THE FRANKLIN COVER-UP -- CHILD ABUSE, SATANISM, AND MURDER IN NEBRASKA
CHAPTER 17: "SO THAT THE TRUTH WOULD NEVER COME OUT"
With the sentencing of Alisha Owen, the Nebraska judiciary and law enforcement agencies wanted to ring down the curtain on the Franklin case, once and for all. They and federal authorities moved to tidy up matters that were left hanging.
Larry King is in prison, but not for child abuse. Under a plea bargain arrangement finalized with federal prosecutors on June 17, 1991, King is serving a 15-year sentence for embezzlement, conspiracy and making false financial record entries. Since the Douglas County grand jury deferred to the federal authorities, and since there was no trial of King on the federal embezzlement or any other charges, the evidence of child prostitution and abuse perpetrated by King was never presented in any court.
Jarrett Webb did not stand trial. In a calculated display of concern, the Douglas County grand jury recommended in May 1990, that Webb be indicted by Washington County prosecutors for "third degree sexual assault of a minor," Nelly Patterson. On December 26, 1990, however, Washington County Judge David Quist dismissed the charges against Webb, ruling that the statute of limitations had run out on acts committed in 1985. In Nebraska, cases of abuse of children under sixteen years of age are supposed to receive an automatic extension of the statute. But although Nelly had reported abuse that began when she was nine years old, the judge ruled that the assaults in question were not prosecutable because they occurred two days after the girl's sixteenth birthday!
Alisha Owen was convicted of lying when she said she was sexually used by Robert Wadman. I will allow the articles and statements of others to deal with this, since I have, at Alisha's request, now agreed to represent her free of charge. I do not want to say anything here that would jeopardize Alisha or my ability to help her. But I can say, that Alisha Owen's trial took the strangest turns I have seen any trial take. Suffice it to say, that I believe she had the most extraordinary trial there ever was in Nebraska. I have not a shadow of a doubt that her story is true, like Paul Bonacci's.
On August 8, 1991, Alisha Owen was sentenced to three consecutive three to nine year prison terms. As she remarked, she will be in jail longer than Larry King.
Minutes after Owen's conviction, Prosecutor Gerald Moran dropped the Douglas County perjury charges against Paul Bonacci. He also obtained a court order that barred me from gaining access to other files that would have been used in Paul's trial.
Speaking as Paul's attorney, I charged, "They dropped the charges so that the truth would never come out."
For months, motion after motion to deposition those Bonacci accused was denied by Judge Patrick Mullen. Now, Moran stipulated that any such depositions and discovery were permanently ruled out.
I had seen it coming. As we moved closer to the commencement of Paul Bonacci's perjury trial, I said many times to all who would listen, "I guarantee you that Paul Bonacci will never go to trial. They will either kill him, or dismiss the charges. We are ready for trial. When we have the trial, the entire picture of crime, drug dealing, pedophilia and child abuse, and even this satanic cult activity, will come out, with all the personalities associated with it. They dare not bring this boy to trial. Or, if they are going to bring him to trial, they will have to get rid of me first and get someone in there handling the trial whom they control."
For over a year, after the initial flurry of coverage in 1989, the national news media avoided the Franklin case. On June 19, 1991, two days before the jury convicted Alisha Owen, CBS-TV featured Nebraska on its prime time show, "48 Hours."
The program, ostensibly on the impact of child abuse in various communities, stated its conclusion on the Franklin case at the outset: "Some communities have over-reacted and accused innocent people." Expounding on the alleged injustices done to those named by victim-witnesses as abusers, the producers had former Police Chief Robert Wadman appear tearful before the cameras to say that the Franklin case had been "the most God-awful experience you could ever go through." Omaha attorney James Martin Davis offered his assessment, that "Bob Wadman has been scarred for the rest of his life."
Neither Senator Schmit, nor I, nor Owen, nor Bonacci was interviewed; besides the alleged perpetrators, only Troy Boner was given air time, to say that he had fabricated all the charges. Wadman asserted that "Caradori led witnesses, fed witnesses," while Boner pronounced that "the whole thing was just a lie," and that "Caradori convinced me to do it." The narrator stated, "Caradori's motives remain unknown."
The impact on Alisha Owen's trial, of such a presumably authoritative national TV show passing judgment on the Nebraska case, was devastating. Although the judge expressly ordered the jurors not to watch the program, a good number of them did, and several reported that it was the main topic of discussion in the jury room the next morning!
In articles on July 20 and 21 and a lead editorial of July 26, 1991, the World-Herald attacked victim Owen, Senator Schmit, and myself as "bacteria that cause a plague," and ridiculed the legislature's investigation as a "Keystone Kop" affair. The editorial, entitled "The Lessons of Franklin," denounced all and sundry -- Senator Loran Schmit, myself, the Legislature, the Omaha news media, Douglas County Sheriff Dick Roth, and the general public -- whosoever had ever intimated that the children might be telling the truth -- for "damaging the reputations of innocent people." Never again, the editorial intoned, should the Legislature exercise its rights to oversee law enforcement in the state.
Neither the Franklin case nor the hideous kind of activity it involved, however, are over with. The World-Herald itself demonstrated as much, in a July 20, 1991 article appearing side-by-side with one of its denunciations of the Franklin investigators. Under the headline "Male Hustlers Move In When Workers Leave," the paper trumpeted that prostitution and child abuse were here to stay.
