Evil Among Us
by Ken Driggs
[p.83] Kleasen’s stolen buffalo trophy finally caught up with him, and on December 7, 1973, he was back in jail. A. W. Moursand, owner of the Diamond X Ranch, was tenacious about the buffalo killed on his property in 1969. A private investigator had been hired to track down the poacher. The investigation had finally brought Texas game officer Larry Brock to the Austin Taxidermy Studio where Moursand’s buffalo had been mounted and was hanging on the wall along with an Aoudad sheep, an Axis deer, and a black buck Kleasen had shot.
An arrest warrant was obtained for Kleasen, this time on felony theft charges. Officers now knew he was living in a trailer behind the taxidermy studio. Fredericksburg game officer Max Hartman and FBI agent Joe Butler were sent to arrest Kleasen, which they did the evening of December 7 after first spending a couple of days trying to locate him. The FBI got involved because it was now known that Kleasen had fled the New York felony assault charges.
At first, Kleasen was held in the little white 1894 limestone jail outside the Blanco County Courthouse in Johnson City, but within twenty-four hours he was moved to the Gillespie County Jail in Fredericksburg. In 1973 the jail was a squatty rooftop pillbox atop the county courthouse.
On December 10, 1973, Kleasen appeared in the Blanco County Courthouse in Johnson City where his bond was set at $2,000 and an attorney was appointed for him. What had first been a misdemeanor hunting charge was now prosecuted as a felony rustling offense. Extradition proceedings were also started to return him to New York for trial in the 1971 shooting of DuBoise. Kleasen secured a new lawyer, Randy Savage of Marble Falls, to help him fight both counts. He lin-[p.84]gered in jail for months while this was being fought out.
In Fredericksburg Kleasen was housed with other inmates in a cell with a dozen beds arranged as bunks along one wall. Jail standards were pretty lax in Texas at the time, and the Gillespie County sheriff’s wife prepared meals for the inmates. She ran a nearby rest home and twice a day cooked extra portions for Kleasen and the other inmates. It was usually brought up the three flights of stairs in syrup buckets by another game officer, Norm Henk, who was often detailed to help the sheriff. The sheriff was old and found the three flights of stairs too demanding, so he often asked Henk to “take care of our buffalo killer” and the others. The inmates also had a hot plate in the cell to cook their own food if they had any. Kleasen hated the food and complained about it constantly.
Henk soon learned to loath Kleasen. Not only was he constantly complaining about the food, the words “thank you” never passed his lips in spite of his regular insistence on personal favors from the jailers. He read steadily and checked out a whole series of books from the local library on World War II, the Nazis, military history, and political philosophy. Henk had to pull the books from the library and return them when Kleasen was done. Jailers recall that Kleasen never smiled.
Kleasen wasn’t any more popular with the other inmates. They grew quickly tired of his complaining, his boasting about his espionage and hunting exploits, and his habit of staying up all night and sleeping during the day.
During this time Kleasen kept up a stream of complaints to local Mormon leaders. He asked Bishop Smith to post his bail and secure an attorney to represent him, but the bishop declined. LDS policy prohibits church leaders from getting involved in criminal cases in such a way, but Kleasen didn’t want to hear this.
Smith did visit Kleasen in jail, often bringing his small son, but the convert’s behavior became increasingly strange, and Smith decided to stop bringing his boy along. A local Mormon, rancher Frederick Grote, was also assigned by the church to visit Kleasen in Fredericksburg. He left food and small amounts of money for Kleasen, again without ever being thanked.
[p.85] Also during Kleasen’s time in Gillespie County, he became involved with members of the Pentecostal church. They came to the jail to preach. Jailers, who thought Kleasen was taking advantage of anyone who offered kindness or concern, could only watch his manipulations with disgust. From that point on, he spent as much time in Pentecostal churches as he did with the Mormons.
At some point district judge Jack Miller, after hearing another round of Kleasen’s moaning about his jailers, decided to give everyone a break and transfer Kleasen to the Burnet County Jail. No one in Fredericksburg missed him.
Leaders of the Austin First Ward elders’ quorum read Kleasen’s complaints about jail food—Kleasen claimed jailers were deliberately starving him—and asked his home teacher, Eddie Davis, to investigate. Davis and his wife brought a large bag of groceries to the Burnet jail, selecting items Kleasen could prepare on the cell’s hot plate. The jailers were friendly and allowed Davis to deliver the food. No doubt they hoped the food would reduce Kleasen’s complaining. Kleasen never thanked Davis for the food. Instead he ranted against the courts, the government, and the Mormon church, never once looking Davis directly in the eye. As Kleasen rambled, he focused on a far ceiling corner of his cell. It was an unsettling encounter.
On February 18, 1974, a plea was worked out on time served for the misdemeanor buffalo shooting charge. The felony theft charge remained but was not pursued.
The New York charges were more difficult for him to resolve, but he temporarily accomplished this as well. After hard lobbying, Texas Secretary of State Mark White recommended that the New York request be denied. Kleasen was released from the Burnet County Jail on May 31. Five days later Texas governor Dolph Briscoe refused the New York request for extradition.
White later told reporters his office had looked at the entire record of the New York case and concluded that Kleasen “appeared to be foredoomed. It looked like a case of vengeance.” White was especially concerned about Kleasen’s having been denied counsel for some time based on his being able to afford a lawyer by virtue of his valuable gun [p.86] collection, a collection that had been seized by ATF agents thus denying him its value. White saw a “catch 22 quality” to Kleasen’s prosecution. At another time, White justified his decision to reporters with the observation, “The way New York treats people is a little different from Texas.”
