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Sellner Legal Trouble

Sellner Acquitted At Mock Trial 12-1-93

By William Simonsen

Condon, Mont. — Roberta Sellner, said Monday that her husband Gordon, who is wanted by authorities for attempted deliberate homicide of a sheriffs deputy, has already been found innocent of the charge.

She said a trial was held recently by his supporters in the Swan Valley at which Sellner was found not guilty and the deputy he allegedly shot was found guilty of the crime.

She said formal charges against her husband should be dropped.

Gordon Sellner has been hiding from authorities for almost 18 months, since he allegedly shot Missoula County Deputy Sheriff Bob Parcell in the chest on June 27, 1992.

Sellner allegedly shot Parcell while Parcell was chasing him through the woods near Sellner’s home in the Swan Valley.

Larry Nistler, Lake County attorney, said some “radical fringe groups have recently decided to hold trials of their own.”

Nistler said he would not consider dropping the attempted deliberate homicide charge against Gordon Sellner.

A federal flight-from-justice warrant has also been issued for Gordon Sellner.

“There is no reason to question the charges as they have been made. They will continue until unchanged until Sellner stands trial,” said Nistler.

Roberta Sellner said her husband could have killed Parcell.

She said her husband once met a grizzly bear on a path in the woods in the middle of the night and killed the bear, so he could easily have killed Parcell if that had been his intention.

She said her husband acted only in self defense after he was shot at by Parcell.

Parcell was shot in the chest while wearing a bullet-proof vest. He suffered only minor injuries when his badge disintegrated from the impact of the bullet.

As a result of the ad hoc trial, posters portraying Parcell as a wanted man are being circulated in the Swan Valley.

Lake County Sheriff Joe Geldrich said a copy of the poster had been mailed to him.

Roberta Sellner said she has been in touch with her husband. She said he is “strong and healthy and well” while in hiding.

Roberta Sellner said she is the spokesman for her husband. He will not surrender to authorities, she said.

She blamed Parcell for the shooting. She claimed Parcell shot at her husband first

She said Parcell should be suspended from duty because of the way he handled the situation with her husband “before he does it to some other people.”

Parcell allegedly attempted to stop Sellner to interview him as a witness to a possible crime.

Gordon Sellner was known to authorities before the shooting incident as a tax protester.

Roberta Sellner said his tax protests “didn’t hurt anybody.” She said, “We didn’t cheat on our taxes, we just didn’t file because we didn’t owe anything.”

She said the only way to change society is to “:stand up and say no to taxes.”

Last August Deputy Lake County Mitch Young sent Sellner a letter offering to reduce his bail to $10,000 if he would turn himself in unarmed at the county courthouse by Aug. 20.

The current warrant for Sellner’s arrest does not set bail, meaning Sellner could be held without bond if arrested.

Lake County Sheriff Joe Geldrich said the offer was made in an effort to avoid a direct confrontation with Sellner.

Rewards of up to $11,500 have been offered for information leading to Sellner’s arrest.

Sellner Sentenced By Real Judge 10/23/96

By William Simonsen

Polson, Mont. — Quoting the Old Testament, District Court Judge C.B. McNeil sent Gordon Sellner to prison for life plus ten years.

Sellner, 57, Condon, was sentenced last Wednesday on his conviction for attempted deliberate homicide of a deputy sherif was greater than what was asked by the prosecution in the case. And Sellner’s attorney asked for a new trial in the case.

McNeil said Sellner had testified “with a Bible in his hand” that he had heard the voice of God tell him to shoot Missoula County Deputy Bob Parcell.

McNeil said in one of the ten commandments in the book of Exodus Moses told men, “Thou shalt not kill.”

McNeil also quoted from the U.S. Constitution during the sentencing because Sellner had frequently quoted from it during his defense, McNeil said.

McNeil said the judicial system had functioned as it was designed and the “people’s voice has been expressed” in setting the prison terms for Sellner’s crime.

McNeil added the 10 year sentence to the life term requested by the prosecutor.

Deputy Lake County Attorney Mitch Young told McNeil his office wanted Sellner sentenced to life without parole until the age of 70.  Young said he felt there was little chance for Sellner to be rehabilitated. He said he chose the age of 70 “because at that he would be less inclined to engage in these battles.”

McNeil asked Young if wanted any time added because Sellner used a weapon in the crime.

Young said he did not ask for additional time added to the sentence because he did not know how it would effect the ban on parole he requested.

Sellner’s attorney, John DeCamp, objected to parts of the pre-sentence report prepared by a state probation and parole officer.

He said part of the report referred to Sellner’s political beliefs and a separate part of the report contained Parcell’s opinion of the sentence Sellner should receive.

McNeil told DeCamp, (Sellner) “will not be sentenced based on any political ideas or beliefs.”

DeCamp asked that Sellner be allowed to serve his time under house arrest at his sawmill in the Swan Valley so he would remain productive and not become a burden on taxpayers.

DeCamp said the prosecution’s witnesses testified Sellner “is not violent”, so should be considered for the house arrest program.

But McNeil ignored the recommendations of both attorneys.

He set the sentences to run consecutively. McNeil said current practice of the state Department of Corrections would not make Sellner eligible for parole for 17 years. After 17 years were served, Sellner would still have to serve the additional 10 years for the use of a weapon.

Under McNeil’s sentence, Sellner will not be eligible for parole until age 84.

DeCamp filed his motion for a new trial Oct. 11.

After the hearing he said there are “crystal clear issues for appeal” in the case.

