The Don LaRose Story Continued

Chapter 5


          As close as I can pinpoint it, it was sometime in the last half of 1979 that the mail brought a typed letter warning me to "cool it."  It suggested that continued "pushing" could cost me my life.  I hid the letter from my wife.  She got jittery every time she didn't know where I was.  One afternoon a homeless man wandered into the church.  I talked to him for some time.  No one else was available, so I put him in the church van and drove him downtown to the local Rescue Mission.  In the meantime the church office closed for the day.  When my wife could not find me she went into a panic.  Fortunately, I returned a few minutes later.  The letter made me even more determined.  "I must be getting close to something," I thought.  The letter was followed by another and by several phone calls over a period of months.  It didn't scare me!  I reasoned that if there were an attempt on my life, or even if I were to be killed, that would reopen the case and perhaps result in the apprehension of those responsible. 

          Suddenly it hit me!  That is exactly the line of reasoning someone uses when contemplating suicide, "If I were dead, that would show them!"  But I was able to rationalize that by telling myself that I was not depressed, and that this was different.  Looking back, I would say that I was both depressed and very frustrated.  I was not depressed in the sense I had always thought of depression.  But I was worn out and angry that this thing was still dogging me so many years later.  I felt it was becoming both a major hindrance to my ministry, and also a major opportunity. 

          One afternoon, the last name, and then an hour of so later, the first name of an individual that my friend Warren Reeder had submitted to the FBI (which they claimed they never received) jumped into my head.  I had racked my brain many times trying to remember the names or anything he had mentioned to me several years earlier.  This one came back because it was similar to the name of a relative of an individual in the church.  After several months I was able to set up a meeting with this man in a cafeteria in Chicago's Loop.  That meeting led to two other meetings over a period of months.  I would slip away from the church and ride the South Shore Railroad in to Chicago and be back in less than three hours.  And, yes, I did know that I was dealing with the underworld.  But by this time that didn't seem to matter.  I couldn't go to the FBI or the New York State Police because of the possibility of being arrested for making a false report.  While this group did not admit any direct knowledge of my abduction from New York, and disavowed any connection with it, it seemed apparent to me that they at least knew something about it.  That verified, in my mind, what Warren Reeder had told me.  One thing that I did glean from our conversations was that I was pretty sure the people involved were not from the Chicago area, even though I had been brought first to Chicago before being taken to Minneapolis.

          It was during these three conversations that I was made aware of the "possibility" (as it was put) that my abduction may have had something to do with a young man from Oklahoma City, whose parents attended my church in New York.  Apparently I had his funerl after his car had been rigged to crash.  This confirmed what Warren Reeder had told me about three years earlier.  But the whole thing just didn't make a lot of sense.

          The threats continued.  So I typed out a will, just in case I might be killed.  I made a number of copies and placed them in different places hoping some might survive whatever was ahead.  I also began keeping a chronological account of what was going on (the threats, etc.) inside the covers of the documents.  That included the dates of the latest threats and some of the things I was going to fight back.  I was emailed some of these pages in February of 2008.  Some of them were missing.  So it is apparent to me that not all of the copies of the will were found.  For some reason the threats didn't scare me, although I did keep them from my family.  By this time I may even have had a martyr complex.  In the back of my mind I think I almost hoped they would try something.

          I was not prepared for what happened next.  One Saturday morning I arrived at my study in the church about an hour before time for the men's weekly prayer breakfast.  My study have been ransacked.  Nearly every one of the hundreds of books which lined one wall had been dumped on the floor.  My filing cabinet had been emptied on to the floor.  My desk drawers had also been emptied.  There were no marks on the outside doors to the building, nor on the office door, all of which had been, and still were locked.  There didn't appear to be anything missing at first glance.  After breakfast some of the men helped me straighten up - a job that took the rest of the morning.  I thought about calling the police, and some of the men were quite persistent that I should.  I told them that nothing appeared to be missing, but my thoughts were filled with the New York State Police accusing me of making a false report.  If I were to call the Hammond Police, contact would be made with the New York State Police, and once again I might be accused of making a false report.

