Marin County Sheriff's detectives are searching for three "persons of interest" in the shooting death of a 67-year-old hiker and tantra instructor who has taught "love and ecstasy" trainings around the globe.
The hiker has been identified by family and friends as Steve Carter, who authorities said was killed by "multiple gunshot wounds" while walking his Doberman pinscher on a popular hiking trail in Fairfax, California, Monday night.
Officials late Tuesday released surveillance video from a Fairfax convenience store showing two of three people who are considered persons of interest. Video shows a man wearing a distinctive white hat with what is believed to be a California bear on it and a woman with dreadlocks. Witnesses said the trio was acting suspiciously.
The sheriff's office on Wednesday released a photo of the third person, a white man with a blond beard, seen wearing a blue beanie, sunglasses, and backpacking gear.
"We have a great desire to talk to these people," Lt. Doug Pittman said. "If nothing else, they were present in and around the time when this assault took place."
Pittman said the sheriff's office received a 911 call Monday just after 6 p.m. reporting a body off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard on Old Railroad Grade trail in the Loma Alta Open Space Preserve. The victim had been staying with friends in Marin County, Pittman said, and had simply been out walking his dog, which was shot, too. The dog survived.
The motive is still a mystery.
"What led to the circumstances of his death, that's what we're trying to determine right now," Pittman said.
Pittman, who has not formally identified Carter, said the hiker's 2003 silver Volkswagen Jetta was most likely stolen, and deputies are looking for the car, which has a California license plate reading 6PPG662.
In a statement sent out late Tuesday, Logan Rose, director of the Ecstatic Living Institute, wrote he was saddened by Carter's death. Carter had co-founded the center with his wife, Lokita, 16 years ago, and the two had moved to Marin County to treat Lokita Carter's cancer. He said the couple have traveled the world, leading workshops of about 20,000 people in the "art of sexual ecstasy."
"Steve and Lokita Carter devoted their lives to helping people connect their hearts to their sexuality. That's what their life is about, to remove the taboo around sexuality and weave it beautifully into the human experience," Rose said via email. "A lot of their work was not about sex. It was about being in your heart and living life from there."
Making things even more difficult is that Harbin Hot Springs in Middletown, where the Carters led many workshops, burned last month during the devastating Valley Fire, Rose said. On top of that, Lokita Carter is still dealing with an aggressive form of breast cancer. But Rose said Carter's death "is the most devastating blow."
"We are heartbroken," Rose said. "We will do our best to honor Steve and Lokita by continuing to devote ourselves to teaching people the art of ecstatic living, something that they did together so beautifully.”
NBC Bay Area's Stephanie Chuang and Lisa Fernandez contributed to this report.