DeCamp said the jury did not consider any lesser charges for Sellner, or make any allowance for mitigating circumstances in the case.

DeCamp continued to maintain Sellner was in fear for his life during the shooting of Parcell.

Many of Sellner’s family members were present for the sentencing, as were Parcell and several of his children.


© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.


Accused of murder

Accused of murder 12/19/2005

By William Simonsen

Squim, Wash. — Amber Bulus-Steed was killed Dec. 14 in a motel room in Sequim. Court documents allege she was brutally murdered by her boyfriend of eight months, Nathan Hipsher.

She was 26 and left two daughters without a mother.

Law enforcement officials said her two young girls were in the room at the Greathouse Motel during their mother’s violent death.

Circumstances suggest the oldest girl, almost 4 years old, and the other girl, a little over 1 year, were in the car along with their dead mother while her alleged killer drove across Clallam County in the middle of the night.

Hipsher, 25, allegedly abandoned Bulus-Steed, her daughters and the car at the home of one of his family members on East Scrivener Road in Port Angeles about midnight.

But the story had started almost 12 hours earlier said Clallam County Undersheriff Fred DeFrang. He said the couple checked into the motel at about 1 p.m.

It was the day after Hipsher’s birthday, court records reveal.

Hipsher expected to be arrested by the state Department of Corrections at any moment and had gone into hiding at the motel, said Dan McCraw, one of the couple’s friends.

Corrections field administrator Gregg Freeman said there was a warrant out for Hipsher’s arrest. Freeman said Hipsher allegedly tested positive for drug use on Dec. 7, a violation of his parole from a previous prison sentence.

Freeman said the department knew Hipsher is seriously ill with cancer and planned to arrest him Wednesday after an appointment with his doctor.

But by then things had gone terribly wrong and Hipsher was already in jail. He was arrested when he surrendered to sheriff’s deputies at 8 a.m. Dec. 15.

He was charged with the death of Bulus-Steed — second-degree murder. If convicted as charged, he could face life in prison.

Bail was set at $1 million Dec. 17. Hipsher is scheduled for an arraignment Dec. 30, when he could enter a plea on the charge.

What happened at the motel?

The alleged events in the motel room that night are a disturbing tale of alcohol-fueled violence. Court records said Hipsher told detectives he and Bulus-Steed began drinking tequila and beer after they checked in.

Whether other drugs were used won’t be known until toxicology tests are completed, said DeFrang. The crime lab, he said, is very busy and it could take weeks or months for the results.

A motel guest said she saw Bulus-Steed and one of her daughters outside at about 9 p.m. The guest said Bulus-Steed appeared unhurt.

“He was really loud, and I was wondering, are they partying, or fighting?” said Shauna Ridgley, the motel guest.

About 9 p.m. “she came out with the baby in (only) diapers, saying, ‘It’s OK, it’s OK,’ then put the baby in the car,” said Ridgley. “She (Bulus-Steed) wasn’t in a hurry. I don’t know if she was waiting for him, or what.”

Sometime after 9 p.m. 6-foot 4-inch, 220-pound Hipsher allegedly attacked Bulus-Steed.

And the ferocity of that attack left her broken and dead.

The report of Sequim Police detective Cory Hall and county sheriff’s detective Todd Yarnes described her condition as bruised with “blacked eyes, bleeding from her nose as well as a fracture in her skull, allowing leakage of spinal fluid.”

When the detectives examined her body at the emergency room, they found marks on her neck left when she was strangled or choked, the documents said.

Bulus-Steed’s hair was “disheveled with some force.” The detectives concluded she “was dragged by her hair” through her own blood.

When Hall and Yarnes searched the room they found evidence of a violent struggle. Court documents said forensic evidence showed an image of Bulus-Steed “laying on the floor and bleeding” for some time before she was dragged by her hair, loaded into the car and driven to the Scrivener Road residence.

Hipsher told detectives he became unconscious from the alcohol, court documents said. Hipsher claimed when he awoke he found Bulus-Steed gravely injured.

The doctor at the Olympic Memorial Hospital emergency room told detectives he remembered treating Bulus-Steed for broken ribs and facial injuries in early September, court documents said. Healed broken ribs were discovered during Bulus-Steed’s autopsy.

It was one of a series of injuries to befall Bulus-Steed in the past year. She claimed her injures were all accidents, said her mother, Dana Steed.

Steed said she suspected that Bulus-Steed’s boyfriends beat her.

Bulus-Steed’s friends agree with her mother. “It was unusual to see her without a black eye,” said McCraw.

Clallam County District Court had an arrest warrant out for Hipsher, too. He was cited for driving without a valid license June 21. He never appeared in court to answer the charge.

Hipsher had been in trouble for a decade. His juvenile record lists five major crimes beginning at age 14.

The juvenile charges were for auto theft, possession of drug paraphernalia, theft, criminal trespass and malicious mischief.

Hipsher’s extensive criminal record continued as an adult.

He was charged with a string of 10 felonies in 1997 ranging from auto theft to burglary and possession of burglar tools. He accepted a plea bargain, served time and was paroled.

In 2001, Hipsher was arrested again. This time he was charged with burglary, theft, arson and malicious mischief. The arson charge involved a truck owned by the City of Port Angeles.

He pleaded guilty to the theft and arson charges and was sent to prison a sentence from which he was on parole when he was arrested last week.

Steed Murder Charges 1/5/05

By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — Accused murdered Nathan Hipsher pleaded not guilty in Clallam County Superior Court Thursday.

