(WMC-TV) – Haunting new evidence is being revealed from a bizarre death investigation.
Was a Mid-South woman determined to die in order to please her pastor?
The woman's family says new audio tapes may prove what they have been saying all along, that she died in an assisted suicide, rather than by accident.
By most accounts, Ruth Thompson was a devoted mother, daughter and church goer. It was the latter, her family says, that killed her.
"She was brainwashed. And whatever she was told to do, almost like a Jim Jones kind of thing, she'd do it," said Ruth's mother, Lois Gilliam.
What Ruth did was drive her Cadillac up a hill on the wrong side of Highway 100 in Chester County. She crashed head-on into a motor home.
It was her third crash in less than two weeks.
"They made my mother, get in that car, and drive in front of that trailer, and kill herself. They were behind it," said Ruth's daughter, Ryan Thompson.
"They" are the leaders of New Covenant Faith Ministries. It is a church that Ruth's family calls a cult, led by a woman named Altha Maclin.
Ruth's family believes Maclin, who calls herself God's 21st Century Prophet, told Ruth to kill herself so that Maclin could collect more than $1 million in insurance money.
And they believe newly discovered audio tapes back up their claim.
The voice on the tapes is Altha Maclin recorded during one of her sermons.
"Only reason some of you aren't dead yet, cause I ain't told God to kill you," said Maclin on the audio tapes.
Ruth's mother discovered the tapes in her daughter's belongings after she died.
"I'm sick of you Ryan, and your mama. You ain't gonna run nothing up in here. You gonna either die or you ain't going to be here, but one way or another you gonna be crucified with Christ or you gonna be out of here," Maclin said on the tapes.
Ruth's family believes Maclin wanted her dead because Maclin was the owner and beneficiary of life insurance policies on Ruth, totaling 1.7 million.
Maclin never collected the insurance claims because she never got her hands on Ruth's death certificate. But now, Ruth's mother has her hands on these tapes.
"I always felt the death of Ruthie was not an accident. And the tapes, to me clearly say that she wanted Ruthie dead," said Gilliam.
By phone, Lois Gilliam told Action News 5 that she sent the tapes to Madison County District Attorney General DA Woodall, whose office investigated Ruth Thompson's death six years ago.
Investigators were never quite satisfied with the outcome of that investigation, writing in their summary report, "Although there were some questionable circumstances surrounding Thompson's demise, her death was ruled a suicide."
For six years, Ruth's mom has tried to get the case reopened.
"I would like this case to be reopened because I don't feel that my daughter died as a result of an accident," she said.
Lois Gilliam points to conversations between Maclin and her daughter, as evidence Ruth would have done anything for the prophet's approval.
Ruth: If I seek to get approval from God, then I will have your approval?
Maclin: If you seek to get approval from me, you will have God's (approval).
Maclin: If I have approved of you, God approves of you. You can't get his approval until I approve of you. You understand me?"
Ruth's mother believes her daughter understood Maclin loud and clear.
AG Woodall says he will have the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation review the audio tapes and possibly interview several persons of interest that investigators were unable to contact the first time around.
But it is likely the district attorney will not reopen the case unless they feel they can prove in court that Ruth Thompson's death, in some way, was assisted by someone else.
Action News 's attempts to reach Altha Maclin were unsuccessful.