Couple Marry After Court Battle Over Gold

A wealthy devotee of JZ Knight - the Yelm woman who claims to be in touch with a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit named Ramtha - has married the man she once accused of stealing her gold.

King County records show the couple - Gabriele Copen, 50, and Peter Westberg, 44, who in September traded insults from the witness box in Seattle federal court - tied the knot last month.

Reached at their home in Tenino, Thurston County, the bride had no comment yesterday. She said she doubted the bridegroom did either.

During the trial, Westberg described Copen as a ``zealot'' who was becoming a ``master servant'' of Ramtha. Copen accused Westberg of having a ``serious gambling problem'' and growing both depressed and volatile at times.

She also denied the two had lived together as ``man and wife.'' She noted the two had kept their separate names, and said, ``I was never considering marriage.''

After a three-day trial, jurors deadlocked 11 to 1 in favor of acquitting Westberg on two counts of interstate transportation of stolen gold bars. He allegedly stole them from Copen, with whom he was living.

She reported the theft, leading to Westberg's indictment and trial. Federal prosecutors later decided against refiling charges.

The three-day trial produced testimony about construction of secret underground bunkers in which Westberg, Copen and other Ramtha followers could live when reptilian-type creatures invade the Earth. The ``digging-in'' project was abandoned when the media and Thurston County officials found out about it.

Ramtha, says JZ Knight, is an ancient wise man she met in her kitchen in Tacoma in 1977. Knight, who says she is a ``channeler,'' claims Ramtha speaks through her, imparting his views on present and future events.

At trial, it was revealed that Westberg introduced Copen to the Ramtha teachings, and one reason the couple moved from the East Coast to Washington was to be near JZ Knight.

Westberg testified he soured on the teachings after a seminar in which ``he/she'' (Ramtha/JZ Knight) threatened anyone who disclosed information about the digging-in would ``burn like an ember.''

Prosecutors portrayed Westberg as a penniless giggolo who stole from Copen even though she lavished him with gifts, including cash, credit cards, clothing, a $34,000 racehorse and use of a $46,000 Jaguar.

Westberg admitted taking several gold bars, worth about $12,000 each, that he and Copen had buried on the Tenino farm she purchased for $1 million. He testified he converted the bars to cash to help build bunkers and buy provisions necessary to survive the invasion forecast by Ramtha through JZ Knight.

Copen denied she gave Westberg permission to take the gold, or knew he was using it for that purpose.

After deadlocking, jurors said the defense had established reasonable doubt on the central question of whether Westberg believed he had authority to dispose of the gold as he saw fit.

Westberg, a native of New Jersey, and Copen, who was born in Switzerland, each has been married before, records show. They were married Dec. 21 by an ordained minister.