He remains in jail in lieu of $1 million bail.

Hipsher, 25, of Port Angeles, allegedly killed Amber Bulus-Steed during in a Sequim motel room the night of Dec. 14.

Court documents said Hipsher was drinking heavily the night of the murder at the Great House Motel.

The Certificate of Death said Bulus-Steed died of “homicidal violence” within “minutes” of being “beaten and strangled by another person.”

Charging documents allege that after killing Bulus-Steed, Hipsher loaded her body into his SUV and drove to Port Angeles.

His vehicle was found abandoned it in the driveway of family members on on East Scrivener Road in Port Angeles. His girlfriend of eight months, Bulus-Steed died at 26. Law enforcement officials said her two young daughters were in the room when Hipsher allegedly killed her.

Her older daughter, 4 years old and her younger daughter, a little over 1 year, were in the car along with their dead mother while her alleged killer drove across Clallam County in the middle of the night, court documents said.

The two children were physically unharmed, law enforcement officials said.

Hipsher has been in trouble with the law for a decade.

Most recently, he was sentenced to three years in prison on Oct. 3, 2001, after he pleaded guilty to theft and arson charges. The arson charge involved a truck owned by the City of Port Angeles.

He did not serve the full term in prison.

Hipsher was on parole when he was arrested Dec. 15.

His juvenile record lists five major crimes beginning at age 14.

The juvenile charges were for auto theft, possession of drug paraphernalia, theft, criminal trespass and malicious mischief.

Hipsher’s extensive criminal record continued as an adult.

He pleaded guilty to a string of 10 felonies in 1997 ranging from auto theft to burglary and possession of burglar tools. He accepted a plea bargain, served time and was paroled.


© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.


Alleged Murderer Cancer 2/19/05

By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — Although the prosecutor is not seeking the death penalty, accused murderer Nathan Hipsher may well die in prison anyway.

During a court appearance Feb. 18, his attorney said Hipsher was diagnosed with cancer.

Hipsher is charged with the Dec. 14 murder of Amber Bulus-Steed in a Sequim motel room.

Public defender Terry Mulligan said Hipsher is scheduled to see a specialist in Seattle. Hipsher will probably need intense treatment requiring hospitalization for more than one month, said Mulligan.

Hipsher was in Superior Court for a scheduling hearing — an appearance to set a date for trial. Judge Joe

Wood scheduled another appearance for Hipsher Feb. 25, after his examination by the specialist.

While he is in custody in the county jail, the cost of all Hipsher’s medical treatment must be paid by Clallam County, said Dan Engelbertson, county administrator.

Funding courts and the sheriff’s office take more than one-half of Clallam County’s $25.5 million general fund budget, Engelbertson said. During December budget hearings with the county commissioners, he said the county could incur huge medical costs for a jail inmate. But there was no way to avoid the county’s legal obligation to provide prisoner health care, he said.


© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

Alleged Murderer To Plead Guilty  4/6/05

By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — The man accused of murdering Amber Bulus-Steed in a Sequim motel room is making a deal to plead guilty to the charge.

At a hearing in Superior Court April 1, Prosecutor Deborah Kelly said a plea agreement with Nathan Hipsher is imminent.

But the family members of his victim aren’t pleased.

Aaron Bulus-Steed, the victim’s brother, speculated Hipsher wanted to plead guilty only to get better medical treatment for his cancer.

Hipsher is suffering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer, his attorney said in court one month ago. Public defender Terry Mulligan said Hipsher already started treatment in Seattle.

Previously, Kelly said she would not seek the death penalty for the Dec. 14 murder.

Cutting deals with the prosecutor and pleading guilty seem to be a pattern for Hipsher.

He was charged with a string of 10 felonies in 1997 ranging from auto theft to burglary and possession of burglar tools. He accepted a plea bargain, served time and was paroled.

In 2001, Hipsher was arrested again. This time he was charged with burglary, theft, arson and malicious mischief. The arson charge involved a truck owned by the City of Port Angeles.

He pleaded guilty to the theft and arson charges and was sent to prison. He was on parole from the sentence when he was arrested and charged with the murder of Bulus-Steed.

Hipsher has been in trouble for a decade. His juvenile record lists five major crimes beginning at age 14. He was charged as a juvenile for auto theft, possession of drug paraphernalia, theft, criminal trespass and malicious mischief.


© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

Streeter Murder

Arrest In Christmas Night Murder 5/20/98

By William Simonsen

Bigfork, Mont. — Two Bigfork area brothers were arrested Monday afternoon and charged with the Christmas night murder of Bigfork businessman Larry Streeter.

Ted Ernst, a computer technician and wheelchair athlete, was arrested along with his brother, Jesse. Both face felony charges of burglary and deliberate homicide.

Flathead County Sheriff Jim Dupont said detectives picked up Jesse, 18, for questioning after receiving a tip. When Jesse was taken into custody at the home of his parents, he was wearing boots whose soles allegedly matched plaster cast impressions made at the murder scene, the sheriff said. He was formally arrested after questioning.

Detectives then obtained a warrant for Ted’s arrest. He was taken into custody Monday afternoon in Bigfork by sheriff’s deputies. Ted was also arrested after questioning by detectives. Dupont said the snow tires on Ted’s car allegedly matched plaster casts of tire treads from the crime scene.

Both the Ernst brothers were being held Monday night in the Flathead County jail.  Bond was set at $750,000 each.

Flathead County Attorney Tom Esch said both brothers were charged with the crimes, due to the way state law is written.

