Rainbow Family nabs suspect

Florida police alert group via Web site.

Printed in the The Arizona Republic on July 9, 1998.

By Hannah Miller

Peace, love, happiness and a suspected murderer.

Those elements combined unexpectedly Friday at the Rainbow Family Gathering in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, when the Rainbows' unarmed peacekeepers captured a suspect wanted in a brutal Florida murder case.

"In my long law-enforcement career, this is something I have never seen happen," said Sgt. Jim Morse of the Apache County Sheriff's Department.

"With 25,000 people, and being so unstructured, he must've figured it was a good place to hide out. He was wrong."

For two weeks, police around the Carnara Lake campsite had been expecting the worst from the 25,000-plus hippies who infused the federal forest with hugs, drumming and marijuana smoke.

On Friday night, however, the Rainbows called in sheriff's deputies, who arrived to find 25 members of the Rainbows' security team, the Shanti-Sena, standing in a ring around Joseph Giebel, who was bound in a blanket.

Deputies took him to the county jail in Springfield, where he is being held for questioning by Florida police.

The story started two months ago, when the primary suspect in the rape and murder of a Jenson Beach woman escaped police.

The case captured Florida headlines: Sherri Lynn Jett was raped, beaten on the head, back, and arms, and eventually bled to death.

After they learned that Giebel had attended past Rainbow Family Gatherings, Key West police made a shot in the dark.

They sent a description of the suspect and information to the Rainbow Family's home page on the Internet, and apparently their warning was heeded.

When two Apache County sheriff's deputies arrived at the camp at 11 p.m. Friday night, the suspect was already in hand.

Local police aren't guessing as to how the Shanti-Sena, an unstructured organization that carries no weapons, captured Giebel.

"The entire operation was very coordinated," Morse said. "They had already in effect handled this when we arrived."

The Shanti-Sena are only identified by small badges made of pieces of bark and other materials. The group, which includes many military veterans, has policed past gatherings successfully.

In recent years, the group captured a rapist at the campground, binding him with duct tape and turning him over to police.

With an ideology of universal love and non-violence, the gatherings do function like a giant family.

For such a huge crowd with only temporary shelter and limited utilities, police were surprised that only 109 arrests were made, largely for drug and alcohol violations.

The gathering ended Saturday. The site is mostly empty now, except for the Rainbows' cleanup crews, who will work two or three more weeks to clean and reseed the area.

Republic writer Bob Golfen contributed to this article.

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Hannah Miller can be reached at 444-8222 or hannah.miller@pni.com via e-mail

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