The article quoted Sgt. Ken Bovasso of the OPD: "Male prostitution has been occurring at 16th and Jackson for years ... I don't think you can stop it ... it will continue to happen." (This was the same Sgt. Bovasso who supervised Officer Irl Carmean's work with Loretta Smith, which abruptly terminated. He is also the Bovasso charged in the civil suit filed by this writer, with having subjected Paul Bonacci "to long hours of brutal interrogation involving threats, intimidation, [and] physical and mental abuse ... purposely designed to prevent him [Bonacci] from disclosing any information he had regarding the conduct of prominent Omaha citizens.") Witnesses interviewed by the World-Herald described the expensive cars driven by the men who pick up young boys, and said that between "tricks" the boys shoot up drugs and discard the hypodermic needles on the sidewalk.
The Franklin case remains alive not only in Omaha, but in its nationwide and international scope. Karen Ormiston, Caradori's coworker, reviewed the case in September 1990. In her notes on a September 22, 1990 conversation with Alisha Owen's lawyer, Henry Rosenthal, Ormiston recorded:
I did indicate to Henry that these kids were only a small part of this case, and that the bulk and real intent of this case was to determine why OPD, FBI, and the NSP had insisted that they had thoroughly investigated these allegations and concluded that there was no merit to these allegations. I also indicated that the end result of this case should be to determine where the monies earned from kiddie porn, child prostitution, and drug activity, were going to. Failure of the various law enforcement agencies to follow up on these allegations which they had received from several years back was also discussed. Again, I stated that the statements of the kids was [sic] very important, but these kids were but a small part of the frightening reality and extent of the "bigger picture" of this case.
Three days later, Ormiston wrote to Senator Schmit in the same vein:
Gary and I have always maintained that these kids were not the case -- they were only a small part of it. For instance, where does all the money go that is earned by child prostitution and kiddie porn, and what is it used for? Why is the FBI and/or others trying so desperately to cover all this up? We both know that if these people were just ordinary citizens that they would certainly be in prison right now based on the incredible amount of information they, the State Grand Jury and Federal Grand Jury, have already received. As a matter of fact, they would have been endicted [sic] based on just a small portion of this information and the allegations made against them.
The Franklin investigators had lifted a corner of the rug, under which could be glimpsed a national and international organized crime syndicate, engaged in pedophilia, pornography, satanism, drugs, and money-laundering, and protected, as their own limited investigation began to show, by federal authorities.
Pull a thread on any corner of this vast, seamless web, and the whole begins to unravel. In the Franklin case, this is nowhere clearer than in the testimony of Paul Bonacci.
I debriefed Paul Bonacci at length, as did private investigator Roy Stephens, in preparation for the perjury trial that was not to be. Through his many personalities, each with its own distinct, partial recollections, Bonacci provided new evidence on child kidnapping, pornography, and murder taking place in the United States and abroad. The Franklin case was just one part of what he knew. The North American Man-Boy Love Association, or NAMBLA, figured prominently in what else Bonacci could recall.
The motto of NAMBLA is "Sex before eight, or it's too late." One of its leaders is named David Thorstadt. Two of Bonacci's personalities, Sean and Christopher, have "Thorstadt" as their last name. Bonacci reports that he was brought into contact with Thorstadt through two Omaha men, that he traveled with Thorstadt to New York, and that he witnessed NAMBLA-organized auctions of children.
Alexandrew, another Bonacci personality, wrote to Dr. Densen-Gerber, who had examined him in prison, in April 1991:
I can even recall when and where I remember you from. Tell me if I'm wrong in which I know you wouldn't remember me. It was in New York on December I believe the 28th or 29th, 1982, it was a Tuesday or Wednesday (not important). It was a news conference at I believe the Holiday Inn. I had to wait for David [Thorstadt] with a friend. When he got done he told me that wicked old witch Gerber was someone he had to fix somehow.
Densell-Gerber, dubbed "public enemy #1" by NAMBLA for her efforts to expose the organization, commented, "He's absolutely right. The details are perfect. ..."
Bonacci may remember events in Europe. He tells of having traveled to Europe more than once. One of his personalities speaks and writes German, more fluently than is probable just from Paul's brief study of German in high school.
In July 1991, just as the Franklin case got officially wrapped up at the sentencing of Alisha Owen, the news broke in Iowa that Paul Bonacci had given evidence in one of the most notorious kidnapping cases in the country. It was the disappearance of Johnny Gosch.
Early Sunday morning, September 5, 1982, 12-year-old Johnny Gosch went out on his Des Moines Register paper delivery route, as usual. Only that Sunday, he never came home. For nine years, his parents have searched the country for him. Most evenings, and weekends when they were not on the road to check out leads, they sold candy bars in local shopping centers, to finance the search. In late 1990, the Gosches got the first major break in years, because of what Paul Bonacci had to tell.
I had noted that one of the events Paul described reminded me of the case of Johnny Gosch, which I had read about years earlier. I went to the library, and confirmed the similarity of the details of the case, with what Paul said. I then contacted the Gosch family. They advised me that they had had their fill of false leads from people who claimed to know something about their missing boy, and people who claimed to have information for sale but did not seem genuinely interested. But a couple of weeks later, Mr. Gosch did come to Omaha.
