The Don LaRose Story Continued

Chapter 4

          A call to the New York State Police was met with skepticism.  However, the investigator did tell my wife that they would search the area behind the Broom County Airport for the shoe and the wallet I said on the video tape that I had lost during the struggle with my abductors.  She told him that would give him proof that what was on the video tapes was true.  We also offered him the video tapes that had been recorded during the sodium amytol interviews, but he really didn't seem very interested.  Eventually the State Police did contact Dr. DeHaan and requested one of the three tapes, which they somehow managed to erase.  A week after requesting that the police look for my wallet and shoe, we called again.  We repeated the calls every week.  Every week the answer was the same - they had not had time to get out there and look.  Being in the Chicago area made it difficult to keep in touch.  So, my wife called the man who had been the liaison between the church and the private detective from Michigan.  He faithfully promised to call the State Police and push them.  After several more weeks of inaction, he admitted that he had not called and was not interested in helping.

          Three months later, the State Police finally got enough time to look for the shoe and wallet.  Even though it had gone through a rough winter and hot summer, they did find the wallet, still containing some identification, but missing any money and credit cards.  The fact that they found it is quite amazing in itself, because they had a very, very large area to search.

          Upon finding the wallet, the New York State Police finally asked the FBI to enter the case.  It took another six weeks before the FBI contacted Dr. DeHaan to pick up the videotaped interviews.  It was another month before two agents came to interview my wife and myself.  More months went by without hearing anything.

          In the meantime, the friends with whom we were staying in Northwest Indiana got involved.  The late Warren Reeder was a Civil War buff, a member of the Civil War Roundtable, and an investigative author.  Reeder and his son Rodger went to Grand Rapids, Michigan in search of the private detective.  They had his address, which led them to a rundown part of town, but they couldn't find the building.  They stopped at a service station to ask directions, and got more than they had bargained for.  In directing them to a nearby warehouse type building, the attendant left the pair with the distinct impression that he felt the investigator could not be trusted; and indicated that he did not have a very good reputation in the community.  They entered the building and rode to an upper floor on an open freight elevator.  They found the detective in two tiny, dimly lighted, cramped rooms.  The detective was in one room, almost completely filled by his small desk.  His assistant was in an equally small front room.

          Reeder described the detective later as "uncooperative and arrogant."  He refused to discuss the case at all, and said any information would have to come from the church back in New York.  He said they had his report and it was their property.  If they wanted me to have it, they could give it to me.  Of course, the church said that the detective had told them that it was top secret; that even the church members were not allowed to see it and that if they gave it to me, he would sue them.  It was one more big circle that went nowhere.

          Reeder continued his investigation in the Chicago area.  He was never very specific with me, but he did tell me that he believed that organized crime was involved.  Although he said he did not believe any of the Chicago families were involved, even though they apparently did have some knowledge of what had happened.  Over a period of time he did mention some names of people with whom he talked.  But because they meant nothing to me, I did not remember them.  Mr. Reeder did compile quite a sizable report of his investigation and submitted it to the FBI, including his visit with the private detective in Grand Rapids, and his contacts with underworld figures in the Chicago area.  The report included the suspicion that my abduction may have had something to do with the murder of a man in Oklahoma City, whose parents were members of my church and apparently I had his funeral.  How or where he got that information he never revealed to me.  Mr. Reeder talked with an FBI agent in the Gary, Indiana office (he was acquainted with the agent) about the information he had sent them.  The agent confirmed that the information had been received, and questioned Mr. Reeder about some of the material he had submitted. 

          Up to this time, I knew nothing of the accusations that had been made by the private detective, various church board members and others.  But now, some of these things were being brought to my attention.  I wrote to the church in Maine asking for a copy of the detective's report.  They refused.  I asked for a meeting with the church board.  They refused.  Finally, after a great deal of pressure applied by the Baptist conference, of which the church was a member, they agreed to meet with me.  We arranged to have the meeting to coincide with our return to Maine to move our furniture out of the parsonage.  We took my father, a friend, and an armed body guard.  My family felt that I might be in danger.  They were more worried than I, although when we arrived in Maine, everything seemed so tense, I began to be concerned as well.

          My wife and I had prepared a ten-page report, which I read and gave a copy to each board member.  The meeting was extremely cold.  Only two of the members even greeted me and shook hands.  They sat at the opposite end of the room and listened without any comment or question.  I learned later that they had agreed before the meeting not to comment or ask questions.  I answered the only accusation I was aware of at the time, that had been made by the private detective.  He had claimed that prior to my disappearance I had opened a bank account using a false identity.  That was not true.  I had called the bank to find out the name of the person who had opened the account for me.  They put the man on the line.  I did not know who he was, because I had no memory of the incident.  But when I told him what the detective had said, he began laughing.  He said the two of us knew each other, and that I knew his brother.  He even told me what we had talked about.  There was no false identity.  I told that to the church board members; even giving them his name and phone number so they could check it out for themselves.  None of them ever did.  I answered an accusation I was told had come from the church board, even brought along a sample to show that there was nothing wrong with it.  I again asked for a copy of the detective's report, but got no response.  At this time I knew nothing about the money the detective had told them I took with me; nor did I know anything about his accusation that I had purchased a piece of carry-on luggage just before departing from Maine.  Of course, none of those things were true.  They had been answered in the sodium amytol videotaped interviews at the hospital.

