Down to two

Independent Record/March 28, 2004
By Allison Farrell

Editor's note: Carl's name has been changed. He would speak only if granted anonymity because he says he fears for his safety.

These days, "Carl'' spends a lot of time reading paperbacks in the public library of a gritty Montana town tucked up close to the Canadian border.

But it wasn't long ago the lanky 49-year-old spent his time reading "The White Man's Bible,'' "The Little White Book'' and other racist publications.

An incurable drifter, Carl bounced in and out of prisons across the Northwest until he found a home with the World Church of the Creator several years ago, a white supremacist group that, up until now, had a toehold in Montana.

But with the group's national leader, Matt Hale, sitting in a Chicago jail, the recent death of group member Fred Poloson of Plains, and the defection of both Dan Hassett of Missoula and Carl, the group has dwindled to two.

And it seems one of the remaining two men, Slim Deardorff of Superior, isn't holding up so well. The 73-year-old grandfather, who lives alone in a filthy trailer several miles up a dirt road outside town, says he has an "easier time falling down than standing up'' these days.

His weak hands shake with effort, and he has a hard time following a train of thought. He barely eats, but drinks gallons of homemade beer. He keeps track of time by writing the daily temperature on a yellowing calendar hanging on the wall.

"They're just a bunch of has-beens and wannabes,'' Carl said of church members in a recent interview. His name has been changed to protect his identity.

"One day I just asked, 'What am I doing?'" Carl said. "There was no integrity. There was no sense to it.''

So Carl, who was living on Deardorff's property in an old travel trailer without electricity or plumbing, hitched his home to the back of his truck and hauled out.

"I drove off and never came back,'' he said.

But before he left, Carl used his key to the group's storage shed in Superior and took all of their remaining publications, some $41,000 worth of books written by the group's founder, and sold them to the Montana Human Rights Network for $300. The network monitors the radical right and other hate groups.

Carl said he wanted to hamstring the group's fund-raising ability. The books, which sell for $10 apiece, were the group's major source of income.

Carl also turned over boxes and boxes of the church's internal documents and e-mails that were stored in the shed. Page after page details the group's strained alliances, infighting and petty bickering.

The documents record Deardorff's brief contact with both the National Alliance and the Ku Klux Klan, and they highlight Hale's ego. The vast majority of the documents, however, paint a picture of paranoia and organizational chaos.

Montana creators

Carl found his way into the World Church of the Creator two years before Montana "creators'' split from Hale, the group's "Pontifex Maximus.'' Hale, a legitimate-looking spokesman with a law degree, maintained the group's headquarters in his home state of Illinois.

Carl said newspaper articles announcing the group's annual rendezvous at Deardorff's place in 1999 enticed him to reconnect with members he met years ago while working at a cedar mill in southern Idaho.

"Some of the ideas did interest me,'' Carl said. "It answered questions I had.''

The movement, which believes that Jews control the government and that minorities are subhuman, explained a lot of Carl's angst. It explained why he, a self-described "poor, oppressed and picked on'' man, could never get ahead in the world.

Carl never graduated from high school and has a lengthy rap sheet that details years of drug convictions and property crimes. He was last arrested in Oregon in 1995 for possession of methamphetamine.

He's been married three times and had two daughters with a woman who later died of a heroin overdose. He said the seeds of his racist views were planted while growing up on his grandparents' wheat farm in an eastern Washington town of 300.

"Everyone always had the attitude that blacks are this or that and made fun of them,'' Carl said. "The Posse Comitatus used to ride in our (hometown) parade.'' (According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Sheriff's Posse Comitatus was an anti-government group that served as a precursor to the Montana Freeman and the Christian identity movement.)

"I just didn't want nothing to do with the blacks,'' Carl said. "I guess I thought they were ignorant.''

Carl fell deeper into the white supremacy movement when he moved onto Deardorff's property in 2002. He bided his time there while collecting disability pay for a work-related injury.

In his year and a half at Deardorff's, Carl chopped wood for the old man and did other odd jobs around the junk-strewn place. And while Deardorff wasn't doing any work around his propane-powered house, he was driving a wedge between the Montana creators and Hale.

The split

The Montana creators voted to impeach Hale in spring 2002, Hassett said in a recent phone interview. Hale, he said, was a "megalomaniac'' who was issuing death threats to members who challenged his authority. Hale harassed members and treated women horribly, he said.

"At the time we were impeaching him, he sent me a death threat and spread false rumors about me on the Internet,'' Hassett said.

As documented in the hundreds of e-mails Carl turned over, while Hale was being ousted by the Montana creators, Deardorff contacted the National Alliance and asked their leader to suggest a replacement. Hale discovered the treachery and kicked Deardorff out. Hale kept his own faction of creators in Illinois.

At the same time, Hale was fighting with Hassett over $8,700 and a vast store of books he handed over to Hassett for safekeeping.

In an e-mail, Hassett told Hale he turned the money into gold and silver bars and put them in Deardorff's cabin in Superior for safekeeping. But the cabin was destroyed by fire in 2002, and some of the bars were destroyed along with it, Hassett wrote to Hale.

Most of the money was recovered, Hassett recently said. But, he added, Hale had no claim to it since he had been impeached.

Hale was furious and spent the early months of 2002 sniping back and forth with Hassett via e-mail, demanding "absolute obedience and loyalty.'' Hale later kicked Hassett out of the group.

No one knows for sure what happened to the money, but Deardorff said Carl dug up and stole all the silver and gold buried on his land before he left. Carl denies the charge.

Mineral County Sheriff Anita Parkin said Deardorff filed charges against someone else in June 2003 for stealing "gold and silver bars and a pistol,'' but never filed any charges against Carl. Carl moved off Deardorff's property at the end of 2003.

"We was going to use the money to rebuild the church,'' Deardorff said, "We've been trying to rebuild.''

Following the Montana creators' split from Hale, they appointed Dane Hall of California to lead the handful of members left in their splinter group. The group has been losing ground ever since.

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