The Des Moines Register of July 24, 1991 reported on what developed:
A Nebraska inmate has provided details about the abduction of Johnny Gosch that only someone with firsthand knowledge could have had, his lawyer said Tuesday.
Inmate Paul Bonacci's account "did not match up 90 percent, not 95 percent, not 98 percent, but 100 percent," John DeCamp said.
"I am convinced this kid is telling absolutely the truth- ... He never varied on the time. He gave a description of Johnny's pants, names on his shirt, scars on the body."
DeCamp said he became suspicious of a Gosch connection when he read a transcript of a psychiatrist's interview with Bonacci in which an "incident" involving a newspaper carrier was mentioned. DeCamp said Bonacci didn't identify Gosch by his full name.
"I went to the library and checked on Johnny Gosch. I wrote to the Gosches and told them I don't know if there is any validity, but the dates coincide and he talks about someone from Iowa."
DeCamp said John Gosch, the boy's father, met with Bonacci, "and started getting chills. I believe he believed him," DeCamp said.
John Gosch, Sr. walked into the prison in Lincoln, Nebraska to meet Paul Bonacci for the first time, unannounced. Sitting down across from him, Gosch asked Bonacci, "Do you know who I am?" Bonacci replied, "You look like -- it can't be -- the eyes, you look like Johnny Gosch."
Noreen Gosch told the World-Herald, that paper reported on July 22, 1991, that Bonacci knew "some incredible things" about the case. For instance, "There were photographs taken of Johnny prior to the kidnapping. We know this because a woman reported it to police. We're convinced Bonacci saw those pictures. He accurately described the location, which is not far from our home. He described many things about the pictures which we have never publicly talked about." Bonacci also described a mark on Johnny Gosch's body, which the Gosches had never publicized.
As a result of the Gosch meeting, Roy Stephens came to visit with me. Shortly after we discussed Paul Bonacci and the Gosch case, I hired him to check out Bonacci's story on Gosch and on other things.
Roy Stephens is an Omaha-based investigator and a founder of the Missing Children's Foundation. A former safecracker who went straight, Stephens was named "Outstanding Man of the Year" for 1991, by the Nebraska Jaycees, for his work in recovering children. Roy is remembered in Nebraska, as the man who did what the police and other investigators were unable to do -- locate and cause the conviction of the kidnaper of Jill Cutshall, the Norfolk, Nebraska girl who disappeared in 1987 and almost certainly was murdered, though her body was never found.
Stephens was cited as the leading child finder in the nation, in an article in the 1991 summer supplement to Forbes magazine: "The best in the business in that field, according to a survey of his peers, is Roy Stephens ... who has recovered some 50 missing children over the last five-and-a-half years," said G. Gordon Liddy of Watergate fame, now a private security consultant in Florida.
Stephens spent hundreds of hours debriefing Bonacci in Prison, and many more on the road in Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado and Minnesota, visiting the sites and tracking down the people Bonacci told him about. Quoted in the July 22, 1991 World-Herald, Stephens said that Bonacci "hasn't told me anything that hasn't been true."
Bonacci described to Stephens the kidnapping of Johnny Gosch, as an eyewitness:
PB: Well, we got up at, oh, before the sun got up. He [Emilio] said he wanted to go out cause he said that he had been around here before and stuff and he said that paper boys would be going out pretty soon. He said he might be able to, that that would be the best bet. He wanted them, because he said they were easier on mornings cause there was nobody else around. Everyone else is asleep. ...
RS: O.K., so it was just you, Mike and Emilio. And you were in his blue car, the blue Chevy. O.K., then what happened?
PB: Oh, then he, well, at first he had US, they had Mike was in the back seat and he was kind of covered up with a blanket. ... Me I was stuck in the trunk. Because I had said something and Emilio hit me a couple of times.
RS: What did you say?
PB: Called him a dirty bastard because of the way he treated Mike. ... At night when we was in the hotel and stuff he'd brought some other guy and made Mike have sex with that guy. I didn't think that was right. ...
RS: O.K., so you're in the trunk and Mike is on the floor or on the back seat covered with a blanket, and what [happened]?
PB: And then I heard them talking to somebody else at the car, but I don't know who it was cause we stopped. He was talking to somebody asking for directions; asking where some place was. And it sounded like there was more than one kid. It sounded like there was a couple of them there. And then we went around the block and he let me out of the trunk and told Mike to, he says, if you don't do what 1 say, I'm gonna shoot you. He has a gun he pulled out and pointed at me and says, you do what I say or I'll shoot you. We drove around. ...
RS: So you're out of the trunk now?
PB: Yeah. I was sitting in the back seat with Mike.
RS: You're both sitting there? Were you hidden in the back seat or were you just sitting up normal?
PB: Down low, kind of sitting on the floor. And then Emilio, I guess, I don't know what he did, but he, Mike told me, he says, when the car slows down, he says, when you feel the brakes jerk, he says, I'll grab him and you just hold him down. And so it happened quick. It's like we went up, I felt the brakes jerk, and I saw the door fly open and I saw Mike jump out and the next thing I know there was somebody, you know, he grabbed the boy and he'd thrown him in and my job, you know we were supposed to do is just hold him down and gag his mouth so he couldn't yell or nothing. And then after we had, just, like two seconds, just spun off, tore off, got out of there.
