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A man who told sheriff's deputies that a higher power ordered him to grow marijuana is on trial in federal court this week, after Broadwater County deputies discovered more than 700 plants in his home east of Canyon Ferry Reservoir last March.
Deputy Mark Weidman said that Mark Culkin - who also goes by the name Helios - said he is on a spiritual mission, part of which involves growing what he calls talma, or marijuana.
"He had two reasons to grow it," Weidman testified in U.S. District Court on Monday. "He was ordered by Lord Malacheck to do it, and it was supposed to help with his microplasma syndrome."
That "order" led to the arrest of Culkin, 51, and his roommate, Peter Sollberger, on charges including manufacturing and distributing marijuana. Culkin's trial before Chief United States District Judge Donald W. Molloy in Helena is expected to end today; Sollberger's trial will start afterward.
Culkin and Sollberger came to officers' attention on March 8, after Culkin was shot in the neck in what he and Sollberger said was a robbery by masked men at the Ray Creek home they rented together.
The duo initially told officers they were in a teepee at the property when three masked men, armed with shotguns, approached. One of the trio allegedly shot Culkin and bound him and Sollberger with duct tape, then ransacked the house and took five pounds of marijuana, worth about $20,000.
Sollberger - who also goes by the name Yosik - said he used a small knife to free them, then drove Culkin to St. Peter's Hospital in Helena. Culkin was treated and released.
"He said he felt the motive for the robbery was to hurt him financially, by taking the product that he grew and cultivated, which would destroy his mission," Undersheriff Ben Knaff testified on Monday. "I don't recall the details of that mission, but it had something to do with the support of a brotherhood."
When officers went to the Ray Creek home to investigate the shooting, they didn't find any signs of a struggle by the teepee. Instead, they noticed the window on the front door of the house was broken, and they went inside to make sure the suspects weren't still inside, officers testified on Monday.
They didn't find any people, but the officers did see what appeared to be blood on the floor - and marijuana nearby. So the deputies left and returned with a warrant.
A search turned up about 780 marijuana plants, including a large grow operation in the crawl space of the home; 138 cacti from which the hallucinogenic drug mescaline can be extracted; a bag of "magic mushrooms"; and three poppy plants from which opium can be harvested. They also found nine plastic tubs filled with dried marijuana, along with numerous pipes, bongs and drug cleaning screens, plus books on growing marijuana, peyote and mushrooms.
Culkin's attorney, Morgan Modine, argued in court Monday that there's nothing illegal about the cacti or poppies, both of which can be bought almost anywhere for gardening purposes.
Modine also tried to imply that the police were more interested in the drug bust than the shooting, noting that little effort was made to find the suspects.
The officers countered that they had little evidence to pursue.
But while Culkin was in the Broadwater County Jail, Weidman said that they discussed some of his "non-traditional beliefs."
"We talked about ? things like extraterrestrials, inter-dimensional and that he was the lord of light and a prisoner of war," Weidman said, adding that Culkin seems like "a pretty intelligent man."
"He talked about being persecuted and prosecuted and that he would do whatever it took to help us figure out what was going on," Weidman said.
Later, Culkin's attorney, Morgan Modine, asked Weidman if Culkin accurately described himself.
"I'm not sure if I can even determine what extraterrestrial, inter-dimensional and lord of light is," Weidman replied.