Kansas Prosecutor Says Religious Beliefs Focus of Probe
Aug. 21, 1985
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ Evidence of torture has been found in the murder investigation of a man and a boy whose bodies were unearthed on a farm inhabited by members of a shadowy religious group, a Kansas prosecutor said.
One of the three people charged with murder in the case had persuaded a small, devout following that God spoke through him, Norton County Attorney Doug Sebelius said.
''There was a certain amount of torture'' in the deaths of Luke Stice, 5, of Falls City, and James Thimm, 26, of Beatrice, Sebelius said. ''It's enough to turn people's stomachs.''
The two bodies were unearthed Sunday on a farm along the Missouri River near Rulo, in the southeastern corner of Nebraska. Authorities also seized a large cache of weapons, ammunition and explosives.
Michael W. Ryan, 36, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, Sebelius said.
Nebraska officials will not comment on the cause of death or possible motive in the killings. But Sebelius said in a telephone interview Tuesday night, ''You're going to find probably the most gruesome details in respect to torture in this case.''
Ryan's son, Dennis, 15, and Timothy J. Haverkamp, 23, also have been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Thimm.
As part of the investigation, authorities searching a farm in Norton County, about 250 miles away, on Tuesday found a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol that likely was used in one of the slayings, said Sebelius.
Kansas authorities also found an underground bunker with an estimated 85,000 rounds of ammunition of various calibers, some armor-piercing ammunition and an assault rifle. The bunker had its own water supply, a generator and a large store of food, Sebelius said.
Richardson County Attorney Doug Merz said authorities have not been able to determine how many people lived at the Rulo farm. Ryan attracted people to his ''radical religion'' while he was living in Whiting, Kan., Sebelius told the Omaha World-Herald in today's editions.
Feeling persecuted because of their religious beliefs, Ryan, his wife and three children moved to the Rulo farm, Sebelius said, and were soon joined by followers.
Rulo residents say they've heard the people on the farm were affiliated with paramilitary survivalist groups, but Nebraska authorities have refused to comment on any such affiliation or the amount of weapons found in a June search.
Sebelius said that search, which stemmed from a stolen property investigation, turned up a large supply of weapons, including a .45-caliber pistol with the same serial number as the one confiscated Tuesday at the Thiele farm.
The younger Ryan said the gun was given to him as a gift, Sebelius said.