Sunday, April 17, 2011

Jordan, Minnesota: A Middle American Nightmare

PHOTO CAPTION: Greg Myers has three ribbons hanging from a tree in front of his Jordan home. “The pink one is for the return of our girl, the blue one is for the return of our boy, the white one is for our innocence,” Myers said. Myers and his wife are among 21 persons who had sexual abuse charges against them dropped last fall. Their children were sent to foster homes.

FULL TEXT: JORDAN – Few people hove heard of Jordan, Minn., until an investigation of one convicted child molester snowballed into highly public sexual abuse charges against 23 more adults and one juvenile. Statements by children described child murders and animal sacrifices. One couple was acquitted, and charges against the 21 other adults were dropped, but the case is still under investigation.

JORDAN, Minn. — A dozen miles upstream from the ice-choked Mississippi, the Minnesota River flows dark, robust and swift beneath the old Thompson ferry span.

Buried in those waters curling past thickets of oak and ash is the final chapter of a mystery whose elements have horrified a nation — unresolved allegations of devil worship in a God-fearing Minnesota Valley town, of sex crimes against nature’s most innocent, of ritual murder, of the bodies of children secretly slipped into a night-veiled

Somewhere in that stretch lies an ending to the story: either tangible and indisputable proof of vile crimes, or the expiation of a handful of citizens accused of the unthinkable.

But few seem willing to open that last chapter. Fear of civil liability and public ridicule appear to have paralyzed the government’s investigation in a case riddled with contradictions. The sense of inaction reaches Minnesota’s highest corridors of power, where men know the outcome of the Jordan sex-ring inquiry carries great political repercussions.

“It’s time to get out the whitewash brush,” fumes a source in the state’s judiciary. In fact, Scott County investigators told UPI ample evidence exists indicating major sex crimes were committed by people other than James Rud, the frail, soft-spoken sex offender whose allegations opened the first chapter in the Jordan story.

Charges now have been dropped against all other defendants. Many of them say there was no case at all, except in the mind of a county prosecutor who suffered delusions of “grandiosity.”

Others say the real criminals never were caught. “Now nobody’s safe,” said attorney Barry Voss, part of the legal team that successfully defended the only couple to come to trial in Jordan’s sex abuse case. “The bad guys are still out there.” UPI interviewed prosecutors, convicted felons and special investigators; pored over police files and court transcripts to determine the scope and current status of the government’s case.

The findings were disturbing:

• FBI and state investigators never conducted dragging operations in the Minnesota River, standard procedure in lesser cases and the only means of gaining evidence corroborating murder allegations.

• Last month the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, at the behest of Attorney General Hubert “Skip” Humphrey III, said it was abandoning the murder investigation after four weeks — scarcely time to review files turned over by the county prosecutor’s office.

• Government agents have failed to turn up a shred of hard evidence of child pornography, a focus of their current investigation.

• No grand jury ever has been convened or proposed in the homicide investigation — even though the murder probe was cited as the reason for dismissing sex abuse charges against 21 adults.

• The government refuses to release its secret file on the homicides, a 126-page compendium of police interviews and notes. This, despite official statements the murder allegations were unsubstantiated and no longer merited attention.

• The state’s case agent recently hinted the murder investigation neither was dead nor completely alive. “I think the answer to that is that we haven’t made a decision about it (pursuing the murder allegations),” said BCA agent Mike Campion in previously undisclosed testimony.

• The case has been quiescent since early November. Gordon Gelhaye, a retired deputy sheriff, recalls the morning his role in the murder search ended.

He had gathered along with other volunteers in Shakopee, near the Scott County courthouse, to organize for large-scale dragging operations the following day.

“We had six boats, all the equipment we needed,” said Gelhaye, the county’s river dragging expert. “Suddenly the (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) agent made a call, and said it was all off. We could go home. Who was I to disagree? It was their baby.”

Gelhaye was miffed. He had dragged that river several times the previous summer. In one case, search teams spent nearly two weeks seeking the body of a man named Frady who, it was rumored, had fallen from his boat.

“Later the man turned up in Las Vegas, alive. It was a total hoax.”

To Gelhaye, the murder suggestions made by seven or more children held far more weight than the rumors that prompted the Frady search.

The arguments for dragging were credible to Gelhaye because some of the bodies — if, indeed, there were bodies — were said to be shielded against the elements.

“The story we were told was that one body had been placed in a garbage can. It was weighted down with rocks and the cover was tied down. The body would certainly survive.” Another body, a child witness said, was wrapped in heavy canvas.

