Evil Among Us
by Ken Driggs
[p.72] Kleasen stayed in Texas, either because he felt more confident there or because he had simply lost the ability to move about as he had in the past.
He again wrote to the Jensens on January 28, 1973. Now he was “working for a Boat Company tempararily [sic] on the side so to speak.” He talked about all the hunting available in the Hill Country, describing “deer right in the back yard [sic] every morning” and saying “over here hunting is a way of life and we enjoy it.” He was getting around on a little Honda motorcycle but was looking for a car.
Former U.S. president Lyndon Johnson had died on January 22, 1973, at his ranch about thirty miles down the road from where Kleasen was staying. Kleasen complained of funeral traffic on the roads. “We Texas Hill People do not like things done that way and few of us attended,” he groused. He told the Jensens he was living with the Rathbones “but that is a temporary arrangement.” He wanted Mrs. Jensen to write back “giving me all and I mean all the news,” hinting that he wanted to know about Christine.
Kleasen also mentioned in the letter that he thought his chances for international employment were over. “You have to stop and consider my age, I will more than likely not get another chance abroad.” He was forty.
By this time the Jensens no longer believed anything Kleasen wrote. Mrs. Jensen had asked Christine for suggestions on how to stop the disturbing mail that continued to flow from Texas. Christine suggested she tell Kleasen they were not to have anything to do with apostates. “He is caught in his own lies,” Christine wrote in a note to Mrs. Jensen. “He cannot admit that he is not at all a Mormon … or that he must take the consequences for his actions.”
[p.73] In February 1973 the Danish family tersely rejected Kleasen. In a two-line letter they wrote, “We’re not supposed to have contact with Apostates. Please don’t ever contact us again.” From that point forward, Kleasen was obsessed with regaining the respect of these people. At the same time his rage with the LDS church for, in his paranoid mind, having destroyed that relationship would contribute to the 1974 murders.
Kleasen responded to the Jensens within a week, this time writing as John T. Williamson. “All I can say to you is I am NOT a Apastate [sic] … I’m not even sure of the meaning of the word,” he insisted. “I have done nothing but disagree and refuse to endorse the carte-blanch [sic] attitude of the Mormon Church LDS in their agreement with the American Govt. (My own Govt.) in the War we have been involved [sic].” He vowed to become a member in good standing in the LDS church when the Vietnam War was over and “send you a photostate [sic] of my Membership and hope you will then understand.”
Kleasen also wrote, “I humbly ask you to forgive my indiscressions [sic] with Christine. I am sorry I had to tell little Lies to keep you from knowing we were together. I truly wanted to tell you but Christine sealed my lips and I was in her control.” This was complete fantasy. “Please do not desert me,” he pleaded. Kleasen did not contact the Danish Mormon family again for the next six months.
Initially Lem Rathbone allowed Kleasen to sleep on a cot in an unused office area of his taxidermy studio. In 1972 he moved his business from its South Lamar Street location in south Austin to West Highway 290 in the Oak Hill community. He had a new 40-by-120-foot building with two front windows on the narrow side facing the highway and some large loading bays on the west side. Rathbone recalled that Kleasen arrived looking for a place to stay “right after deer season,” one of the busiest times for his business. They struck a deal. In return, Kleasen was to clean up around the shop and act as a night watchman. Rathbone had been burglarized a few times and was happy to have his shop looked after. Kleasen was given keys to everything.
Also sometime in January 1973 Kleasen contacted a Mormon [p.74] bishop in Buffalo. He asked if the church would be willing to help his elderly mother, apparently still living in the Victoria Avenue home, with her utility bills.
On April 26, 1973, Odell Bowen’s 22-foot camper trailer—a Twilight Bungalow—was stolen from Christian Mobile Homes in Oak Hill, not far from Rathbone’s taxidermy studio. Someone hitched it up and drove away during the night. Bowen had purchased the trailer the previous November but found he didn’t use it as much as he hoped, and friends at Christian Mobile Homes had agreed to try and sell it for him. James L. Chisum, the mobile home lot manager, called the sheriff that morning when he realized the trailer was missing. The All-State Insurance Company quickly paid Bowen’s claim.
About that time Kleasen showed up with a 22-foot camper trailer, a Twilight Bungalow. Police would later match the serial numbers to those of the stolen Bowen trailer. Rathbone didn’t object when Kleasen set up the trailer behind his shop without asking. Kleasen also began fixing the old out-buildings behind the studio and improvised a shooting range on a fence at the back of the property. He wrote in letters to friends that he was building a house.
Also in April Kleasen secured a post office box in south Austin, not far from Oak Hill. Post office box 3106 was rented to John T. Williamson who claimed to be a student at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, less than an hour south of Austin on I-35. He listed 2708 South Lamar Boulevard as his residence—the former location of the taxidermy studio and almost next to where the murdered missionaries’ car was found.
Kleasen had returned to Texas carrying a Texas driver’s license issued under his real name during an earlier visit. The address he gave on it was 2708 South Lamar Boulevard. But now he secured another Texas driver’s license as Richard Raadt, born on October 11, 1931, listing his new John T. Williamson post office box as his address. He gave no street address.
Hunting, especially deer hunting in the Hill Country, is a passion for many Texans. Kleasen loved to hunt the area and didn’t feel the least bit restrained by the requirements of seasons, licenses, or [p.75] bag limits. He cruised the canyons and crags of the country constantly, shooting whatever he came across. He killed more than he could possibly eat and soon had freezers filled to bursting with deer meat. In the process he came to know the area’s small roads and trails as well as a native. And he became known to just about every game officer assigned to the area. Texas game wardens in Burnet, Fredericksburg, Junction, Johnson City, Blanco, Marble Falls, and other small Hill Country towns came to know and be on the lookout for Bob Kleasen. He was one of the most persistent poachers they had to deal with.
In June 1973 Kleasen again begged the Danish family to restore their relationship. “You and your Family are the only family I really have,” he pleaded in a letter to the wife, “I take all this very serious.” He insisted that the Danish woman he had beaten lied at the trial. “I know I sinned [by living with the woman without being married],” he wrote, “but as you know Christine prevented this.” He protested, “Don’t you think I have been punished enough for this???? My gosh Elise I sat in that awful Jail for 90 days, I lost everything I had.”
An almost religious love of firearms was still one of Kleasen’s primary instincts. He hung out in McBride’s Gun Shop of Austin so much that all the clerks came to recognize him. He longed for the time when his meager income would allow him to begin buying weapons once again.
On June 27, 1973, Kleasen bought a Colt revolver from the Montgomery Ward store in Austin. When filling out the federal disclosure forms, he indicated he had not been charged with or convicted of a felony, and that he had never been in a mental hospital. Less than two months later, he bought a Browning .22 rifle from McBride’s Guns, again lying on the forms. The clerks there knew him but had no reason to doubt his honesty. Two weeks later, now in San Antonio on August 25, he bought a .22 Hornet rifle at Don’s Gun Sales. This time he identified himself as Richard C. Raadt, but again gave the same false answers. He probably used his Texas driver’s license as Raadt for identification.
For a time Kleasen drove an old pick-up truck. On July 17, 1974, [p.76] he bought a 1964 American Motors Rambler for $100 from an Austin used car lot. He made the purchase as Raadt, apparently again using his newly acquired driver’s license.