          By this time I had a good job - a management position with a large food service operation in Northwest Indiana, the Chicago area and Southwest Michigan.  It had been my intention to sue the private detective, and I became very bitter toward the church officers at Maine for, as I felt, denying me the information I needed to do that.  I felt this man had wronged me, and soiled my reputation and that the church leaders in Maine were protecting him.  I had no idea that they were afraid I would sue them.  They were following the advice of their attorney, but I didn't find that out till much later.  In addition, it became apparent that the FBI was not doing anything.  One agent told my wife that they were very busy solving crimes where people were being hurt.  While the crime we had suffered was very serious, we were alright now and no longer in danger.  He also told her that we no longer lived in New York and therefore the New York State Police felt no obligation to press an investigation.

          The whole situation seemed hopeless.  But things were going really well for my family and me.  My memory was coming back in bits and pieces.  After about a year into our stay in the Hammond, Indiana area, we were able to put a downpayment on an apartment house, and moved into one of the apartments.

          It was during this first year after coming out of the hospital that my wife noticed something really different about me - really, several things.  The first was that prior to my abduction I could not stand the taste of coffee.  Here I was, 36 years old, and did not drink coffee.  Now I was drinking coffee like it was going out of style.  Eventually I had to limit myself to about six cups a day.  The second thing she noticed is that I was eating certain foods that I refused to eat before my abduction.  Some of my favorite vegetables were cauliflower, broccoli and lima beans - vegetables which I wouldn't even touch before.  The third thing was something I noticed during the time frame covered in year number two.  At some point during that time, I was given a document which contained my signature, signed prior to my abduction.  My present signature was far different.  Not that you could not tell that I had written it; but all the capital letters were formed differently - not at all similar - and there were spaces in my last name that had not been there in my previous signature.  The differences in taste are possibly explained through the electric shock treatments.  The difference in my signature I can't explain.  I do remember that the first time I was required to write after coming out of the hospital, I had some difficulty remembering how to form some of the letters.  But that came back quickly, albeit, with a change in the style of some letters.

          Several years went by and things were relatively back to normal.  One Sunday after church services (Hessville Baptist Church in Hammond), the pastor asked me to stop by his office during the week, saying that he wanted to talk to me about something.  I had been leading the choir, directing the music and helping out where I could.  I supposed that he might have some other project he wanted me to consider.  What a surprise when he asked me if I would become the full-time Youth Pastor at the church.  Feeling the urging of the Lord, and unmistakable circumstances, we accepted the new ministry.  Only a few months later the pastor went home to be with the Lord, and the congregation chose me to be their new pastor.  That was not an easy decision.  There was fear on the part of my wife after what happened in New York.  My problem was that I was still regaining my memory.  In addition, I was, in effect, living a double life.  I had been made into Bruce Williams against my will.  Now, since my memory as Don LaRose had been coming back, I still recognized myself as Bruce Williams; and I had to translate all of the Don LaRose memories into the life of Bruce Williams.  When I thought of my parents, the first thing that came to mind was Kent and Emily Williams.  I then had to translate into my thinking that it was really Adam and Mildred LaRose.  Once when asked for my birthday on a form, all I could think of was Bruce Williams' birth date.  I had to go over in the waiting room and ask my parents what Don LaRose's birthday was.  The people behind the desk must have thought I was an idiot.  Each series of memories from the life of Don LaRose had to be mentally fitted into the life of Bruce Williams.  Could I take on this new ministry?  I still had no memory at all of the events which had taken place back in New Yor, nor for several years before that.  In addition, there were still large holes in my memory spotted thoroughout my life.  My wife and I prayed, and after considerable hesitation, it was clear that I was to say, "Yes," to the Lord.

          Everything seemed to be going fine during that first year.  The previously slowing falling attendance made a turn around.  My Associate Pastor, who was also Headmaster of the kindergarten through 12th grade school in the church, was a wonderful man.  The Rev. Rod Post had grown up in the church at Maine, New York and his parents still attended that church.  During that first year we inaugurated an annual Missionary Conference, also a Bible Conference and Evangelistic Meetings.  Both daytime and evening meetings were held, as we incorporated the school students and their parents in with the conferences.  These three conferences were repeated each year at about the same time of year.  I throught very little about the events which had interrupted my life during the previous years.  But something changed that.

