Evil Among Us
by Ken Driggs
[p.52] In mid-June 1971 Kleasen and his new wife visited the Wayne County farm. Kleasen’s friend Ivan Makuch, a Ukranian national, came with them.
They arrived about 2:00 in the afternoon. Kleasen mowed the lawn while Fredriksson lay out in the sun, then Kleasen and Makuch ran an errand in Rochester. By about 6:00 they were back at the farm.
Shortly afterwards Fredriksson and Kleasen heard three or four gunshots. At first they thought it was Makuch who had just taken a .22 rifle to shoot woodchucks. Makuch returned to say two men had been shooting in a field near the farm house. Kleasen became convinced that bullets had passed close to Fredriksson and him and was furious. He ordered her into the house, grabbed a .338 Magnum rifle, and drove off in his Volkswagen to pursue the shooters. Makuch was in the passenger seat.
The two roared down Brasser Road where they found two young men walking, Dennie Lee DuBoise of Williamson and his friend Lynn Warney. They had guns in their hands. The two pair did not know each other.
“A bullet just missed my wife,” Kleasen screamed, then threatened to “blow their brains out.”
DuBoise claimed they’d been shooting frogs in a ditch. One of them carried a .22 rifle, the other a .22 pistol, which Kleasen demanded. Makuch, looking more scared than DuBoise and his friend, got out of the VW and collected the guns at Kleasen’s order, throwing them into the back seat.
“Get going,” Kleasen then yelled at DuBoise and Warney. As the two walked away, Kleasen shot DuBoise in the left foot with his .338 rifle with a scope. The man yelped and began limping quickly down [p.53] the road, bleeding.
Kleasen would later claim this was an accident, that he was just shooting into the dirt and that DuBoise was injured by flying pieces of pavement. In any event, DuBoise was hospitalized for nine days and on crutches for four weeks. He lost his middle toe as a result.
DuBoise was treated at Meyers Community Hospital in nearby Sodus and police were called. New York State criminal investigator Ernie Zanett took the complaint. Later that night Zanett and state trooper Melford Drake went to the farm house where he arrested Kleasen for assault.
The officer would later note that Kleasen did not turn himself in as he had claimed, dryly telling a 1978 federal jury, “It wasn’t a surrender situation.” Police seized the two firearms, and Kleasen was arrested for Assault 2, a class D felony in New York with a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
Kleasen was held in jail for about a month. He wrote everyone he could think of for help, including a number of SUNY-Buffalo faculty members and his Texas taxidermist, Lem Rathbone. He urged Rath- bone to secure him a defense attorney such as F. Lee Bailey who was then very visible. Rathbone did try to arrange bail for Kleasen.
A New York state police investigator went to the Buffalo State Hospital on June 18, 1971, wanting to know if Kleasen was considered competent to possess firearms. The patient had stayed there only a short time and firearms had never come up, the investigator was told. This was the first time his treatment team was made aware of Kleasen’s earlier violence and confinement to the Gowanda State Hospital.
After an August 30 preliminary hearing, Kleasen was bound over for trial.
Then Kleasen’s car was repossessed by the bank. Money that Kleasen had on him at the time he was jailed—he claimed it was to register for the next term of graduate work at SUNY-Buffalo—was impounded by police. It was turned over to the lawyer who had represented Kleasen in his recent divorce and at the preliminary hearing on the assault charge, but the lawyer refused to continue representing Kleasen unless he was paid an additional $2,500 owed him.
[p.54] Kleasen was formally indicted by a Wayne County grand jury on September 20.
Things continued to deteriorate. On September 30, 1971, three New York State troopers showed up at Kleasen’s Victoria Avenue home to serve a new arrest warrant on him. They brought along a search warrant and six ATF agents who were investigating Kleasen’s use of a federal firearms dealer’s license. He had failed to comply with the required paperwork, and the government doubted his was a legitimate business. The agents seized all the guns they found in the house.
The raid netted what the senior ATF agent first claimed to the press was $300,000 worth of weapons and ammunition. Official ATF paperwork from the raid would give the seized items a more modest value of $15,000. In a front page Buffalo News article, Agent Irving F. Pierce said they seized over 100 shotguns and rifles, three sub-machine guns, several automatic rifles and sawed-off shotguns, over 40,000 rounds of ammunition, 100 pounds of explosives, tear gas grenades, and a variety of firearms parts. There were also thirty-two handguns which under New York law required a license Kleasen did not have. The weapons were stored throughout the two-and-a-half-story house, but most were in the attic. Some of the guns were described as “museum quality antiques.” Kleasen claimed the machine guns had been given to him to hold by a mysterious FBI agent. The entire collection was hauled off in a truck to the evidence locker in a downtown federal courthouse. Kleasen would never regain any of these items.
The agents were openly suspicious of how Kleasen, who had not worked in two years, found the money for such weapons. They also commented on the house being filled with mounted animals and birds, including a full-size standing black bear by the front door.
In an effort to control Irene, Kleasen had placed her passport in a basement safe where much of his pornography was stored. During the raid, Makuch took advantage of the commotion to help Irene open the safe and regain her passport.
The U.S. attorney declined to prosecute Kleasen on the federal [p.55] weapons violations because of Kleasen’s psychiatric history. He doubted Kleasen’s sanity. However, federal prosecutors didn’t object to the state district attorney prosecuting Kleasen under state law. Erie County prosecutors filed thirty-eight counts of state weapons law violations.
D.A. investigator Dick Murphy, who only a year earlier had moved over from the Buffalo police department, took over the investigation. Kleasen was charged with illegally possessing thirty-two semi-automatic and revolver handguns, a sawed-off shotgun, a Thompson submachine gun, two Schmeiser machine pistols, and other illegal weapons. After arraignment in an Erie County court, he was released on a personal bond. Kleasen never showed up for any further court dates on these charges.
It was after the ATF raid that Kleasen began calling the district attorney’s office to complain that his former friend Ivan Makuch had stolen some of his most valuable pornography and rare bullet collection. His calls were routinely routed to Murphy who was more than a little amused. Murphy began building files on the strange man.
Kleasen was returned to the Wayne County Jail. For a time some wondered if he qualified for court-appointed counsel. SUNY-Buffalo had arranged for attorney Norman Effman to represent him during this period. The local public defender was appointed to investigate his finances but later told the court that Kleasen was a federally licensed gun dealer with too many assets to qualify as indigent. Apparently the problem was his gun collection and its supposed $300,000 value. It reportedly included valuable antiques, including items once owned by the Russian czars. After the raid on Kleasen’s home, the trial court refused to believe he was indigent.
Establishing a pattern he would later repeat in Texas, Kleasen also complained bitterly to the judge that he was sick and was being mistreated in jail. He wrote a steady stream of letters to various people complaining about his plight and seeking representation. In a transparent example of selective memory, Kleasen assured the court, “I have never been in trouble before.”
A series of September and October hearings about Kleasen’s abil-[p.56]ity to hire counsel followed in the assault case. Lawyers appeared on his behalf and disappeared almost monthly. Finally his bond was lowered from $7,500 to $2,500 and he was released after assuring the judge, “I am not a flighty person.” His mother put up their farm as security for the bond. Kleasen made at least five subsequent court appearances before trial was set for April 3, 1972, in Lyons, New York.
While Kleasen was back in the Wayne County Jail, Irene decided she had had enough and returned to Sweden. Kleasen would often say she left after witnessing AFT agents beat him while raiding his Buffalo home, terrified that such things could happen here. “She was afraid of the United States as a whole,” he later claimed. “She considered you all [law enforcement] a bunch of gangsters, and she didn’t want any part of it.”