Adults at a party “hung him (the victim) over a tub until he bled out enough to be wrapped in a canvas tarp,” the child told a therapist. Authorities said the waters were moving too swiftly to effectively drag and the evidence probably would be destroyed.

“Hell, it was fall.” said a source close to the investigation. “The water was slower than in summer, and the bodies were wrapped up.”

[William H. Inman, “Jordan: A Middle American Nightmare: Abuse Probe Riddled with Contradictions,” & “Probe Leaves 22 Children Still Parted From Parents,” (UPI), Syracuse Herald-Journal (N. Y.), Jan. 9, 1985, p. A-8]


FULL TEXT: JORDAN, Minn. – On Christmas Eve. Tony, Billy and Marlin Bentz gobbled down platesful of roast turkey across a dinner table from two people they once accused of monstrous crimes — their parents.

“They just went tearing through here,” recalled their mother, Lois, of the court-supervised Christmas visit. “They were terribly homesick.”

A few months ago, Tony, 7, Billy, 10, and Marlin, 13, were interviewed by investigators who charged their parents with incestuous acts, including a bizarre variation of hide-and-seek.

It was Tony who spoke from the witness chair last September, warning his daddy — Robert Bentz — never to sexually assault him again.

But that testimony and that trial seemed a long way off on Christmas Eve. The parents were acquitted by a jury. Nobody believed the kids. The juvenile court reunited children with parents for four short hours in the presence of a social worker and parish priest.

“The children were removed — there was no investigation, no nothing,” said Lois. “Our child (Tony) supposedly said we had molested him. That was a lie because our child only said that a month before we went to trial after he had been interrogated by the detectives and the therapists.”

The Bentzes, the only couple to go to trial in the case, have been separated from their children for 11 months.

All the children suffered, Lois said, and show signs of emotional distress.

“The middle one (Hilly) is real hurt. He’s on the verge of tears all the time. He’s real mixed up. He’s still showing emotion from what I understand. That’s good. At least he’s showing it.”

A total of 22 children, separated from their parents in the unresolved Scott County case, live in foster homes scattered across the state. In coming weeks, family court judges will rule on whether they will be returned to their parents.

Some officials worry the children may be coming home too quickly.

“The concern is that all these kids may be telling the truth,” said a Scott County investigator. “My God, why return them home before the investigation is concluded?”

Psychologists worry about the effect of returning children to homes where they might be
abused again, and the effect of taking children from homes where perhaps they were never abused.

Only one couple accused in the sex case has regained custody of their children — Don and Cindy Buchan. They took custody of Billy, 2, Nov. 1. Missy, 5, and Cortney, 3, returned home three weeks later.

 Attorneys for former defendants have inundated the court system with motions, briefs and subpoena requests in an effort to speed the process.

“Lots of these lawyers have set up civil suits,” noted one legal authority. “A favorable ruling by a family court judge would certainly fortify their big lawsuits. They have every reason to push hard.”

Oddly, some of the former defendants don’t want, to see their children, not for a while anyway.

One mother said she felt it. Would ho hotter for her daughter to remain in treatment and an attorney said one boy’s parents felt ho was too emotionally upset for a Christmas visit.

“It’s scary as hell,” said a jurist familiar with the case. “Everybody seems to be taking the view that it (the investigation) is all over with, that everything’s OK now.”

But it’s not.

Two weeks ago, in fact, new allegations surfaced of large-scale sex abuse among children in rural Scott County. The allegations came from a 16-year-old boy who surrendered to the county prosecutor’s office. He is now in the custody of the FBI and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Attorneys for some of the former defendants questioned the youth’s credibility, saying he was undergoing therapy in an alcohol abuse program. But the case, whoever the remaining witnesses, appears far from dead.

~ ~ ~ Indicators of possible abuse ~ ~ ~

~Younger children: ~

• Excessive masturbation
• Bed-wetting or fecal rolling
• Severe nightmares
• Regression in developmental milestones
• Explicit knowledge or sexual acts

~ Older Children and Adolescents ~

• Depression
• Withdrawal
• Isolation from peers
• Increase in physical complaints
• Attention-getting behavior
• Physical abuse
• Poor self-image
• Truancy
• Drop in academic performance
• Limited participation in organized social activities
• Overtly seductive behavior
• Bisexual/homosexual experimentation
• Promiscuous sexual behavior


CHRONOLOGY: By United Press International. Here is a chronology of events in the Jordan, Minn., child abuse scandal:


• Oct 1: Trash collector James Rud arrested on 13 counts of abusing at least four children under age 10.