“If while committing a felony somebody dies, then it is a felony murder charge for all involved with the initial felony. It doesn’t matter who pulled the trigger, all are culpable,” he said.

Streeter, 51, was slain late last Dec. 25 or early Dec. 26 after something prompted him to check a neighbor’s home while he was returning from work at a Columbia Falls motel he owned.

Authorities had believed he interrupted a burglary in progress at the home.

Dupont said Streeter apparently caught the brothers red-handed when he stopped to check on the house of his neighbor, John Bradshaw, a famous psychologist from Houston, Texas, who was out of the area at the time.

Streeter’s family became concerned and mounted a late-night search when he did not return home from his Columbia Falls business. His body was discovered very early the next morning by a son-in-law.

Streeter had built Bradshaw’s house and acted as informal caretaker while Bradshaw was out of town. Bradshaw later offered a $10,000 reward for information on the murder.

Streeter was shot several times execution style from close range, according to Dupont.

The motive was burglary, “just like we thought all along,” the sheriff said on Monday.

Guards were posted on the Ernst house and at least one storage unit in the Bigfork area Monday night while sheriff’s officers obtained search warrants.

Early in the investigation, sheriff’s detectives had said the burglary of Bradshaw’s home could be linked to other burglaries in the area.

Neither brother had any previous criminal history, authorities said.

Jesse was home schooled and did not attend Bigfork schools.

Ted, 20, has been confined to a wheelchair since he fell some 60 feet from a tree in a tragic childhood accident.

He began wheelchair racing about eight years ago. Ted training in his custom-made racing wheelchair was a common sight on the highways in the Bigfork area.

He had competed for eight years in Wheelchair Championships, and he went to Phoenix, Ariz., last summer for the Junior Nationals Wheelchair Championships, returning with three gold medals, four silvers and one bronze.

He had planned to train for the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Australia.

A computer expert, Ted worked for the International News Network, an Internet service provider for newspapers located in Bigfork. Co-workers expressed shock and disbelief and said they didn’t even realize Ernst had been arrested on Monday.


© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.


Sentenced For Murder 2/10/99

By William Simonsen

Bigfork, Mont. — Testimony about guns, thrills and bloody corpses came alive in the courtroom last Thursday evening, 14 months after the Christmas Night 1997 crime.

During a long and nightmarish afternoon for the families of both the murder victim and his murderers — many questions about the death of Larry Streeter were answered. Streeter was discovered shot to death in the driveway of his neighbor’s home. He was caretaking the place while its owners were out of town for the holidays.

Because murderers Ted and Jesse Ernst confessed to the crime and pleaded guilty to deliberate homicide charges, no trial was held. So evidence that would normally have been brought out was not introduced until Thursday’s sentencing hearing.

The level of planning for the crimes done by Ted and Jesse Ernst became apparent for the first time. It was revealed that while the brothers were enjoying Christmas Night dinner with their family, Ted Ernst’s car sat in his parents driveway loaded with five guns, sophisticated radio communication gear, laser lights and other burglary tools — carefully prepared for the evening’s crime.

Large color photographs brought into evidence by his widow Serena, showed Larry Streeter’s shot-to-pieces corpse crumpled on the snow in the driveway of neighbor’s house.

“This is the way my husband looked the last time I saw him and held his head in my lap,” Serena Streeter told the court. Larry Streeter was shot in the chest six times from close range with a .22 caliber pistol. Then as he lay squirming on the snow in his death throes, Ted Ernst executed him with one final shot from a .357 caliber pistol.

After bringing the photographs to the court’s attention, Serena played a recording of Larry Streeter’s voice — his Christmas greeting from a telephone answering machine.

Both Serena Streeter and her daughter, Teresa Streeter Little, told District Judge Ted Lympus about the terrible effects Larry Streeter’s death had wrought on their family.

Serena Streeter said because Larry had several business deals pending, which he was unable to consummate due to his untimely death, facts corroborated by Probate Court records of his estate. Consequently she lost the family home, her car and is currently living in rooms at the Super 8 motel in Columbia Heights — one of the family’s few remaining assets. She said all of the family’s possessions — and all of the memories linked to those possessions — are scattered all over the valley in storage units. Ironically, some of the Ernst brothers first burglaries were from storage units.

Ted and Jesse Ernst’s father Ed Ernst was called upon to testify for both of his sons — guilty of the same crime — on the same afternoon. Ted Ernst sat emotionless in his wheelchair and his brother Jesse sat staring tearfully at the floor while their father testified and begged the judge for mercy during Ted’s portion of the sentencing. Ed Ernst claimed his son Ted was a deeply religious boy who had overcome huge obstacles with his faith in God. Ed Ernst claimed Ted lost his faith and fell into sin dragging his younger brother with him. He told the court he still loves Ted in spite of what he has done. Ed Ernst — an assistant pastor at a Bigfork church — described Ted’s troubled childhood, especially his adjustment to being a paraplegic after falling from a tree. He said Ted responded to the tragedy by taking up the challenge and becoming a nationally-ranked wheelchair racer. Ed Ernst described his efforts to help in his son’s rehabilitation by running alongside Ted as he trained in his wheelchair on local roads.

Ted had adjustment problems in school Ed Ernst said, especially after his accident. Ed said that due to Ted’s injuries, it was necessary for him to wear diapers. “And he smelled bad.”

Ed Ernst also related two stories indicative of the family life of the adolescent future murderer. Ed said during a trip to Miami he and Ted spent time examining the sins of the people in the big city around them, then reading from the Bible.