          That afternoon I received a telephone call.  It was both a threat and contained instructions.  I was told, in essence, that I had passed the point of no return, that the break-in over night was just a demonstration for my benefit.  I was told that on Monday I would be given instructions, and if I did not follow them to the letter, my wife and daughters would suffer painful deaths.  I kept asking who was calling; even lied to them telling them the phone was tapped.  They knew it wasn't, but told me things which had been said only in my study that morning, meaning they had tapped the study.  They also said they had taken all of the manuscripts of the book I had been writing on the subject of my abduction.  I looked, and sure enough, they were gone.  This was the second attempt at writing a book.  The first had been shortly after I had come out of the hospital at the recommendation of Warren Reeder.

          This had thrown a who new wrinkle into my problem.  I say, "My problem," because I had shut God out of this one.  I was handling it myself.  I did one other thing that afternoon.  I called the religion editor of the Chicago Tribune.  He had visited me in my study a few weeks earlier, and I had given him a copy of the book manuscript.  I asked if he would make a copy of his and sent it back to me.  He said he would, but I never knew whether he did not not, because of what happened next.

          Somehow I made it through Sunday.  Monday was the first day of our Vacation Bible School.  It was an evening school.  I was in my study early, as was my practice.  About 6:30 AM the telephone rang.  It was my instructions.  I was to prepare to vanish again.  I had a choice.  I could turn myself over to them (whoever they were) or watch my family die.  I was to be given final instructions later in the day.  I cried and prayed over it all morning.  I just couldn't put my family in this kind of danger.  I couldn't go to the authorities.  I had nothing to prove any of this, and certainly they would check with the FBI and the New York State Police.  They would either just ignore my report or worse yet, charge me with making a false report.  How would that look for an upstanding pastor in the community?  The whole thing seemed hopeless.

          About noon the instructions came.  I was to put my things in order, without letting on to anyone.  Then, the following day at noon, I was to walk to the Jewel Grocery Store parking lot on 169th Street, across from Morton High School (it was, perhaps, a mile from the church).  They described a car I would find parked there near the bank.  I was to get in the back seat and wait, no matter how long that wait might be.  They promised that my life and the lives of my family would be spared.  Of course, how could you trust a group of criminals like this to keep their word?  I believed they had already killed at least twice, and that they were responsible for my abduction five years earlier.

          My mind was racing.  It was essentially in panic mode - out of control.  Some ideas had been rolling around in my mind all morning, and I made a snap decision to follow one of them.  I went to the Sears store in Calumet City, Illinois and bought a bicycle, back pack, sleeping bag, saddle bags for the bike and camping equipment.  It took all afternoon to get it all together.

          I had talked a lot about faith; about trusting the Lord; about turning everything over to Him.  But now all of that was far from my mind.  Certainly people must have noticed that something was very wrong that day.  To say that I was "on edge" would have been an understatement.  I had made an irreversible decision that I knew was very wrong before God.  But it seemed like this was the only thing I could do to save my family and keep myself out of the hands of these murderers.  I knew I would live a miserable life, however long the Lord would allow me, or perhaps He would just take me home quickly.  All my big talk about trusting God had evaporated...just vanished as a vapor.

          I got up earlier than usual the next morning.  After stopping by the study to put copies of my will where they could be found, I went to the garage, loaded the bicycle and peddled off.  I didn't go very far the first day.  I stopped at a campsite on the Indiana-Illinois state line about 30 miles south of where the church was located, just to the east of Kankakee, Illinois.  By noon I had already had one flat tire, and decided it was time to stop.  It was obvious that along with the weight I had gained, and the amount of equipment I had taken along, I was way overloaded.

          Each summer I had gone with our young people on bicycle hikes and had no trouble peddling 50 to 75 miles in a day.  But on those trips all of our equipment was carried in the bus, truck and van to the next campsite.  I discarded all that I could.