Two other people were involved in the kidnapping, one of whom was a local contact. Bonacci named them all. According to a July 18 article in the Des Moines Register, "Stephens has told the family, sources say, that [Bonacci] identified the Des Moines 'contact' from a photograph. The suspected contact, said [Noreen] Gosch, has been under suspicion by the family for some time." Furthermore, "Gosch said Stephens told her the same ring may be involved in other kidnappings in the region, including the suspected abduction of Des Moines Register carrier Eugene Martin, 13, in south Des Moines in 1984, and more recently, that of Jacob Wetterling in St. Joseph, Minn."
Bonacci described a network of safehouses, where the pedophile ring stored kidnapped children before selling them. He said he met Johnny Gosch again several years later, and provided a detailed description of the farm on which Gosch was being kept in Colorado and of Gosch's new "parents," a homosexual man and a lesbian in their thirties. After Gosch once attempted to run away, Bonacci reported, they branded him on the buttocks with the same brand used on horses and cows on the farm, of which Bonacci drew a picture for Roy Stephens.
The man called Emilio was part of a highly organized national and international kidnapping ring. Stephens asked Bonacci, "What did Emilio tell you that he did for a living?"
PB: Kidnap kids and took them to Las Vegas.
RS: What kind of kids?
PB: Any kid that he could get.
RS: Does it matter if it's male or female?
PB: Him, no, him he'd kidnap boys or girls. Main thing he'd kidnap was boys, though, cause he said he'd get more money for them. Emilio used to tell me all kinds of things like how they could get away with kidnapping kids and sell them out of the country. He said most of the kids were sold in Las Vegas at a ranch he took me to one time for an auction. I went with him to Toronto several times where boys were sold. I saw a few girls once in a while. He said virgins could bring as much as $50,000. They called the boys toys, used toys brought in money but not as much. ... Most boys were sold out of America cause it's harder to find them. The men who bought them had planes and could transport them easily.
Bonacci ran into Emilio again in March 1986, near Buena Vista, Colorado, on the second occasion he saw Johnny Gosch.
Despite the astonishing new information from Paul Bonacci on the Gosch kidnaping, West Des Moines police "have not interviewed Bonacci and have no plans to do so," according to the July 21, 1991 Des Moines Sunday Register. "We are aware of what's going on," said Lt. Gerry Scott, in charge of the Gosch investigation. "We're not going to reinvent the wheel. This has been investigated in Nebraska. When things need investigating, here, they will be investigated."
Bonacci also conveyed to Stephens specific recollections related to two other notorious cases -- pedophilia and ritualistic abuse in Jordan, Minnesota, and satanism and child sacrifice near Bakersfield, California.
In 1983 and 1984, Scott County, Minnesota prosecutor Kathleen Morris investigated and began to prosecute a ring of child molesters centered in the town of Jordan. Child victims had testified about satanic rituals and the filming of children in sex acts. "The case involves the largest adult-juvenile sex ring in Minnesota history, authorities said," reported the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on November 18, 1983.
At least 30 children told police they had been molested. Morris brought indictments against 24 adults. People magazine of October 22, 1984 summarized, "The village harbored rings of adult sex abusers who incestuously victimized their own children and other children during ritualistic sex parties involving sadism and bestiality. Some of the children described a bizarre sexual variation of hide-and-seek in which children who were 'found' were taken to a bedroom and abused." The children told of witnessing three ritualistic murders.
Child care workers and psychologists found the children highly credible. Psychologist Michael Shea, who treated some of them, told People, "Children are not able to fantasize in such graphic detail about sexual acts which are outside their experience. And they certainly can't be coerced, or bribed or brainwashed into making statements about their parents." Minnesota psychologist Susan Phipps Yonas, who also interviewed some of the children, told the Star Tribune that she fully believed their reports: "It's not just the details that make them convincing, but the [emotional] effect behind the stories. They're extraordinarily upset when they recount these things. They'd have to be world-class actors to be so convincing if it wasn't true." Phipps Yonas speculated that since the children talked about large sums of money changing hands, organized crime was likely involved.
Morris indicted the ring's chief figure, 26 year-old James Rud, on 108 counts of child abuse. His parents, Alvin and Rosemary Rud, and his 17-year old brother were also indicted, as were several other people from the Valley Green Trailer Park, 35 miles outside of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Most of the abused children also lived in the trailer park.
Like the Franklin investigators in Nebraska, Morris came under savage attack from media and the political establishment in her state. Under pressure, she ultimately turned the investigation over to state Attorney General Hubert "Skip" Humphrey, Jr. To the horror of many, Humphrey soon released a 29-page report titled "Scott County Investigations," which closed the case, citing "insufficient evidence." Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich then appointed a commission to investigate Morris! Humphrey named one of his political cronies, lawyer Kelton Gage, as "independent counsel" to present evidence against her.
Yet in 1991, from prison in Nebraska, Paul Bonacci identified by name, from pictures, some of the same individuals Morris had been investigating. Some of Bonacci's conversations with Stephens about these events have been transcribed:
RS: You know anybody else who hurts children or takes kids or sells them or takes pornography of them?
