anonymous

    Every Person in the world need some Peace, Harmony & Enlightenment in their lives, as there really are “Black (meaning ‘Dark’) Lords” in the world that the Bible calls “Demons”, “Evil Spirits”, etc. However, Terri Hoffman doesn’t seem to be a legitimate religious woman, as she has been linked to the majority of the mysterious deaths mentioned in the program (her name on the “Beneficiary” of the will, for example). Also, Conscious Development doesn’t seem like a Christian or Faith-based program either, as about half of the people who had died had committed suicide. Almost seems like Conscious Development was/is a satanic cult disguised as a religious program.


    • DeDe

      You’re right. Any TRUE Christian knows that the Bible clearly states to never consult with witches, seers, seances, Oijua boards, Tarot cards, etc. Doing this can bring evil unintended consequences.


  14. Te

    Terri Hoffman is still up to her old tricks. A very good friend of mine’s mother in the last month tried to commit suicide, for the second time in the last several years. She’s been under Hoffman’s influence for decades, Terri has her convinced the dark lord’s are causing her unbearable pain, she lives up in the Northwest, and Hoffman still in Dallas, from that far away she still can get people to try to kill themselves. I hope she dies an excruciating, painful, suffering death, she is a despicable, no good, evil, selfish! She will get what’s coming to her in the end, as Karma will turn around and kill her dead!


  15. Anonymous

    She definitely had something to do with it…. When she lays on her death bed she will SUFFER I hate people like her


  16. Lisl

    Don’t look into her eyes!! She sounds like a conduit for evil.


  17. loser



  18. Anonymous

    How can you not look at that crazy lady Hoffman. She was a fraud; a kook. She had something to do with this guy’s disappearance. You got his money. Sounds like she is a sociopath. Her picture looks creepy… This creepy. She probably be killed the guy.


    • Brenda Finnigan O'neill

      I totally agree with your comment I also think she had something to do with his disapearance but it’s what you can prove in court I hope if she is guilty that god finds a way to punish her but no body it’s all very weird


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