Mark Steven Foster: Voodoo cult leader, entrepreneur manipulated followers into murdering him for insurance scam
DOUGLAS COUNTY, WISCONSIN: A motorist was driving down the road on July 18, 1997, when he made a shocking discovery -- a dead body. Soon police were called to the scene and a preliminary investigation stated that the body was of a White male and since a lot of blood was found there, it was understood that it was the actual site where the crime happened. Steven Long, Retired Detective/ Douglas County Sheriff, said, “The body was of a White male, middle-aged. It was all dressed in white, white shirt, pants, belt, and shoes, and appeared to have gunshot wounds on the chest. There was a passport on the body and the victim was identified as Mark (Steven) Foster. It was very clear it was a murder. No attempt was made to hide the body.”
Long also mentioned that after the identification of the victim, he searched online and found that Mark was a businessman involving computers. He had a private company in Minneapolis named Quanta Press. “When I met Mark, I could tell he was different from everyone else. Mark was definitely magnetic, he definitely drew people into him. CDs were definitely a new thing and Mark was already doing software, he was selling music, he seemed like he was going places,” James Lambert, a friend of Mark Foster and Quanta Employee, said. “I was feeling like I was family when I was around him.”
The initial probe into Mark revealed him to be a likable person, so it became difficult for investigators to find who killed him and the bigger question was why. It became more complicated when during the autopsy of the victim’s body, a note fell out of his shoes that read, “It’s not Jack Frazier. It may be Jemmy Bailey or look alike” while the other side stated as said by Long, “it’s 3 toughs, hope I am all right.” The note led cops to probe more about Mark’s life and it was found the man was living with his nephew Brent A. Thompson, his wife of six months Sarah Foster, and a roommate named Gregory A. Friesner. While the men whose names were written on the note were Sarah’s exes. David Voss, Retired Detective/ Minneapolis Police Department, said, “When detectives met Jack, he was very adamant that he had nothing to do with Mark Foster’s murder. He admitted he had problems with the couple but not to the point that he would kill him.” It was soon revealed that none of Sarah’s exes had anything to do with Mark’s murder.
But what investigators unearthed was more startling. It was found that Mark was sexually involved with multiple people, mostly involving young people, and that involved Brent, Sarah, and Gregory too. Investigators then obtained a search warrant to check Mark’s house to see if anyone else lived there other than those four. At the house, a lot of pornography and sexually related materials were discovered and when detectives went to check the attic, things got really unusual very quickly.
The investigation that started as a murder soon turned into a cult mystery. The attic was painted in bright fluorescent paints, there was blood like substances spread out on the walls and floors. The investigators also found their business cards there, which hinted that the people who were probed were angry with the cops and they were trying to put a hex on them. The investigation eventually revealed that Mark was the leader of Santería, an African diasporic religion, and also practiced voodoo. Since he was very successful, he told his followers it was because of Santería -- where people offer their followers protection, wisdom, and even success -- and voodoo, he achieved all of that.
As detectives began researching the exotic religion, they discovered one thing that was particularly disturbing about it. It was possible to transfer one’s consciousness into another person. The person who is going to get consciousness has to kill his/her mentor or teacher and that mentor or teacher's consciousness passes into the person’s body who killed them. “Talking with cult members, we learned that Mark planned to kill a Santería master/ instructor in New Orleans, and by doing that he assumed that person’s power,” Long said.
It was also revealed that Gregory was the first one whom Mark recruited in his fold. He was actually second in command, so it raised questions about him going to be the high priest next. He was the most ideal person to step into Mark's shoes. Though investigators were quite sure about Gregory’s involvement in Mark’s murder, they could not prove it because of lack of evidence. The crucial evidence into the case was the gun with which the victim was shot and after interviewing Mark’s son Jeremy Foster, it was found his father had a .44 caliber rifle. Investigators then obtained a search warrant for the victim’s storage locker, though they did not find the gun there, they discovered surveillance video that showed Mark entering the storage facility and then leaving, carrying something.
More digging into Mark’s life revealed to detectives that he was suffering a loss in his business. “He was not reinvesting in the company, he was not keeping up with the changes in the industry. He had good ideas, but he was selling himself, like he was selling his products as something far greater and far wild and innovative than they were,” Lambert said. Investigators reached a theory that Mark’s life was getting out of control and maybe he was looking for a way out. The theory got more support when detectives found evidence of an exit plan. They found Mark had taken out some pretty big insurance policies, he had taken out a $200,000 insurance policy on his life. He also took out another policy of $300,000. Since insurance companies do not pay people who commit suicide, investigators thought that Mark designed a plan to get himself killed with the help of Sarah, Gregory, and Brent. But again, due to lack of evidence nothing was proved.
However, more than a year after Mark’s death, it was revealed how Mark manipulated Brent and Gregory to murder him. In exchange, they will get his insurance policies' money and Gregory would become the new cult leader. Brent came into Douglas County Sheriff's office and confessed that he and Gregory participated in his murder with Mark’s knowledging consent. He claimed that he was present at the crime scene, but it was Gregory who actually shot the entrepreneur. The duo then threw the gun into the St. Croix River. Mark himself put the note in his shoes to frame Sarah’s exes for his murder. Eventually, Gregory also admitted murdering Mark to get money and his voodoo powers. Gregory was awarded 20 years for killing and since Brent cooperated with police, he was sentenced to three years.
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