Suspects in Bizarre ‘Off-Grid’ Alabama Shooting Posted About New Age Conspiracy Theories, Followed a Controversial Content Creator

Yasmine Hider went from a hard-working college student in Oklahoma to adrift with Krystal Pinkins, a former home health aide; both women were arrested after the shooting death of college student Adam Simjee in Alabama.
Photo shows two women's booking photos; both stand in front of height charts. the woman on the left is Black and has an orange sweatshirt. The woman on the right is also Black and has a white draped gown on overa hospital garment.
Booking photos of Krystal Pinkins, left, in orange, and Yasmine Hider, right, in an apparent hospital gown. Photos via Clay County Sheriff's Office.

“2 Goddess and a starseed are stranded in Colorado,” Yasmine Hider wrote in a frantic Instagram post on May 23. “Went to go camping out in the mountains and got snowed in.” She posted a photo of a snowy mountain scene, and then a second image of herself alongside a woman named Krystal Pinkins and Pinkins’ five-year-old son. All three beam into the camera, the women grinning, the boy’s arms outstretched. 

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Four months later, Hider and Pinkins are in custody in county jail in Ashland, Alabama, charged with murder, kidnapping, and robbery after a violent alleged attack on two college students in the woods of Alabama. (Hider is identified as Yasmine Maira-del Hider in jail records.)

A gag order issued by a judge in the case prohibits investigators and attorneys from discussing it, so that no meaningful information has emerged since last week. A Motherboard investigation, though, provides clues as to the circumstances leading up to the bizarre and violent incident, even as it raises other questions. Central among them is why two Black women from seemingly normal backgrounds in Oklahoma and Tennessee ended up in the woods of Alabama, where sheriffs say they were found in an armed “off-grid community.” The answers appear to involve Hider descending into a rabbithole of New Age conspiracy theories about ancient alien races and government coverups, which seem to have led her, somehow, into the woods where Adam Simjee was ultimately killed.

As reported earlier this week, Simjee and his girlfriend Mikayla Paulus, both students at the University of Central Florida, were driving near Cheaha State Park in Alabama on August 14, in the boundaries of the Talladega National Forest. They were flagged down by a woman identified by the Clay County Sheriff’s office as Hider, who claimed her car wouldn’t start. Paulus’ mother told WBRC that the pair tried to help her for more than 30 minutes; when they were unable to get the car working, the woman pulled out a gun. “She told them to put up their hands and give her the keys and their cell phones and they did,” the woman told the outlet. 

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Hider then demanded couple walk into the woods with her, holding them at gunpoint. Simjee pulled out his own gun; Hider was shot in the torso and Simjee in the back. Simjee died at the scene, despite Paulus’ attempts to revive him. 

Do you know anything we should know about these women or this case? Contact the reporters at anna.merlan@vice.com or tim.marchman@vice.com; they can both be reached securely on Signal at (267)-713-9832.

Police said in their statement that Krystal Pinkins was standing in the woods during the shooting; Hider called out for her help, but Pinkins fled. 

“Over the next several hours,” the statement continued, “sheriff deputies received information that they may be a group of people ‘living off the grid’ somewhere in the National Forest.” 

A tracking team from the Alabama Department of Corrections, the statement said, led law enforcement “to a large group of tents that had been set up in the National Forrest [sic] in what appeared to be a base camp.” There, police encountered a woman standing near the tents, later identified as Pinkins.

“As officers were ordering the female to the ground a 5-year-old child ran from the woods holding a loaded shotgun,” the statement continued. “Law enforcement told the child to put the shotgun down, however the child continued to the female’s location before laying the gun on the ground. The female was taken into custody and later identified as Krystal Pinkins. It was determined that the child was Pinkins’ son.” 

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As would be expected given the gag order, law enforcement and prosecutors did not respond to Motherboard’s inquiries about the case.

All of this is a bizarre and shocking turn of events, and all the more so given that both women were seemingly leading unremarkable lives not long ago. In July of 2020, Hider, now 20, was, according to social media profiles reviewed by Motherboard, moving into her college dorm in her native Oklahoma, accompanied by her family. (Administration officials at the college, Langston University, Oklahoma’s only HBCU, could not immediately confirm whether Hider remained an enrolled student.) 

One Hider family member declined to comment when reached by Motherboard, while another said that the young woman “left home a year or two ago” and hasn’t spoken to the family since. Court records and social media posts show that Hider’s father died in her teens; she has one sibling and was seemingly raised by a tight-knit extended family who all burst with pride and excitement when she began college at the same university some of them had attended.  

Pinkins, meanwhile, is about 36 years old and listed herself on LinkedIn as a certified home health aide, where she wrote that she worked for the same company in Tennessee for nine years. (A representative at the agency she said she worked for, Baptist Memorial Health, could not immediately find her in their employment database or confirm her employment without her Social Security number.) Pinkins also listed herself on social media as a “freelance writer and aspiring motivational speaker” and wrote a series of posts for a content farm website called Thoughtnova with headlines like “7 Reasons to Value a Good Morning Text” and “10 Ways Proving That Happiness Starts With You.”  (Thoughtnova did not respond to a request for comment.)

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Both women seemingly became interested in more esoteric ideas in recent years, specifically following social media accounts focused on Black sovereignty and freedom from mainstream systems of thought and social control, New Age-flavored spiritual empowerment, and various conspiracy theories. Hider changed her Instagram handle sometime in the last two years from “Y_Hider” to “Cosmic Goddess.” In the past year, she also posted scornfully about people who got COVID vaccinations and linked to what looks like a flat earth conspiracy video in her Instagram stories, questioning what NASA is hiding about “the firmament,” a Biblical reference to a dome above the earth sometimes referenced in conspiracy videos. Hider was tagged in a group photo posted by a Memphis woman who describes herself as a real estate agent as well as a “sovereign being” and a “sovereign empress”; the woman made a series of posts about things like astral travel. (More recently, the same woman made a video outdoors, at night, in the woods, saying mysteriously that she’s been traveling and “moving around.”) 