          The next morning I started out as the first rays of day were appearing in the eastern sky.  Shortly after getting on a four lane highway that led into Kankakee, Illinois, riding on the paved shoulder, a car slowed down to my speed, then began inching toward me, actually bumping my handlebars, nearly causing me to lose control.  Then it sped away.  Some how I managed to stay upright, although I did stop.  A State Trooper witnessed the incident and pulled the car over about a mile down the road.  As I approached the officer, he waved me to a stop.  My heart sank, for I was certain I was about to be found out.  He asked me if the woman had actually hit my bike.  I said, "Yes."  He asked if I was alright and if there was any damage.  I told him I was alright and there was no damage.  At this he told me I could go on.  I drove through Kankakee and continued westward.  I rode a total of 14 hours that second day out, pulling in to a campground along the Illinois River just north of Peoria.  I stayed there all the next day.

          The following day I waited till after the rush hour then rode south into Peoria and headed west across the river.  On the other side of the bridge was a pair of railroad tracks.  There were several cars behind me, and there was an on-again off-again light rain falling, so the road was wet.  The tracks crossed the road on an angle, and when the front wheel of my bike hit the first wet rail, it slid sideways down the track at an unbelievable speed, dumping me on the road in front of the traffic.  Fortunately, the pickup truck behind me got stopped a few inches from me.  I was scratched up a bit.  But I jumped up quickly, picked up the bike and rode off before anyone could ask any questions.

          I crossed the rest of Illinois, over the Mississippi River, then northwestward to Des Moines, Iowa.  It had been my plan, although it was a very rough plan, to ride to Denver.  But it became obvious to me that such a trip was more than I had bargained for.  I was about out of money.  I picked a solution from the bag of tricks I had been taught by Jim and Vern on Chicago's near west side some five years earlier.  I found a piece of cardboard, begged a magic marker, and wrote, "Will work for food."  By this time I looked the part.  My clothes were dirty looking, especially after that fall in Peoria, and I hadn't shaved in just over a week.  I collected just over $30.00 before someone took me up on the deal.  I think I surprised him when I agreed to work.  I worked the rest of that day and all the next.  He and his wife gave me more food than I needed and $50.00.  I ditched the bicycle (kept the camping equipment) and bought a bus ticket to Denver and was on the road again.

          It had been my plan to stay in Denver, but I didn't feel comfortable.  It seemed like everyone I passed looked like someone I knew.  I thought I was getting paranoid, although I also realized that were were quite a few people in the Denver area who might recognize me. However, the chances of actually running across one of them was not great.  I finally decided to go north to Cheyenne, Wyoming.  I had never been there before, and maybe, just maybe I could feel a little more comfortable.  Again, I took day jobs.  But I realized that I would not be able to continue to do that indefinitely.  I couldn't use the name "Don LaRose."  I felt there was too much chance of getting caught.  I really didn't like the name "Bruce," and I didn't know how to go about getting another identity.  I finally decided that I had no choice but to go back to using the name Bruce Williams.

          Five years earlier I had been made into Bruce Williams against my will.  I had all the information in my head that I needed to get all the necessary documents reissued.  I wrote to Albany, New York for a birth Certificate, giving all the correct information that was required, and sending along the appropriate fee.  I was staying in a dingy room above the bus depot at $20.00 per week.  It took several weeks, but the birth certificate finally arrived.  With that in hand, I went to the Motor Vehicle Department and told them that I had lost my Minnesota drivers license.  I filled out all the paperwork; waited several days and was issued a license.  Now I had everything necessary to get a real job.  I landed a job cleaning up and stocking shelves in a grocery market after closing time.  I even bought a car for a few hundred dollars.  It was an older model brown Toyota.  It didn't look like much either inside or outside.  However it must have been mechanically sound, because it ran without problems for several years before I sold it.  But, again, I kept seeing people I thought I recognized.  I just couldn't stay.  I thought that if I could get to a small, out-of-the-way town way back in the Rocky Mountains where I would get to know everyone in town, I might be able to feel more secure.