The second story was about a much older Ted who had moved out of the family home into his own townhouse apartment. Ed Ernst said during one vision to the apartment he saw video tape movies and music CDs he did not approve. Ed said he informed his son that his younger sister would not be allowed to visit the apartment until the offensive material was removed.

Ted Ernst read a short statement apologizing to the Streeter family — he had previously written a letter to Serena Streeter — a letter she described as self-serving.

In his statement to the court Ted Ernst said, “Please don’t punish my brother for something I did.”

In his closing statement Esch described Larry Streeter as “an innocent victim doing a good deed” and asked the judge to give him a 100-year sentence.

Lympus obliged, and added a caveat that he not be paroled before serving the entire sentence. (See related story)

The next portion of the hearing took up the sentencing of Jesse Ernst. His attorney, David Ortley, attempted to portray Jesse as a guilt-ridden, not-too-bright victim of his manipulative brother. Jesse Ernst has blamed himself for the past decade for the crippling fall his brother took from the top of a tree where both were playing. The brothers were high in the tree breaking off branches to build a tree fort when Ted fell to the ground, his back broken, paralyzed from the waist down.

Since the accident Jesse has always tried to serve Ted by doing whatever Ted wanted him to do said Ortley. He painted a picture of a Jesse dependent on his brother for happiness — and a picture of Ted as a manipulative brother perfectly willing to withhold  his caring if Jesse did not carry out his wishes.

Ed Ernst described Jesse as having a severe learning disability, but the more religious of the two boys. Because Jesse was slow at his studies and teased by his fellow students, his parents pulled him out of public school to teach him in a home school setting.

Although Jesse claimed to be an unwilling participant in the killing of Larry Streeter, he rolled Streeter’s body around to take his wallet, then returned to the crime scene twice that night.

After the brothers left Streeter dead on the snow-covered driveway, Ted Ernst realized he had left his wallet behind in the possession of Larry Streeter. Streeter asked for Ernst identification when he stumbled on the crime in progress.

Then, wearing Ted’s shoes, Jesse returned a second time to the crime scene to gather potentially incriminating evidence. The second set of footprints led detectives to look for a team of burglars, not one  burglar in a wheelchair with an assistant.

Lympus said it was difficult for Jesse to claim a lessened responsibility for the murder because he carried a .357 magnum pistol in a shoulder holster.

Jesse Ernst was sentenced to 100 years in prison, but in his sentence, Lympus did not forbid parole.


© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.


