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[00:00:00]

How does the everyday person turn into a thief, a cult leader or a scammer? How did one woman in rural Ohio start an alien reptilian Internet cult that ended in murder and suicide from Cast Media, the opportunist, as a new podcast that tells true stories of regular people who turned sinister simply by embracing opportunity? In the first series, we follow Sherri Schriner, a Midwestern mom and lifelong churchgoer turned Internet cult leader. They speak with family and friends of deceased cult members, prosecutors, police officers, a high profile cult expert and more.

[00:00:40]

Through thought provoking interviews and investigative reporting, the opportunist invites the listener along for a thrilling journey of discovery. This is not just another chilling true crime tale. In many ways, Sheriff Schreiner's online cult was a precursor to the growing normalization of conspiracy theories in our world.

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I'm about to play a clip from Episode one of the show. Be sure to subscribe to Cast Media's podcast, The Opportunist on Apple podcasts or wherever you like to listen. This episode contains disturbing content, listener discretion advised. At first glance, Stephen Manyas murder looks like a domestic dispute gone wrong. After a night of drinking, Stephen and his girlfriend went out back behind their apartment in rural Pennsylvania to shoot Steven's gun, something they did from time to time to relax.

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Then they went back inside, and that's when it happened. Now, what was your emergency? Right. We were here at six o'clock. OK, I need you to calm down. What is going on? He had a gun and he grabbed me and he grabbed me and he told me, you press this trigger. Oh, my God. In case you missed it, she said he told me, press this trigger. It's the horror in her voice that gets me it's as if she doesn't even know what's going on, what she's just done.

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But again, I believe now what is your name? My name is Barbara Rogers. On July 15th, twenty seventeen, Barbara Rogers shot her boyfriend, Steven Mineo, in the head at point blank range. She refused to take a plea deal. Yes, she was holding the gun. Yes, the gun went off. And yes, her boyfriend was dead. But she insisted it was not murder in the police interrogation room, the officers went round and round with her.

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They tried to get her to admit that Steven was abusive, that they had been fighting that night. The police interviewed Barbara Rogers for seven hours and we were able to get tape from the interview.

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But why did you get nervous? Why did you get nervous when you guys had to be arguing?

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You got to be mad at them, right? We got along really well.

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I'm not saying you didn't get along well. People get along well and they still have arguments. It's part of life, right? You can argue with the person you love, but Barbara would not concede to any of it. She insisted they were not fighting, that they weren't even the type to fight. They were in love. One of the detectives actually comes in and he just he flat out says, we need to know why you did this. We're trying to figure out why you did this.

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She tells a story that then has twenty five or 30 different variations of it.

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This is Andrew Crackle, an assistant district attorney with the district attorney's office in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. He was one of the prosecutors in Barbara's trial.

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It's hard for me to the why is is confusing. It's very hard to understand what's going on.

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It was never a whodunit. It was always a why. Why done it, if that makes sense. A, why done it, why did Barbara do it? Steven was her boyfriend, but she called him her husband. She had changed her name to Barbara Mineo, Steven's last name on Facebook. And in the interrogation video, she seemed truly shocked and distressed that he was gone.

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But then she said the name of someone else. He he mentioned that that Sherry Schriner woman left him suicidal.

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She used to follow her. He used to be really close to her.

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Sherry, Schriner, Barbara and Steven were both members of this End Times cult, and the leader of the cult was a woman named Sherry Schriner.

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The details of Barbara's story, what happened that night are murky and hard to pin down. But what didn't change was the fact that she continued to tell a story that involved Sherry Schriner.

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Barbara claimed that Sherry Schriner had recently kicked them both out of her cult and that this had led Stephen to become so depressed that he lost his will to live.

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Then one night, after they both had a little too much to drink, he handed Barbara his gun and begged her to shoot him. And, you know, he had it.

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Both of our hands were on the gun at the same time. I want you to pull this trigger, you know, pointed right at me.

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Sherry Schreiner's colt was a blend of biblical doomsday predictions, an alien reptilian conspiracy theories. In short, she believed that she could hear God's voice through secret codes in the Bible.

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And in the early 2000s, she gained thousands of followers by prophesying the end of the world.

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But there's something else about Sheriff Streiner that I think is a really important detail. She let her ministry almost entirely from behind a computer in her home in rural Ohio. Sherry Schriner was an Internet cult leader. Most of her followers never met her or even knew what she looked like. And the more I've come to learn about Sherry, the more I believe that her story is a kind of precursor to modern Internet cults and conspiracy theories such as Kuhnen.

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Cherie never met Steven Mineo or Barbara Rogers. She only knew them over the Internet and there is no dispute that Barbara shot Steven. But it is unclear why she did it. Is it possible that Sherry Shriner, who was hundreds of miles away at the time, is somehow to blame for Stephen's death?

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And how did Sherry Schriner become Sherry Schriner, Internet cult leader and self-proclaimed sister to Jesus Christ? Did she just wake up one day and say, you know what, I think I'm going to start a doomsday cult on the Internet today? No, it was just one choice that led to another choice and then another choice, she wasn't some evil genius.

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She was just a regular person.

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A regular person who saw this opportunity to change her life. To become powerful on the Internet, and she took it. From past media, this is the Opportunist, a podcast about regular people who turns sinister simply by embracing opportunity. This is part of Episode one and our first series on Shehri Schriner. Listen and subscribe on Apple podcasts or wherever you like to listen.