          Winter was in full swing back in the mountains.  I arrived in the middle of a snow storm just after the first of the year.  But I soon learned that it was not unusual for it to snow in July two miles high in the mountains, where temperatures might get up to 90 degrees in the afternoon, but were usually in the lower 20's even on summer mornings.  I got a job in the only grocery store in town.  Everything seemed to be going just fine.  Most of the people in town were Mormon.  There was a Lutheran, a Methodist, a Catholic and an Episcopal Church.  I tried the Lutheran and Methodist Churches.  It was quite apparent that the ministers did not believe the Bible to be the Word of God.  But to my amazement, the priest at the Episcopal Church turned out to be a born again man.  I prayed everyday; but, somehow, it felt like my prayers just were not going anywhere.  I discovered that the prayers said during the Episcopal Mass were just what I needed.  I could kneel there, read those prayers and mean every word.

          The Labor Day weekend 1981 was ushered in with a snow storm.  I was in the only convenience store in town on the Tuesday after Labor Day when two men dressed in suits entered.  No one in that town even owned a suit.  So these men stood out.  They walked up to the cashier and showed her a picture.  After looking at it she shook her head.  They went to two other people in the store and showed each of them the picture.  I moved toward the back corner.  Eventually they made their way toward me and showed me a picture of myself.  When I saw it I had a sudden weak feeling.  The only word I can think of to describe the moment is "terror!"  They didn't recognize me because of my long hair which came down to my shoulders and a wiry, unruly beard that touched my chest.

          After they left I made my way quickly back to my room.  Within less than an hour I had packed everything I could get into my car and headed out of town in a panic.  I headed south several hundred miles to the interstate, then west toward Salt Lake City.  I was scared.  I didn't make it all the way to Salt Lake City, turning off instead and heading south into Provo.  I pulled off on to a side street and parked.  It was 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning.  I was shaking all over.  "Scared to death" doesn't begin to describe it.  I sat there in the car into the middle of the next afternoon not knowing what to do.  Slowly, I began to devise a plan; a plan that had the possibility of leading to my death.  But I just couldn't keep going on like this.

          I pulled the car back on to the main road and headed southeastward in Utah, then across southwestern Colorado into New Mexico, across the Texas Panhandle, and into Oklahoma City.  The city scared me, but if I were ever to find a solution to this desparate situation, this had to be done.  For the next two weeks I spent every day in the library looking through micro film copies of newspapers from 1973 to1975.  I looked through the obituaries, all the murders and all the accidents I could find.  I was looking for a name with ties to Maine, New York.  Before his death, my friend Warren Reeder had told me that he believed my abduction had something to do with organized crime, related to a murder in Oklahoma City.  The boy's parents were members of my church and I was supposed to have conducted his funeral.  It was one of the items that Reeder had sent on to the FBI, which they claimed they had never received.  Before receiving my instructions to turn myself over to people I believed to have been my former abductors, I had met with a man in Chicago who indicated that this may have been the case.  He suggested that the young man's car had been rigged to crash by remote control.  After two weeks of searching, I had three names tied to New York, but not directly to Maine.  One of them had a tie to Endicott, which was near Maine.

           I was back in the car headed for New York.  The trip took three days.  I am going to skip a lot of incidental details about that trip.  But I checked every tomb stone in the cemetery at Maine (a rather large cemetery).  I also checked out cemeteries at nearby Union Center and in Endicott without success.  I drove all the way back to Oklahoma City via Lancaster, Pennsylvania to check on my parents, and the Hammond, Indiana area to check on my family.  Back in Oklahoma City, I made one more stab at finding something in the library, but without success.  What could I do?  I was distraught.  After several days of doing nothing, I went to Clear Channel Radio in Oklahoma City and asked them if I could see a copy of their Broadcasting Magazine.  In the help wanted section I discovered an ad for a radio job at KAMO AM-FM in Rogers, Arkansas, about a five hour drive from where I was.  I called the station manager who hired me sight unseen.  I don't remember the exact date, but it was near Christmastime in 1981.

The final chapter deals with my 26 years in Northwest Arkansas.  To read it, click on the "Chap 6" tab on the upper left of this page



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