The situation caused enough concern that when Smith attended the church’s general conference in April 1974 in Salt Lake City, he reported on Kleasen at length with Mormon security officials. With the earlier letter from Denmark Mission president Ipsen, large parts of Kleasen’s erratic history were now known.
McCullough, who succeeded Smith as bishop in July 1974, continued to regard Kleasen as a divisive influence in the ward. (Smith, a University of Texas botany professor, had taken a similar position at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.) Kleasen had a way of turning members against each other, of constantly sowing friction. In light of this and Kleasen’s lies about Denmark, the new bishop felt it was time to initiate excommunication proceedings against him. He felt Smith had bent over backwards to make the new convert feel welcome, but Kleasen was still filled with bitterness.
One of the Mormons who’d visited Kleasen’s trailer was Blair Bell, the young missionary who’d introduced Darley to him. Bell was later transferred to San Antonio and Kleasen began to write. Kleasen had shown him the fake Raadt driver’s license, saying he used it to buy things when he didn’t want his identity known. Bell was with him at least once when he bought weapons as Raadt in San Antonio.
With Richard Nixon’s resignation as president on August 9, 1974, Kleasen’s paranoia blossomed. That August and September, his letters to Bell were angry and violent. He complained bitterly about his treatment by local church authorities, especially their questioning him about Denmark. Bell told mission president Loveland about the tensions and tried to mediate. On August 17 Kleasen replied to a recent letter from Bell, writing that he was surprised to learn Bell was trying to get Loveland to help resolve his personal conflicts in the Austin First Ward. He claimed he stood “accused of false things in Denmark” [p.87] and that he’d asked Smith to clear this up “but he sat on his ass and nothing was accomplished.”
Growing more indignant, Kleasen insisted, “I do not want a pat on the head and a paw shake, I want BLOOD. I want to go in and finish this mess one way or the other. Either some authority will get up on his two legs and vindicate me publically [sic], or they can excommunicate me.” Complaining again about the lack of attention he felt he got in jail, he went on to write, “Few thought of me when I begged for help, now I listen to no one, I go for the Kill.” He also stated he would not abide by game laws but would continue to shoot his food anytime he wanted because it was his right.
On September 6 Kleasen wrote Bell to report on his meeting with stake president Amos Wright. He was indignant that Wright had denied his request to be transferred to another ward. “Too many lies had preceided [sic] my meeting, he would not listen,” Kleasen wrote. He ranted that Mormon leaders were unwilling to work with him, and hinted at revenge. “This is 1974 and you can’t call a man out in a gun fight so I am going after all my oppressors with vengence [sic] using my brains, and training, and the pig. Perhaps you can see what has happened to me the running, the sellout, and the endless solitary confinement. I have learned to hate.”
The next day Kleasen wrote again, this time complaining about other Mormons he insisted had stolen from him. “I will not mess around any longer, I am going for the ‘kill.’” He also wrote that missionaries Darley and Jenkins had stopped by, apparently at Bell’s urging. Kleasen had invited them back on a Monday night for a steak supper. “Many Thanks,” Kleasen wrote Bell. “It will be nice to see another Mormon. But I will not return to the Austin Ward.”
Then Kleasen wrote McCullough, demanding that the bishop visit him at his trailer, alone and without telling anyone they were to meet. McCullough sensed danger and refused. “I didn’t come in on a turnip truck,” he later quipped. The new bishop would meet with Kleasen in the ward meeting house, but not in some isolated setting.
One night McCullough took home Kleasen’s bulky ward file of letters and materials. He found a private room where he could read every [p.88] document in the file, then prayed to ask for guidance and direction in the matter. Immediately he felt inspired to warn the missionaries not to go to Kleasen’s any more. He communicated this to ward leaders who worked with the missionaries, a lay priesthood body called seventies.
When the two missionaries expressed a desire to keep working with Kleasen, McCullough called them himself and urged them to avoid the man. They told the bishop they had a dinner appointment on the 28th and felt they would let Kleasen down if they didn’t keep it. McCullough decided not to go over their heads and call mission president Loveland. Meanwhile, Kleasen continued to attend a Pentecostal church in Burnet, Texas, west of Austin.
Sometime in the fall of 1974 Kleasen’s path crossed with a widowed Pentecostal woman named Linda Miller. Her husband, Charles, had been killed in an Alabama auto accident on Christmas Eve 1973. She moved with her five-year-old son to Longview, Texas, to start over. A devout member of the Pentecostal church, she began attending meetings in nearby Gladewater. Somehow Miller and Kleasen began exchanging letters.
By now Kleasen was too wedded to his fantasies to change them for Miller. His steady stream of letters boasted of his rapid rise in the CIA. “I was not a minor agent. I ranked fourth from the top at the last although I had a humble beginning as a pilot testing missiles at Alamogordo, N.M.,” he wrote. After graduating from the National Police Academy and the FBI School at Quantico, Virginia, he continued, he was “exchanged” for a British agent. He spent the next part of his career in the British MI-6 school in Dundee, Scotland, and later went for additional training at Kastel, Germany. “Yes, Linda, I was headed for the top in that profession only I could not put God out of my life.”
Again his letters boasted of intellectual accomplishments— speaking six languages, graduate degrees from universities in Sweden and Denmark, and world travel such as few men ever dream of. In one letter he boasted of his prowess as an outdoorsman. He acknowledged poaching all the deer he needed, filling his freezers with the meat. “Naturally I can butcher,” he wrote, “and cut up all my own meat to my specifications.”