Mary’s Story

Mary’s Story 10/5/92
By William Simonsen
Kalispell, Mont. —  (Editor’s Note: The following are women’s stories, taken from investigative records filed in Flathead County. Experts say public awareness of these problems is needed to protect other children from being sexually molested.)
For Mary (not her real name), childhood holidays weren’t filled with hope, joy and innocence.
It was during holidays — Christmas, Thanksgiving and her birthdays — that she was most often targeted by her father for sexual molestation.
Thoughts of Thanksgiving, she said, filled her with dread.
She said her father forced her to pretend she was ill on Thanksgiving, and stay home alone with him. While the rest of the family went to a relative’s house for the traditional turkey feast, she was forced to engage in seven to eight hours of continuous sex acts.
“I hated Christmas and my birthday. He would make me have sex several times a day prior to these holidays because he said he bought me really nice things and I had to earn them,” she said.
Mom was no help.
Mary said her mother once discovered her naked in bed performing sex acts with her father. Her mother asked what was going on. Her father said he was helping the girl warm up because it was a cold night.
Her mother turned and walked out of the room, Mary said.
When the family traveled, her father made her ride in the car topless so he could fondle her as her drove, she said.
She was trained by her father to say “I’m your little whore. You can do anything to me,” while having sex with him, said Mary.
Other childhood memories Mary told investigators about:
Posing for photographs nude with her father; performing sex acts with her sister while her father photographed them with an instant camera; playing strip poker with him at an age when other girls played with dolls; and being forced to perform sex on him while he was driving the family car on vacation trips.
“I would disappear inside myself and pray to the Lord” while being forced to have sexual relations with her father, Mary said.
Two abortions and 15 years after the incest began, Mary moved out of the family home.
The father of the two aborted fetuses was her own father, she said.
Medical records show she was only 13 at the time of the first abortion, 17 at the time of the second.
The father of the girl, and of the growing fetus within her, wasn’t much comfort to her.
“I remember that my dad used to tell me that he wanted to drink my milk after I had children. After I had my abortions he would suck on my breasts extra long to try to make the milk start,” she said.
Mary said her brothers probably already knew what was going on between their father and sisters. She said her father would take all five children to X-rated movies at the drive-in.
He told lthe girls to pay close attention to what the women in the movies were doing. The movies would “show us what to do to him,” she said.
The woman said she shared a bedroom with her sister. On nights when she wasn’t being forced to have sex with her father, she said she could hear her father and sister having sex in the bed across the room.
There was never any respite from the constant unwanted attentions of her father.
When the family went to the her brother’s funeral in North Dakota, her father made her have sex with him several times per day. “I remember being extra upset because I felt like now my brother could look down on us and watch what was going on. It made me feel extra dirty,” she said.
Her father was a very religious church-going man. “I always thought church was a good cover-up for dad,” she said
When her marriage became troubled several years ago, Mary sought marriage counselling.
The memories came flooding back during her psychological therapy, the woman said.
Her sister is also currently in psychological therapy in an attempt to deal with her childhood sexual abuse.
The memories haunted her until she finally told authorities about the incidents.
When the abuse was reported, a tragic chain of events was unleashed which eventually led to arrest and suicide.
Her father was charged and arrested on a number of charges of sex crimes.
Her father was following a family pattern. Mary does not know how far back in family history the pattern of abuse stretches.
Her father came from a family of four brothers.
Three of the four brothers molested Mary and her sister.
One of the brothers who molsested Mary and her sister died several years ago.
Another of the brothers is currently serving a prison sentence for unnatural and perverted sexual practice in another state.
The third brother committed suicide rather than go to prison on similar charges.
The brothers molested each others daughters, the woman said.
The fourth brother would have nothing to do with the sexual abuse, Mary told authorities.
One of Mary’s brothers is currently facing charges on sex crimes against children.
The path of sexual abuse of children, and criminal behavior, has moved from generation to generation in her family.
The family history of child sexual abuse came to light when Mary and her sister found out their father’s new wife had a teenage daughter from a previous marriage, and was filing for custody. The daughters couldn’t live with the thought of another young girl being molested.
They told their father to either drop the custody action, or they would inform authorities of his actions.
He wouldn’t drop the action so the daughters went to the sheriff with their story.
Mary said she felt she had to come forward to keep another child from being molested, officials said.
Medical records of the abortions and photographs of the father nude with the children became part of the case against him.
The sheriff turned the case over to one of the detectives to investigate.
The detective said the biggest problem with the case was the length of time which had passed between the crimes and the reporting of the crimes.
Local authorities notified the FBI and attempted to get an federal investigation started suspecting violations of the Mann Act, which forbids the transportation of minors across state lines for sexual purposes.
Federal law was no use in the case because the statute of limitations has expired by the time the crimes were reported.
Eventually, Mary’s father was charged and arrested on a number of charges of sex crimes. 
Even after being charged by authorities, the pressure on Mary to keep quiet didn’t stop.
She received telephone calls from her mother and grandmotehr asking her to just let the case drop and not testify against her father. Mary even got telephone calls from him asking her not to testify against him.
But Mary remained firm in her belief that she was acting to save another young girl from enduring the torture she had known as a child. She stood by her accusations.
Her father pleaded guilty in exchange for a reduction of the charges against him even though it meant he might spend time in prison.
The story of Tanya (not her real name) starts when she was 7 years old in the mid-1980s.
She had recently moved to Kalispell with her family and was living in an apartment next to a single man who was in his mid-forties at the time.
Tanya and her sister went for long rides in the country with the neighbor. The man had a job that entailed driving long distances in the rural areas of the county. The girls were riding along with the man “to keep him company.”
Several years after the rides in the country, Tanya remembered what had happened and told her mother.
Her mother took her to Flathead County authorities who filed sexual assault charges against the man.
Tanya and her sister testified against the man at his preliminary hearing.
He pleaded guilty, so the girls did not have to testify again.
At the sentencing hearing for the man both Tanya and her sister testified they had been molested by the man.
He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
But Tanya’s story does not end there.
Two years after the trial, she was overcome by depression and committed sucide.
One of Tanya’s friends, Laurie (not her real name), claimed she was molested by her father when she was 9 years old, in the mid-1980s.
Sexual assault charges were filed against the father when Laurie was 12 years old.
Her father pleaded not guilty to the charges, and was released on his own recognizance while awaiting trial.
The jury found him not guilty after hearing Laurie’s testimony and the testimony of her mother. Her mother testified on behalf of her father at the trial.
Four years after the trial, she attempted suicide shortly after her friend Tanya.
Laurie was unsuccessful in her attempt and is currently receiving professional counseling.
© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.
Mother Attempts To Burn Family 4/06
By William Simonsen
Sequim, Wash. — Charged with attempting to burn her two sons and her husband to death, Sheree Clemons appeared in District Court gagged and strapped to a chair. She did not respond to any to the judge’s questions.
She is currently back in jail awaiting her arraignment. 
Police reports allege she admitted setting fire to a room in the Sequim West where she was staying with her family.
She allegedly told officers she was trying to kill her husband Bryan Clemons, 26, and sons Shay Sullivan, 8, and Nathan Clemons, 2.
The family was staying at the motel after she had allegedly set their house on Bell Street on fire.
Clemons appeared to be semi-conscious while attorneys argued her future. The judge must now decide when, or if, she should have a mental evaluation,
Prosecutor Jill Landes argued for an immediate evaluation at a state hospital. Landes said Clemons “didn’t know who she was or where she was” shortly after her arrest.
Landes said, “We don’t know if (her condition) was the methamphetamine she was taking, or a nervous breakdown.”
But defense attorney Terry Mulligan argued that removing her from the Clallam County jail would interfere with his ability to prepare the case for trial.
“But we may want to do an evaluation later,” said Mulligan.
Judge Ken Williams said he was not ready to rule on the evaluation.
“She is in a safe place at this point,” he said..
Without a ruling, she was taken back to jail. She is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail.
It was her third appearance in court in five days.
No visitors, except her lawyers, are allowed to visit her in the jail.
The investigation of the house and motel fires that landed her in jail continues while she waits.
The motel fire was investigated immediately as a possible arson. Sequim Fire Department personnel initially said the Bell Street house fire was accidental, but were examining the house again.
Members of Clemons family claim she was never in legal trouble before. A search of legal cases in Clallam County yielded no previous record.
Her husband, Bryan Clemons, was arrested for alleged methamphetamine possession at the house on Bell Street the day before the first fire.
© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved. 