• Nov. 14: Rud’s girlfriend, Judith Kath, and another trailer park resident, Marlene Germundson, arrested. Kath charged with five counts of promoting a minor to engage in obscene works. Germundson charged with 17 counts of first- and second-degree sexual abuse, including allowing her children to be abused by Rud. Kath, Germundson children put into court-ordered foster homes.

• Nov. 16: Christine Brown, who made original complaint against Rud, charged with 10 counts of first- and second-degree sexual abuse.

• Nov. 17: Rud’s parents, Alvin and Rosemary Rud, arrested and charged with eight counts of criminal sexual abuse.

• Nov. 18: James Rud charged with 85 more counts of criminal sexual abuse.

• Nov. 22: Robert Rawson of Shakopee charged with four counts of first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct with 10-year-old girl.

• Nov. 30: Another trailer park resident, Irene Melsinger, charged with six counts first-degree and five counts second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving at least four juveniles.


• Jan. 11: Tom and Helen Brown (she is Christine Brown’s sister) arrested and charged with sexual misconduct involving seven children.

• Jan. 20: Robert and Lois Bentz arrested. Charged with 12 counts of abuse.

• Jan. 25: James Brown, ex-husband of Christine Brown and brother of Tom Brown, charged with five counts.

• Feb. 6: Greg Myers arrested, charged Feb. 8 in eight counts.

• Feb. 27: Scott Germundson of Chaska, husband of Marlene. arrested and charged with eight counts.

• March 30: Coralene Rawson, wife of Robert Rawson. charged with 10 counts.

• May 24: Jane Myers, wife of Greg, charged with eight counts. Duane and Dee Rank and Charles and Carol Lallak all charged with six counts.

All five accused of sexually abusing children, but not their own.

• June 4: Donald and Cindy Buchan and Terry Morgenson, an employee In Scott County assessor’s office, arrested. These are final arrests.

• July 31: The Minnesota Court of Appeals rules alleged child victims may be called as witnesses at omnibus hearing for Alvin and Rosemary Rud.

• Aug. 15: James Rud pleads guilty to 10 counts and agrees to testify against other adults.

• Aug. 20: James Rud tells investigators he attended orgies with adults and children.

• Aug. 27: At beginning of Bentz trial, Rud falls to identify Robert Bentz in courtroom.

• Aug. 29: 11-year-old boy testifies the Bentzes abused him sexually.

• Aug. 30: Same boy says he lied the previous day. Yongest Bentz child testifies to anal sex with his father.

• Sept. 4: Oldest Bentz boy says he never saw parents sexually abuse youngest brother. Morris agrees to throw out Rud testimony.

• Sept. 5: Judge Martin Mansur dismisses half of charges against Bentzes.

• Sept. 19: Bentzes acquitted.

• Oct. 15: As opening arguments began in Buchan trial, prosecutor Gehl Tucker drops charges against the couple. Morris’s office drops charges against the remaining 19 adults to avoid compromising another investigation that Includes claims of child murder.

• Oct. 16: Myers file suit against county and Morris.

• Oct. 18: Morris turns over sex abuse cases to Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III.

• Oct. 30: Rud questioned by FBI and federal agents. BCA considers dragging river for bodies, but does not.

• Nov. 1: Buchans regain custody of son Billy, first child to be returned from foster care.

• Nov. 14: BCA, FBI and Attorney General Humphrey say there is no evidence of murders. Authorities plan to concentrate on abuse and child pornography.

• Nov. 20: It is revealed two boys, 11 and 12, said they lied about the murders.

• Nov. 27: It is revealed Rud told the FBI he lied in Implicating adults.

• Dec. 20: BCA says information from 16-year-old could lead to refiling charges against some adults. Judge Mansur reprimands Morris for violating order to sequester child witnesses.

• Dec. 24: Bentzes’ three sons spend Christmas holiday with parents.

• Dec. 27: Judge John Schmidt holds closed hearing on whether some parents may regain custody of children.


• Jan. 4: Family court hearing scheduled in Bentz attempt to regain full custody of children.

[William H. Inman, “Probe Leaves 22 Children Still Parted From Parents,” (UPI), Syracuse Herald-Journal (N. Y.), Jan. 9, 1985, p. A-8]