PB: I don't know what their names are and they're all from mainly not even from. ...
RS: From this area? Where are they from?
PB: Minnesota and California.
RS: Do you know where or who?
PB: ... in Minnesota there was one guy named James Rud. He lived with his mom and dad, cause I remember we went out to his place one time in a trailer.
RS: And that's in Minnesota?
PB: Yeah, that was in Jordan, Minnesota.
A second exchange between Bonacci and Stephens, recorded on September 28, 1991, shed more light on the events in Jordan.
RS: What do you remember about this little boy named Joey?
PB: Joey? Oh, that's what I wanted to tell you about ... Jordan, Minnesota.
RS: Jordan? That's where he came from?
PB: Well, he wasn't kidnapped, his parents let him go, 'cause his parents were friends with Emilio and they had some strange ...
RS: It's okay.
PB: That there's a bunch of parents, that are not just parents but other people in that town that were abusing kids. ... Bob Bentz, that's the one I told you about that had the two [inaudible]
RS: And this guy's name was Bob?
PB: Uh-huh. Bentz.
RS: How do you spell it? Bentz.
RS: And he's in Jordan? When was this?
PB: Mmmmm, that was in '82.
Stephens had asked Bonacci to draw up a list of both abusers and victims. Later in the same conversation, Stephens went through the written list out loud.
RS: Okay. What do you have written here? What does this say? Who is this Bob? Is that his wife's name? Lois? Bob and Lois Bentz? They had three sons? Okay. This is the Bob you told me about?
PB: Uh-huh [yes].
RS: And Joey is theirs? Okay, and Jim Rud is the guy who lives with his mom and dad at the Valley Green Trailer Park?
PB: Yeah. 'Cause I remember one of the games we played was called hide and seek basketball.
RS: Hide and seek basketball? How do you play that? You're not talking about regular basketball, are you?
PB: No, it's sex. ... A lot of people lived in Jordan that were doing that [child abuse]. 'Cause when we were up there [inaudible] they tortured a couple [of children] that came in.
Bob and Lois Bentz were tried for child abuse, including of their own three sons, in August 1984, and acquitted. However, their acquittal left grave doubts in the minds of many in the town. Some incidents from the trial were featured in the People story:
Among the children who testified against the couple was their 6-year-old boy, Tony, who told the court that his father had sodomized him and his brothers. Although the boy was confused over the meaning of the sexual terms, when a defense attorney asked if he feared that his father would abuse him again, the boy looked across the courtroom at Bentz and replied, "You won't do that no more, right?"
During the grueling cross-examination, defense attorneys succeeded in shaking some of the young witnesses' stories by hammering away at dates, places and word meanings. However, a 12-year-old girl steadfastly refused to waver from her testimony. When a defense attorney accused her of lying, she snapped: "You're just helping Bob and Lois [Bentz] to get out of this stuff, this child-abusing stuff, I'm not lying, you guys are. It's the truth, they hurt us." Later she rushed tearfully into the arms of a social worker.
Though the Bentzes got off in the Scott County case, James Rud plea-bargained. Before the case was scratched, he pleaded guilty to lesser charges. In 1978 and 1980, Rud had been convicted of sexually abusing children in Virginia and Minnesota, respectively.
On other occasions, Bonacci described ritualistic abuse and the sacrifice of a boy at a place near Bakersfield, California. The details of his testimony, including names, are consistent with the 1983-1985 investigation by Kern County, California Sheriff Larry Kleier into satanic ritual abuse there. Despite attempts by the state attorney general, John Van De Kamp, to discredit the Kern County investigation as based on "hearsay" and "hysteria," a grand jury indicted seven people on 377 counts of pornography, child abuse and drug possession. They were convicted in a 1986 trial and sentenced to a total of 2,600 years in prison, but a state appeals court overturned the convictions in 1990, on grounds of "egregious prosecutorial misconduct."
Several months after becoming Paul Bonacci' s attorney in the summer of 1990, I remarked to a friend, "You know, the more I find out about this case, the more I am absolutely convinced that drugs are a major part of it. Everywhere you turn, there are drugs, and on a huge scale. The kids report Alan Baer involved in bigtime drugs from California, Larry King has been reported as a major pusher, and Wadman's name has been strongly linked to drugs."
Through the use of young boys and girls, Larry King was able to have a nationwide drug transportation network. It interfaced perfectly with his ability to compromise and blackmail politicians or businessmen. Having cocaine available could make it easier for Larry King to entice prominent people, after they got drunk, and then high on the drug, into sex with a teenaged girl or boy.
According to the accounts of Paul Bonacci and Alisha Owen, Alan Baer was running a nationwide drug ring, and used children 18 or under as couriers. Once the children became 19, and thus could be tried as adults, Baer let them go.