Elmer trail

Elmer trail 10/16/96
By William Simonsen
Condon, Mont. —  State foresters are attempting to take revenge on Bigfork Eagle political cartoonist Elmer Sprunger.
Officials from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation last week said they would not include Sprunger’s name on an educational nature trail in the Swan Valley.
Ted Giesey of the Kalispell DNRC office said Sprunger’s name was taken off the trail because, “Elmer had misrepresented state land management practices through his political cartoons.”
Due to Sprunger’s criticism Giesey said he and Swan River state forester Glen Gray decided that, “To put his name on a trail on Dept. of Natural Resources land was not acceptable.”
But other state officials disagree with Giesey.
Lt. Gov. Dennis Rehberg said, “They can’t do that,” when told that DNRC was attempting to punish Sprunger for his political comments. Rehberg said he would be calling DNRC Director Bud Clinch in an attempt to get the decision overturned.
State Sen. Larry Baer, R-Bigfork, wrote Clinch, “Not only does your behavior exhibit a political discriminatory mentality by a government agency, but it has a chilling effect upon Mr. Sprunger’s rights of free speech and expression.
“…I have seen DNRC abuse its discretion before, and I don’t like it,” he wrote.
Baer demanded DNRC apologize to “Mr. Sprunger and the people of Montana…”
Dale Burk of Stoneydale Press in Stevensville, publisher of Sprunger’s Book “The Eagle’s Eye”, wrote Gov. Marc Racicot and said, in part: “Giesy’s action is unconscionable and you, Governor, for whom Giesy works and who is ultimately responsible for this incredibily vindictive and punitive action by an aent of state governfment, should immediately ovverride and censure this stupid and outrageous action…”
The Eagle called Racicot’s office Friday and Tuesday, but received no response from the governor by press time.
Clinch, reached by telephone Tuesday, said he didn’t have enough information yet to “give you a position the dispute…As director of the department I will be reviewing the situation.”
Clinch said he was out of the office Friday and Monday and hadn’t had time to talk to the parties involved in the dispute, but planned to do so later this week.
The trail, commonly known as the Whitney-Sprunger Trail since it’s inception, is on land leased from DNRC by the conservation group Friends of the Wild Swan.
In addition to Sprunger it was to have been named after Bigfork area conservationist Jack Whitney.
Sprunger said he thought the cartoon DNRC found especially objectionable is a 1994 drawing of a logger holding a chainsaw standing in the midst of a field of stumps labeled “Montana School Trust Lands.” Another showed a logger dropping a few coins into the hands of a student and saying “Sorry kid — that’s it! That’s all you get — zilch — keput!”
Giesey said the state has final approval of the trail name under “a formal license agreement” between the state and Friends of the Wild Sway.
Giesey said he suggested a number of alternate names for the trial. He said the department preferred “one (name) from their side and one (name) from our side.”
He suggested naming the trail the Whitney-Moon trail after Whitney and former state forester Gareth Moon.
Giesey said he also suggested naming the trail after a geographic feature in the vicinity, or after Gov. Marc Racicot.
Giesey said the creation of the trail “has been a cooperative effort — I’m sure we’ll reach an agreement on a name.”
Giesey said although he would not approve the use of Sprunger’s name on the trail, he agreed to allow Sprunger to be mentioned in the brochure explaining the trail.
The trail, seven miles south of Swan Lake just off Montana 83, was scheduled for a formal opening Oct. 15 (yesterday). The opening ceremony was not held.
The trail was built through a stand of old growth timber near Point Pleasant by volunteers with help from the Montana Conservation Corps. Parts of the trail follow and ancient Salish tribal trail and the first wagon road down the Swan Valley, said Arlene Montgomery of Friends of the Wild Swan. 
Funding assistance for the trail construction came from the Foley-Frischkorn Wildlife and Conservation Fund, and the Montana Audubon Council, said Montgomery.

