Aryan Nation Member Received Death Threat, Jury Told
SEATTLE (AP) _ A man who authorities claim was killed by members of the white supremacist group The Order told a friend two days before he vanished that he had received a death threat, the friend testified Friday.
Donald Hoecher, testifying at the trial of 10 purported members of The Order on federal racketeering charges, said Walter West, a member of the white supremacist Aryan Nations, called him May 25, 1984.
″He said he had been threatened, told to leave the state of Idaho or he’d be killed,″ said Hoecher, a farmer from Colville, Wash.
The government claims The Order killed West and Denver radio host Alan Berg, staged robberies and counterfeited money as part of a plot to overthrow the government and establish an ″Aryan homeland″ free of Jews and minorities.
West’s body has never been found, but the government claims West was considered a security risk because he talked too much about The Order, many of whose members also belonged to Aryan Nations.
Hoecher said he visited West’s home in Athol, Idaho, the day after he reported the threat. ″He was a little nervous. He felt the threat was a bona fide threat to him,″ Hoecher said.
But West did not leave Idaho, and when Hoecher visited Athol several times the following week, he found no trace of West.
He said West had told him that Tom Bentley, another Aryan Nations and Order member, had made the threat during a visit with at least one other, unidentified man.
Bentley, originally a defendant in the racketeering case, pleaded guilty shortly after the trial began Sept. 9.
In other testimony Friday, Jack Hettinger, who had married West’s ex-wife, testified that West once offered him counterfeit money.
″He told me he could give me a considerable amount of counterfeit money. He said a million dollars,″ Hettinger said, adding that he turned down the offer.
According to previous testimony, West helped run the press at the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho, and that counterfeit money was printed by Order members on that press in November 1983, apparently without sanction from Aryan Nations officials.
Joan Hettinger, West’s ex-wife, said West had visitation rights with their three children every other weekend. She said West told her when he returned the children on Mother’s Day 1984 that he was quitting the Aryan Nations. But he did not arrive in Spokane, Wash., for his next visit, and the Hettingers never heard from him again, she said.
James Sherman Dye, one of six men accused in West’s killing, and the only alleged witness to plead guilty in the case, began testifying Friday.
He said racial violence helped him develop racist feelings during the 1970s in Philadelphia.
″It was just a natural thing to start to hate the blacks or any other non- white race,″ he said.
Of 13 other people indicted in the case, Bentley and 10 others have pleaded guilty, one remains at large and one is jailed in Missouri on a murder charge.