Senator Ernie Chambers observed to the Executive Board of the Legislature on December 19, 1988, just as the Franklin investigation was getting underway:
My community is ravaged by drugs. We see the Omaha police picking up kids from 14 to 18-years old with a half an ounce or less of these narcotic substances and that is supposed to be fighting the drugs. These are nickel and dime pushers, not suppliers, not mid level suppliers. A few days ago the Douglas County Sheriff got together with some of the county sheriffs, one was from Sarpy, and they made a raid and they got a pound and a half of heavy drugs, some money and some weapons. They didn't tell the Omaha police. And I talked to the Douglas County Attorney and I told him I was glad they didn't tell them because had the Omaha police been notified this drug bust would never have occurred, they would have told the individual, they would not have gotten a substantial amount of the drugs. These nickel and dime people in my community that they are arresting don't have the connections or the money to bring the amount of drugs into the City of Omaha that are coming. And certainly the little piddling amounts that are picked up by the police have no meaning or significance. When we wanted, as a community, to help organize and work with a task force of black officers to address the drug problem and the gang problem, Chief Wadman fought it tooth and nail and did not want it, wanted to deny that the problem existed. And I said the only reason that a police official would be opposed to this kind of action is because he knows something or he's part of it.
One of Caradori's informants stated that Wadman was instrumental in bringing the drug-trafficking gangs, the Los Angeles-based Bloods and Cryps, into Omaha. According to a June 19, 1989 report by Caradori's predecessor at the Franklin committee, Jerry Lowe, members of the Bloods and Cryps were identified by local police as driving Larry King's car.
As soon as awareness dawned, that sexual and ritual abuse of children was happening in Nebraska, and that it was being protected from within the political and law enforcement establishment, a resistance movement on behalf of the children took shape. In her famous interview on Geraldo Rivera's TV special on satanism, Kathleen Sorenson identified her group as Believe the Children. Later, friends of Kathleen were active in the Concerned Parents group, which urged that the testimony of Loretta Smith and others be investigated on its merits, instead of dismissed out of hand.
Against the shroud of cover-up, imposed by the World-Herald in its treatment of the Franklin case, some newspapers showed the integrity to keep all aspects of the case alive in Nebraska. Foremost among these has been the Nebraska Observer, published by the Nebraska Citizens' Publishing Group and edited by Frances Mendenhall.
While most of the national press dropped the Franklin story, in the summer of 1990, Executive Intelligence Review sent an investigative team into the state to report on the case first-hand. Its July 27, 1990 article, "FBI covers up child abuse, murder in Nebraska," brought a rain of denunciations on the pages of the World-Herald, which made much of the fact that EIR was founded by the jailed economist and presidential candidate, Lyndon LaRouche. After an initial "no comment" from an FBI spokesman, Nick O'Hara's successor at the Nebraska-Iowa office of the bureau, Charles Lontor, took to the pages of the World-Herald on August 13, to denounce such talk of cover-up as "nonsense," and to say that the FBI did "not wish to become involved in a futile public debate with them [EIR] or anyone who may choose to support their efforts."
It was my view, that the Franklin cover-up was so massive in Nebraska, that it could not be broken just inside the state. In 1991, the case did receive attention in the Italian weekly Avvenimenti and in Pronto, published in Spain. Both articles came from Italian journalists Giovanni Caporaso and Massimiliano Cocozza Lubisco, a team that has produced many stories for Italian television. After their own May 1991 investigative trip to Nebraska, they wrote about the kidnapping and sale of children as "the market of horrors." They quoted Paul Bonacci and Roy Stephens at length.
I was glad of the presence of other international observers, who came when the Schiller Institute, founded by Helga Zepp-LaRouche in 1984 and based in Washington, D.C. and Laatzen, Germany, organized an ad hoc human rights fact-finding mission to Nebraska. In response to a Schiller Institute appeal, nine people from five U.S. states and three foreign countries constituted themselves as the Citizens' Fact-Finding Commission to Investigate Human Rights Violations in Nebraska. Among them were the Reverend James Bevel, former close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an Austrian leader of the European Citizens' Initiative to Protect Life and Human Dignity, the president of the Ukrainian Political Action Committee of the United States, and a clinical psychologist from Canada. They came from October 11 to 17, 1990, and during that week, interviewed many witnesses, visited the Omaha FBI office, watched hours of videotaped testimony from child victims, and read mountains of documents.
The Citizens' Fact-Finding Commission issued a report that denounced the "torture and murder-in-progress" of Paul Bonacci, and said that there was so little recourse through the law left in Nebraska, that an international spotlight needed to be shined on the systematic "violations of human rights" there.
After these findings were published, one hundred fifty clergymen, civil rights leaders and other community leaders from throughout the United States signed a "Letter to the Citizens of Nebraska," which endorsed the findings and called on the Senate Franklin committee to pursue its investigation "at all costs." The World-Herald refused to print the Commission's findings and the endorsement letter, even as a paid advertisement. In an October 20, 1990 article by Bob Dorr, the paper attacked the independent fact-finders as "LaRouche Investigators."
There and in subsequent articles, Dorr called upon the expertise of so-called "anti-cult" specialists from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of B'nai B'rith and the Cult Awareness Network (CAN), in attempts to rebut the Commission's work. Rev. Bevel came in for particularly strong attack by such defenders of the cover-up.
Rev. Bevel was so horrified by what he witnessed during the short mission of the Fact-Finding Commission, that he moved to Nebraska for a period of months, to work with citizens resisting pedophilia and the cover-up of it. He was the target of death threats and physical attack in Omaha.