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

Racism On The Reservation

Racism On The Reservation 4/10/06
by William Simonsen
Lower Elwha Klallam Reservation, Wash. — “Why don’t you guys want to be friends with us?
“Why don’t you want to share with us, when we gave you everything?
“We always welcomed people. I don’t think we ever turned anyone away,” said Janet Charles Francis, a tribal member.
Francis was speaking at a meeting of countywide Multi-Cultural Task Force called to address racism against Native Americans. The task force is an ad hoc committee created three years ago to address racial problems Coast Guard personnel encountered in Clallam County.
The meeting last week was held at the tribal center on the Lower Elwha Reservation. It was called when overt, organized signs of racism in the community surfaced after the state dry dock project on Ediz Hook was halted.
The project was located over a 2,700 year-old Klallam Village. The excavations were unearthing hundreds of tribal burials.
“I don’t think there is any time in history that a people have been asked to dig in the dirt with their hands for bits and pieces of their ancestors,” said tribal representative on the task Monica Charles.
She said the tribe called for work to stop at the construction site because it was “like an open wound for us.”
“That’s what the elders told us from the beginning, we shouldn’t dig up our ancestors,” she said.
Many speakers said racism in the area condoned continuing the excavation because the corpses unearthed were Native Americans.
But when the construction stopped, people in the county reacted with racially motivated anger thinking it hurt the local economy, several speakers said.
Tribal chairman Francis Charles said a backlash over the closing was most evident in some of the retail stores and schools in the county. 
“We don’t like to admit to it, but racism does take place in Port Angeles and Clallam County. We feel it.”
“We’ve been verbally attacked,” she said. “Pushing and shoving” confrontations have broken out over the closing.
About 100 tribal and community members attended the meeting.
She said tribal members are being hustled out of local stores so other customers don’t have the chance to confront them.
Jamie Valadez said there is racial profiling in stores in the area. She said children from the reservation are taught not to go into stores alone because they could so easily be accused of a crime.
Valadez said, “We are not here to tolerate each other, we should be here to celebrate each other.”
Alfred Charles Sr., a local businessman and tribal member said the government has always shut down any profitable enterprise owned by a Native American. “You can’t have Indians making money,” he said.
He said when the tribal remains were being exhumed, “I would lie awake at night, tossing and turning, thinking, ‘Why is this happening’.
“My grandparents could be buried there.”
He said the task force lacked representation of minorities. 
“I see one Indian. Where is the Negro, where is the Mexican, where are people who know something about racism?” he said.
Alfred Charles son, Lonnie Charles said he worked at the site for 15 months. He said the only way racism can be stopped is one family at a time.
“It all starts at the top and works its way down,” he said. “We are all able to stop it.”
Monica Charles said, “There has been public racism here since 1990.” She described her experiences in public schools in the county as institutional racism carried out by racist students and faculty.
Charles said she was the first Lower Elwha Klallam to graduate from college.
Her experiences in the public educational system were similar to those of Francis Charles.
Francis Charles said attended Peninsula College and WSU even though her high school counselor told her she was not “college material.”
She said the graves on the construction site were violated  in 1910, 1920, 1950, and again in 1950 before the current excavation.  She said, “Over 300 cedar boxes have stood looking for reburial” from the state dig.
“Let us dig up your family members then ask you, ‘Okay, now where do you want us to put them,'” she said.
Janet Charles Francis described her emotional turmoil from working at the site. She said every night she went home and “cried in front of my altar.”
Theresa Hammer said when the tribe was moved from the village on Ediz Hook, “All of the old ways were lost.”
“This is our last chance.
“This is one chance for people who have hurt us so much to help us get our culture back,” said Hammer.
The meeting, scheduled for two-hours, was extended to over three hours so more people would have an opportunity to speak.
Task force members said another meeting would be held on the reservation.
© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

Left In The Trunk To Die

Left In The Trunk To Die 2/1/99
By William Simonsen
The Missoulian
Denver, Colo. — He told his victim he could kill her immediately, or leave her in the trunk of her car to die.
Laura DeVaan’s family said her life was forever changed the night she was brutally raped and left to die by Joshua Boll in the Echo Lake area.
DeVaan performed the final act of her dying when she shot herself to death Jan. 20 in a lonely apartment in suburban Denver.
A DeVaan family member (who did not want to be identified by name) said Laura DeVaan had heard a rumor that Boll was about to be released from prison.
She said that DeVaan had also become the subject of a smear campaign – with those spreading a rumor questioning the validity of the rape charge.
But court records leave no doubt.
Boll testified he asked DeVaan for a ride home from a Kalispell party the evening of Oct.  25, 1995. Boll then held a knife to her throat and forced her to drive to the Echo Lake area.
On the witness stand Boll admitted to brutally raping DeVaan multiple times before he tired of her and gave her a life or death choice. Boll told DeVaan he could kill her immediately, or leave her in the trunk of her car to die. DeVaan chose the latter. Boll then hog-tied her and locked her semi-naked in the trunk of her car in the middle of a Christmas tree field to die.
Somehow DeVaan managed to work free of the wires Boll used to tie her, then pry her way out of the trunk, and walk and crawl to a nearby store for help.
Six months after she married and moved to Bigfork, DeVaan found herself nearly dead, victimized and far from her South Dakota home.
Ironically, the rumor of Boll’s release was just another vicious rumor.
He is currently being held in the high security section of the new prison in Shelby. Boll will not become eligible for early release or parole until April 22, 2036.
Flathead County Attorney Tom Esch said he was impressed with DeVaan’s strength during Boll’s hearings. With an iron will she testified against him, describing the terrible things he had done to her. Unfortunately that iron will would contribute to her demise, said a relative.
Boll, 17 at the time of the attack, was unrepentant on the witness stand. But by then he was an experienced criminal and used to being in trouble with the law. Testimony at the sentencing hearing brought out a history of violent crime and anti-social behavior – some involving threatening people with guns – dating back several years.
After the criminal trial, DeVaan sued Flathead County and the state for dereliction of duty because Boll was allowed to remain at large rather than in a prison. She won the case and a moderate cash settlement.
But by last December the ongoing pain and suffering of her ordeal had begun to catch up with her, said a relative. “She had so much pain she couldn’t deal with it,” the relative said.
She said DeVaan was “so strong she couldn’t ask anyone for help” so her attempts to get counseling did not come to much.  “She fell through the cracks in the mental health system,” said the relative. “We knew she was going down hill, but there was nothing we could do to stop it.”
DeVaan and her husband began moving their things to the Denver suburb of Edgewater in mid-December. By the second week in January the move was completed – her husband was at his new job and she was trying to make a new life. She had no family or friends in Edgewater, but she also had no one to spread ugly rumors about her either.
None of her relatives, or the law enforcement officials who investigated the suicide knows why it happened when it did.  A relative said, “I think it all just caught up with her. The rape changed her forever. Before it happened she was very loving and very caring.
“Afterwards it hardened her. She was a completely different person.”
She was buried near her home town of Leola, in central South Dakota.
© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.