In late 2021 and early 2022, Hider was making TikTok videos in a comfortable-looking house, sometimes featuring a little girl; the two didn’t speak, but did a series of dance challenges. In September of that year, she was still in Oklahoma, working at Walmart and asking for other spiritually conscious people in the region to contact her. “It's coming,” she said, without elaboration, in one video from that time. “It's getting close. I am lost myself, and I need a tribe of people to gather information and figure it out together. Because that's the true way of life and getting back to how we originally were."

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By March of this year, her videos appeared to be taken in cars or modest hotel rooms, and often featured her recording her own face and taking quizzes. Her last video, posted on April 24, featured her meditating and reading Rupi Kaur poems in a green field. “I’ve never been more at peace than rn,” she posted, in a caption to a video earlier that week. 

Both Pinkins and Hider had seemingly, based on their social media posts, become fans of something called The University of Cosmic Intelligence (UCI), the project of a man named Rashad Jamal White. (The Memphis real estate agent who tagged Hider in a photo is also an admirer of this man, who goes by Rashad Jamal, and has posted seemingly on his behalf.) Jamal is a content creator who describes himself on Instagram as an “Author / Poet / Revolutionary / Luminous Being” and uses the UCI’s Instagram and YouTube accounts to both share his music videos—these feature him in the company of multiple women and covering such subjects as “Kundalini Energy”— and make videos about things like cleansing his chakras, aimed at awakening Black and Latino people whom he refers to as “carbonated beings.” On Twitter, he focuses largely on the virtues of polygamy

Or he did, anyway: Barrow County Detention Center in Georgia, near Atlanta, confirmed to Motherboard that Jamal White is currently in custody there, facing three counts of child molestation and two counts of cruelty to children in the first degree. (From jail, he called someone who recorded their phone as he recited a lengthy spoken word poem, accusing those around him of being Judases. Public databases show he has a lengthy rap sheet and has pleaded guilty to, among other crimes, battery and strangulation and suffocation. He has also previously been charged with, though not convicted of, attempted murder and murder.) 

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Earlier this year, Hider reposted a video of Jamal originally posted by the Memphis real estate agent, who could not be reached for comment and herself has posted extensively about the need for Black people to become polygamous and the virtues of being a sister-wife. In it he warns that “they” are readying to attack people’s houses with synthetic robots, posing this as the natural follow-on to efforts to force COVID vaccination. Around the same time, Hider posted a video in which, while sitting in a parking lot, she marvels at how “they” had first tried to “cover the sun with their dumb-ass clouds,” then pans to other clouds, which she says are covering up “most of the stargate,” by which she seems to mean a rainbow that is  partially covered by clouds.

Hider also posted a video earlier this year featuring a Jamal track; the video depicted the sun in a cloudy sky, and the hashtags “#nowwerise #timeisup #anunnaki #blacktok #blacksprituality #wakeup.” The Annunaki were ancient Sumerian deities; in various branches of pseudohistory, they are referred to as alien beings responsible for things like building the pyramids. (British conspiracy theorist David Icke popularized that conception of the Annunaki, but more recently, the idea that they were a race of Black aliens who engineered humanity has been popularized on Tiktok.) Hider made reference to moving to the Atlanta area, where Jamal is based; in November of 2021, she made a video asking humorously for someone to help her find weed there. She also made a listing on the website Nanny Lane in January 2021, listing herself as located in Atlanta and looking for a full-time, live-in position. “I love reading and meditating when I have free time and I believe I’m a very humorous person,” she wrote in her bio. 

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(Jamal could not be reached for comment; messages sent to The University of Cosmic Intelligence went unanswered.)

By May of this year, Pinkins and Hider were seemingly traveling together, and in desperate straits. In her post requesting help in Colorado, Hider wrote, “Had to abandon the car after a search and rescue team came. Just got kicked out of a hotel and sitting in a Dunkin’ Donuts. Any assistance would be so appreciated right now.” She included Zelle and Cashapp information; the Cashapp ID she provided belonged to Pinkins.  

It’s still unclear what led Pinkins and Hider to the Alabama woods, or whether Hider’s alleged attempt to rob Simjee and Paulus was orchestrated by anyone besides her. 

Police said that Hider went into surgery following the shooting before being charged with murder, while Pinkins was arrested at the scene. A local judge has imposed a gag order on the case, prohibiting “any attorneys, witnesses, law enforcement personnel, district attorney and staff, members of the trial team, prosecution, or investigative team” from commenting on the case to the media or online. Citing the gag order, a clerk of court in Clay County refused to even release the name of Pinkins’ lawyer to a Motherboard reporter; when told the gag order did not seem to prohibit this, they transferred the reporter to another person, who hung up when she was told the gag order did not seem to prohibit giving out the name of the lawyer.

Jail records for Clay County show that Hider and Pinkins are both in custody. Hider faces one charge of murder, two charges of kidnapping in the first degree, and two counts of robbery in the first degree. Pinkins faces one count of endangering the welfare of a child, one count of murder, two counts of kidnapping in the first degree and two counts of robbery in the first degree. 

Update, August 26, 2022:

Langston University officials told Motherboard, “We can confirm Yasmine Hider was a student at Langston University, enrolled between Fall 2020 - Spring 2021. She in not enrolled in the university currently and did not graduate from the university. “