At first I thought that Rev. Bevel must be crazy, or a radical trouble-maker. Why would a middle-aged man with a family to support take off and move to Nebraska in the middle of winter, to take up a cause that could guarantee him nothing but grief, and might get him killed?
But as I watched him work and saw his dedication, I learned more about faith, hope, charity and truth from this one dedicated individual, than from all the priests, pastors and rabbis I have known. Rev. Bevel cared about one thing -- children. Children were being abused and were going to be abused, unless something was done. The more Bevel worked, the more he was condemned by the World-Herald for his efforts in the black community, particularly, to expose the sins.
Rev. Bevel and others found there was a tremendous unspoken support among the people of Nebraska, for the victims of the child abuse ring. Radio call-in polls showed that Nebraskans, by margins of up to ten to one, do not agree with the way prosecutors have handled the Franklin case or believe that the witnesses are hoaxers.
During 1991, a newly-formed citizens' group called the Nebraska Leadership Conference mobilized a large number of people, hundreds of whom traveled to Lincoln for several large conferences. At two of the conferences, detailed background presentations on the exploitation of children and on the Franklin cover-up were made by knowledgeable people from many different institutions and organizations in Nebraska. At a third, out-of-state specialists on satanic cults were given the opportunity to educate Nebraskans on the scope of the problem. The conferences turned into mass meetings, which rallied support for the victim-witnesses.
In September 1991, the Nebraska Leadership Conference issued a pamphlet called "The Mystery of the Carefully Crafted Hoax," which documented many of the inconsistencies in the Douglas County grand jury's and other official versions of the Franklin case.
After Alisha Owen's conviction, Frances Mendenhall's Nebraska Observer devoted its July 12, 1991 issue to a dissection of the flaws in Alisha's trial, and related matters. One article was, "Owen Trial Was a Far Cry from Justice," in which Mendenhall reviewed such key issues as the contradictory behavior of Troy Boner and the lack of any demonstrated basis for the central claim of the prosecution, that Alisha Owen was motivated by a desire for publicity. Other headlines included, "Evidence the Owen Jury Didn't Get to See," "Common Mis-Conceptions About the Owen Trial," "Caradori Widow Questions Fairness of '48 Hours'," and "Bonacci Recalls Early Trauma," which drew out the implications of dropping the charges against Paul.
Thousands of copies of that Observer issue have circulated in Nebraska.
Many demonstrations of support for Paul Bonacci and Alisha Owen were held in Lincoln and Omaha, outside the facilities where they have been imprisoned. A group called the Children's Civil Rights Committee was active in these, and also began holding weekly prayer meetings in Omaha, in December 1990. The Children's Civil Rights Committee has been instrumental in efforts to reinstate the Legislature's investigation into the Franklin case.
Another group that played a key role in 1990 and 1991 efforts to crack the Franklin cover-up, by lobbying and literature distribution, was the Commonwealth Depositors Committee, led by Reuben Worster and Dr. Melvin Bahensky. A respected veterinarian, now in his eighties, "Doc" Bahensky is legendary for his spirit and tenacity in fighting to expose the wrongs in the Commonwealth and Franklin cases. He always maintains, that they are one and the same.
In October 1991, the Nebraska State Parole Board voted 5-0 to parole Paul Bonacci, who has been serving a five-year sentence since 1989. On Halloween, soon after a scathing World-Herald editorial against the decision, the board reversed itself. As Bonacci' s attorney, I responded with the following press release:
From beginning to present, Franklin has been a cauldron of cover-up skillfully executed by powerful and wealthy thieves and pedophiles. Punishment, destruction and even elimination of those who would expose or try to correct the evil wrought by these individuals is the reward of child victim-witnesses and any who would aid those children.
The perpetrators have corrupted institutions of government. Abetted and at times absolutely led by the Omaha World-Herald they have systematically turned lies into truth and truth into lies. A "free" Paul Bonacci would continue to provide information which helps expose individuals and offenses involved in this cover-up. So, one way or another, they intend to eliminate Paul Bonacci -- no matter what it takes. That is my very real fear.
Therefore the World-Herald intimidated an already frightened and beleaguered parole board into effectively reversing their original proper decision to allow this youth out of prison. If there is a God above, the Franklin cover-up will fail and the evil and individuals involved will be exposed. Meanwhile, the visible payoff to the Parole Board will be a glowing editorial in the Omaha World Herald.
Right on schedule, the World-Herald came out on November 3, 1991, with an editorial, "Vote on Bonacci Was Sensible." Flaunting its clout more blatantly than ever, the paper took credit for the reversal, attributing it to lobbying by "the press and others."
I have often said that I wish I had never heard of the Franklin Credit Union, Larry King, or Paul Bonacci. I sincerely mean this. Why? Simply because I believe Paul Bonacci is telling the truth, and that our institutions of government have been as badly corrupted as that implies.
If I still had the luxury of believing, as I once did, that the allegations of drug abuse, child abuse, pedophilia, theft and satanic cult activity were exaggerated imaginings of some over-active child and adult imaginations, then I would not have to do anything about Franklin. I could still be enjoying an income of $400,000 per year as a lobbyist, without having to work too hard, instead of being financially strangled as clients are intimidated away from hiring me, because of the Franklin connection.
But I do know that it's true, and because of my upbringing, I have no choice but to plow ahead.