          First, one family left the church saying they did not believe the account of the story I had told.  Then another family left.  They had a son who was a student at a Baptist college in Michigan.  Apparently I was the talk of some of the school leadership.  To top that off, the editor of the monthly magazine published by the Baptist fellowship of which our church and the church at Maine were members, interviewed me and wrote an article about what happened.  The article was never published because, after reviewing it prior to publication, the church board at Maine threatened to withdraw from the fellowship if the article were published.  It became obvious to me that this thing was going to haunt me unless somehow I could prove my story.  Note that I never checked in with the Lord on this one.  I set out to get more proof.

          I wrote a letter to the FBI requesting my file under the Freedom of Information Act.  I received fifty some pages.  What a disappointment!  There were only about three pages summing up interviews with Dr. DeHaan and with my wife and myself.  The rest of the pages were simply photocopies of newspaper and magazine articles.  It was painfully clear that there never had been any investigation.  I wrote back and asked for the material submitted to the FBI by my friend Warren Reeder, who had since gone to be with the Lord.  Their response was they they did not have any such material and that they had sent me everything they had.  Of course, I knew very well that Mr. Reeder had sent them all the material he had uncovered.  However, I had no way of proving that.

          About this time I received a letter from a bank in Minneapolis stating that payment on my safe deposit box was two years overdue.  Since I had never had a safe deposit box while in Minneapolis, I called the bank to get more information.  They told me the date that the account for the box had been opened, which was several days before I was abducted from New York.  They also told me the dates and times that the box had been visited and opened.  The last date was on a weekday morning about 10:00.  I contacted the company where I had been working at the time.  They were able to provide me with a time card showing that I was at work in Northwest Indiana many hundreds of miles away from the bank in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the time the box was last opened.  The bank sent me a copy of the signature card.  It had numerous Bruce Williams signatures which were perfect forgeries of my signature.  In time the bank was able to retrieve a picture from its camera system.  Neither my wife, nor I, was able to recognize the individual who was a good six inches taller than I and considerably heavier.  Eventually the bank drilled the box and sent me the contents.  It included a copy of the lease for the apartment in which I had lived but never paid any rent in Minneapolis.  It had been rented through a rental agency in suburban Edina the day before I was abducted from New York.  Also included was a receipt for a hotel room in Minneapolis rented in my Bruce Williams name.  It was dated for the morning of the same day that I was abducted from New York.  The third item in the box was my wedding ring.

          I contacted both the FBI and the New York State Police with this new evidence.  I thought that this was indisputable proof that I had been abducted - that I had not done this myself.  However, neither was interested and both refused to reopen the case.  The New York State Police went one step further.  They told me that if I were living in New York, they would arrest me for having made a false report.  That took the wind out of my sails!  What it meant was, that no matter what I found out in my continuing investigation, I could not, under any circumstances take that evidence to the New York State Police.

          Also about this time I received several inquiries from pastors in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Tennessee to share the story of my abduction with their congregations.  I accepted some of the invitations while on vacation, and discovered that the Lord could really use this testimony as to what had happened to me.  In each service there were salvation and dedication decisions.  There were also a lot of questions after each service, so I began including question and answer sessions that frequently ran an hour or more after the service.  I printed up some flyers and mailed them to churches in our fellowship.  I received several responses, including a request to come for an entire week of meetings.  In the meantime, I was also circulating cassette tapes of my testimony, and also made them available at the meetings free of charge.  Looking back now, I am sure there were two reasons for me giving my testimony.  I told myself first and foremost that it was for the spiritual results.  However, I must also admit that there was always the idea of vindicating myself.

          During one such speaking tour, at a church in Upstate New York, I was made aware that the State Police had a theory as to how I had come up with the identification of Bruce Williams.  They noted that I had gone to a pastor's conference in a suburb of Rochester, New York about five months before I disappeared.  Bruce Williams was a real man.  He had lived in Middleport, New York, a community about forty miles from the conference I attended.  He had been killed in a car accident.  The police had suggested that all I knew of the community, his parents, education, etc, I had gotten during that trip.  But I had ridden to the conference with three other pastors, and had not left at any time, nor could I have because I had no transportation.  I discovered later that the State Police knew that, but made the statement anyway.

          I also learned from the Honeywell Engineer and his wife, who visited our church in Hammond one Sunday night, that the woman who was the apartment manager, who might have been able to set the record straight, died rather mysteriously a short time after I was located in Minneapolis.  Authorities came up just short of calling her death a murder.  They never did come up with a determination in that case, I was told.  I have since been told that she died of an aneurism in her brain.  However, I have no verification of either of those stories.

          I believed that I was pushing in the right direction, but I did not realize that I was also attracting some unwanted attention.  We'll see that in our next chapter.

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