The wife of a controversial Alberta spiritual leader accused of sexually assaulting some of his followers is now facing multiple charges of sexual assault herself.
Edmonton police confirm that Leigh Ann de Ruiter, wife of John de Ruiter, was arrested on Monday and charged with three counts of sexual assault.
Mr. de Ruiter, 63, heads a multimillion-dollar enterprise with hundreds of dedicated followers who believe him to be the “living embodiment of truth.” The former orthopedic shoemaker was arrested on Jan. 21 and charged with four counts of sexual assault against women in his community.
Police at the time said Mr. de Ruiter allegedly “informed certain female group members that he was directed by a spirit to engage in sexual activity with them, and that engaging in sexual activity with him will provide them an opportunity to achieve a state of higher being or spiritual enlightenment.” The allegations date to between 2017 and 2020, and involve four women.
Edmonton police spokesperson Cheryl Voordenhout says the three sexual-assault charges against Leigh Ann de Ruiter arise from the same incidents for which her husband is charged.
Defence lawyer Dino Bottos, who represents Mr. de Ruiter, said he will not be representing Ms. de Ruiter on her charges, but will work to have her released on bail shortly.
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“I will follow the common practice of referring Ms. de Ruiter to outside counsel for her defence in the coming days as I do not believe it proper to represent two accused on the same matter,” he said, in an e-mailed statement. “However, my first priority is to secure Ms. de Ruiter’s release on bail as soon as possible.”
Ms. de Ruiter, 64, who is also known by her maiden name, Leigh Ann Angermann, was previously executive director of the Oasis Centre, the lavish west-end facility where her husband’s meetings took place. The Oasis Centre was sold to the Aga Khan Foundation in October, 2021, for $6.7-million.
Ms. de Ruiter and Mr. de Ruiter have been married since 2009, when Mr. de Ruiter made a high-profile split from two sisters with whom he had been engaged in a common-law marriage. Those sisters, Benita and Katrina von Sass, later launched lawsuits against him.
Mr. de Ruiter, whose legal first name is Johannes, remains on bail in the community on a number of conditions, including that he is barred from being alone with women other than Ms. de Ruiter, his daughter, and his former spouse, Katrina von Sass, who court heard lives with them. Other details of his bail hearing cannot be published because of a court-ordered publication ban.
No trial dates have been set.
A press release from the Edmonton Police Service says investigators believe there may be other complainants, and urged anyone else “who believes they have been victimized by either of the two accused” to contact the service.