Were there any reasons for me or others to be "afraid or concerned" about our lives? You make your own judgment, after I tell you about just one documented incident.
At the height of the legislative Franklin investigation, when the Douglas County grand jury was also going full bore, I received a phone call in the middle of the night, from a close friend of mine in Omaha, who wanted to warn me that my life might be in danger. It was approximately a week after Gary Caradori died.
"Why do you believe this?" I asked. "Are you sure you are not falling into a trap, overreacting to rumors?"
"I don't know," answered Mary Kay Evans, a former campaign chairman of mine. "As you know, I am close to one of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents members, Dr. Robert Prokop. He called me and said he did not particularly like you or really ever get to know you, but that he felt he had an obligation, morally, to warn you."
I knew of Dr. Prokop. Everybody in Nebraska did.
Prokop had been chairman of the Board of Regents for many years. He had been a Democratic candidate for Governor of Nebraska just recently. And he was somewhat famous as a police pathologist, not only in Nebraska, but for many cities in the United States.
"What did Prokop say," I asked, "that has you so concerned?"
"He simply told me he was with the police, riding around talking to individuals on the street -- which he does once a month, he said -- and he learned that you were supposed to be the target of an assassination, because of your Franklin involvement and trying to force the investigation there. And he said that if I cared about you, that I should call you so that at least his conscience would be clear."
The next day, I called Dr. Robert Prokop. I told him who I was and what Mary Kay had said. I asked him if Mary Kay was imagining things, or maybe just getting carried away a bit, because of all the concern and fear that Franklin was generating.
Prokop was stern and nervous. "We really don't know each other," he said, "but I feel I have a moral obligation to tell you that when I was with the police last night, one of the very reliable informants we talked to advised us that you, John DeCamp, were supposed to be the 'first hit,' instead of Gary Caradori. In other words, Mr. DeCamp, you were supposed to be eliminated first and then Gary Caradori if that was necessary. Now that Caradori has been killed, I was concerned that maybe they will go ahead with the next hit, which means you."
"Are you serious?" I asked. "Do you really think there is even a remote possibility that could happen?"
"I have no doubt it could happen," Prokop said. "I have been doing police work and autopsies for almost as long as you have been around. And I think I know the difference between conversation and serious talk. That's why I felt I had to warn you, even if it is not my area of responsibility."
After warning me by phone, Prokop took it upon himself to make three separate trips to Lincoln from Omaha, to meet with the legislative Franklin committee and try to warn them of the seriousness of this threat.
So, am I crazy to be concerned? Is Prokop crazy? Maybe so. But there have been too many surprises for people closely involved in Franklin, who ended up dead.
I was prepared to take Bill Colby's warning seriously, when he sat me down and warned me that Franklin would never be dealt with without exposure in the national and international press.
What is Franklin really all about?
Was it theft by a black politician of forty million dollars? Is it child abuse?
Is it just a big "homosexual party," as Mr. Fenner from the NCUA suggested to me?
Is it laundering money for Iran-Contra?
Were there murders to protect rich and powerful people?
Were there politicians involved in the sins and the cover-up?
Does it involve satanic cult activity and pedophilia, and exploitation of children in horrible ways?
Why does the World-Herald care so much, and why has it gone overboard to damage and discredit anyone who would maintain that Franklin is more than a hoax?
Why do people continue to believe, that there was and is a cover-up, by prominent wealthy businessmen and politicians?
What I am going to offer now are my conclusions, my beliefs, based on the massive information I have seen and heard since Franklin broke in November 1988.
First, I have absolutely no doubt, that prominent individuals, whom everybody in Omaha is familiar with, and many of whom have been named during the investigation, have engaged in long-term activity involving drug peddling and drug abuse, child abuse, and pedophilia, with particular attention to the abuse of young boys.
That in the case of Larry King and the cadre of people he dealt with closely, boys and girls like Paul Bonacci, Troy Boner, Danny King, and Alisha Owen were used as drug couriers for a national program of illegal narcotics marketing. They were "throwaway" kids. Because they were teenagers and younger when they were doing this activity, they provided a perfect insulation blanket between the real drug czars, like Larry King or Alan Baer, and the law.
Larry King was able to read people and compromise people through their weaknesses. And Larry King knew whom to cater to and to compromise. Compromise the heads of institutions. Cater to the secret sins of a law enforcer, so that when you need protection, that official is not in a position to do anything but sit and watch your illegal activities. Cater to the weakness for drugs, or 13-year-old girls, or 9-year-old boys, and then blackmail as required.
Yes, based on what I have seen, much of which I am legally forbidden to reveal, I have no doubt that child abuse, pedophilia, illegal drug trafficking, murder, satanic cult activity, theft, and a host of other crimes were involved in what we have come to know as the Franklin scandal.
Just as surely do I believe, that there was and is a cover-up.
Just as surely do I fear, that nothing will be done about it.
So, let me conclude my saying simply this: Bill Colby, you were right. It is too big. I am too small. They are too rich and powerful, and go up too high in business and government, for me to touch them or do anything about it. Yes, it is something that I should have abandoned long ago and faced up to the fact that good does not always triumph and that evil, with its many faces, does sometimes succeed.
At least for a while.
If this book is read and acted on by others, I hope it will be more than just what Colby called my "private parade."