|Bonnie Lu Nettles|
|Born||Bonnie Lu Tuesdale
|Died||January 20, 1985
Dallas, Texas, USA
|Cause of death||liver cancer|
|Other names||Ti, Peep|
Bonnie Lu Nettles née Truesdale (1927 - January 20, 1985), later known as Ti, was co-leader of a group with Marshall Applewhite that later became the Heaven's Gate group after Nettles's death. Nettles died of liver cancer in 1985 in Dallas, Texas, 12 years before the cult's mass suicide in 1997.
Born in 1927, Nettles was raised in a Baptist family for all of her life until adulthood. After becoming a nurse, Nettles married a businessman and remained with him for 23 years, having four children with him. Their marriage remained mostly stable, until it ended 1972. According to the New York Times, their marriage dissolved due to Nettles' belief that Brother Francis, a 19th-century monk, frequently spoke with her and gave her instructions. Furthermore, Nettles often conducted seances with mediums in order to contact other deceased spirits. A circle group was held every Wednesday at her house in relation to this. In 1972, Nettles went to see multiple fortunetellers, who told her that she was soon to meet a mysterious man who was tall with light hair and a fair complexion. This description was fairly close to Applewhite's.
Nettles finally met Applewhite in March 1972, though where they met is uncertain. According to the writings of Applewhite, "[Applewhite] was visiting a hospitalized friend when Mrs. Nettles entered the room and their eyes locked in a shared recognition of esoteric secrets." However, Applewhite's writings were prone to hyperbole or relaying everything as some occurrence of fate. Terrie Nettles, Bonnie's daughter, has stated that "The two met at a drama school in a theater." and that Applewhite had been teaching in the school, with one of Bonnie's sons attending it. Bonnie's son, Joe Nettles, also corroborated this version of events.
Whichever version is correct, it is known that directly after their meeting, Nettles did an astrological reading for Applewhite, from which she found an alignment between their stars. Applewhite then explained to her his ideas about heavenly connections, thoroughly convincing Nettles of their truth. He decided that Nettles was "to be the sage, he the speaker." They left together on New Year's Day of 1973. Her three youngest children were left to remain with their father, while her oldest, Terrie, then 20 years old and skeptical of her mother's ideas, fended for herself.
Many events passed in creation of the Heaven's Gate group and the formation of its core members, with Nettles continuing to be the interpreter of signs and the mystic of the group. In 1983, she had to have an eye removed due to cancer, though her doctor informed her that the disease was already spreading through the rest of her body. She stated that the doctor was ignorant and believed, along with Applewhite, that she could not die, as they had to ascend together. However, the cancer continued to worsen, moving to Nettles' liver. Eventually, she succumbed in the summer of 1985, dying at Dallas' Parkland Memorial Hospital. While there as a patient, she used the pseudonym Shelly West.
- Bearak, Barry, "Eyes on Glory: Pied Pipers of Heaven's Gate", New York Times, April 28, 1997
- "On This Day: Bodies of Heaven’s Gate Cult Members Discovered After Mass Suicide", findingDulcinea, March 26, 2010
- Dalton, Rex, "Tragedy painful, familiar to man who lost mom to Applewhite cult", The San Diego Union-Tribune, March 29, 1997
- Phillips, Jim, "Central Texas was cult's early recruiting ground", Austin American-Statesman, March 29, 1997