When the trash collector talked to the old man sitting in a bluish Jaguar outside of a burning house in Avinger, Texas, in the early morning hours of July 8, the old man said he knew the house was on fire but he "was more worried about the bullets that may start flying."
After driving away from the growing conflagration and nonchalant response from the fire's casual viewer parked in the driveway, the trash collector dialed 911.
Shortly after 2 a.m., the Mims volunteer fire department, which services the small town that borders Lake O' the Pines in Marion County, arrived.
Now, however, the old man sitting in the bluish Jaguar was dead, covered in blood, one gunshot wound fresh to the head.
After firemen extinguished the flames engulfing the small brick house at the entrance to an RV community on Farm Road 729, the Marion County Sheriff's Department discovered a body inside sometime around 5 a.m. They found a second body in the torched structure four hours later.
The old man was Paul Dome, 73. The first body recovered was that of Vivian Dome, 85, his wife of 20 years. The second body recovered was that of Willard Landry, 61, Vivian's son.
"What we are thinking right now is the male subject in the vehicle, who apparently committed suicide, was the husband of one of the victims inside the house and the stepfather of the other victim," Sheriff David McKnight told local news outlets early the next day. It wouldn't be long before investigators determined Vivian Dome and Landry had been deceased before the fire was set.
It was shocking local news not only because murder-suicides don't exactly happen in the rural, tight-knit town, but because the Domes were universally beloved. Acquaintances and friends chatted up local media with the usual refrains.
"I was shocked," neighbor Vernon Browder told local TV station KSLA. "I thought the world of them."
"Nothing like this has ever happened out here," Diane Knabenshut, a cashier at One Eye Jack's liquor store, which adjoins the property, told the News-Journal. "It has always been a peaceful place and they were very loving people."
That local shock, that jolt to the usual day-in and day-out routine of lake life brought on by interrupting news cameras and violence, blossomed when federal agents were seen combing the property and boxing up evidence. And as they tend to do in small, isolated towns, rumors spread quickly. This, they said, had to be about something more than Paul and Vivian Dome, the helpful couple who owned and operated the RV community.
They were right.
The man's real name was not Paul Dome. And this was not the first time he killed anyone, though these would be unlike any murders he had committed before.
Born to an unwed, deaf, mute woman named Verline Williams in Shreveport, La., in 1940, Clarence Addie Crouch was yanked into the orphanage system and placed in Boys Town and other homes for the first decade of his life. Williams eventually married in an attempt to reclaim custody of her son, but back at home, Crouch was rowdier than most and constantly in trouble with the law. He ran away at 14, only occasionally dropping back into Louisiana to see his mother over the years.
By 18, he claimed to have assaulted and almost killed a boy whom he had found with a girl Crouch had taken to a school dance. Between 1959 and 1960, Crouch was arrested for theft, burglary and assault to kill and handed five years in the Texas state penitentiary in Huntsville.
It was there in his cell with his pal "Bobby Dean" that Crouch first fell in love with the idea of riding motorcycles. He'd never owned a bike before, but he would tell friends years later that he and Bobby would hear a motorcycle ride past their window every night, and idle talk and curiosity turned to romanticized dreams of open roads and brotherhood and starting a club. Crouch left prison first, and when Bobby's release finally came, the two bought motorcycles and helped form a Texas chapter of the still young Grim Reapers MC. Crouch patched over as one of the early members of the notorious Bandidos—"one of the First seven," he would write to an acquaintance last year —which were born in 1966 in Texas.
"But since I like to travel on my Hog, I went to Shreveport, Little Rock, San Antonio, Lake Charles, Galveston and a couple of other towns, sought others like us and convinced them to start chapters," Crouch wrote in that recent note. "While Don [Chambers, founder of the Bandidos] stayed in Houston and put a patch on anyone who could come pay him dues each week, me along with about 30 others quit and sent word to Oakland and Sonny [Barger] to come check us out for a chapter."
Sonny Barger was the founder of the Oakland chapter of the Hells Angels and club president for many years.
Crouch eventually made his way to Oakland after meeting other Hells Angels at a national ride. "Walked into Sonny's house and he blew my mind," Crouch wrote, "because he had a big filing cabinet, pulled out a file and called my real name and mother's address."
Barger needed some help out east. He wanted to reform the Cleveland chapter of the HAMC and Clarence "Butch" Crouch was dispatched to Ohio. He was 28 years old.
The ATF's internal summary of the Cleveland Hells Angels history notes that the charter was obtained on Dec. 16, 1967, and consisted of members from two local motorcycle clubs—the Gooses, formed by Tim Adams in 1960, and the Animals.
Adams along with Robert Lemmons, Eugene Padavick, Tom Padavick, George Rothrock, Nelson Blackburn, Ken Vesey and others formed the original lineup.
Less than three months into existence, the Cleveland Hells Angels landed on the front page of the papers and in the crosshairs of the police. On Feb. 28, 1968, Roosevelt Brown and James Tillet were shot to death at Barto's Café, a regular biker hangout, on the east side. The Hells Angels had been out that night in pursuit of members of the God's Children, a rival gang. They gathered at Barto's, eventually bullying a black piano player named Robert Williams until a barmaid put a stop to the ruckus. And while the bikers behaved for a little bit, they soon descended on Brown, another black man, and broke beer bottles over his head. Tillet, who was white and an innocent bystander, tried to intervene on Brown's behalf. Both would end up dead.
Mayor Carl Stokes held a meeting the next day, joined by Cleveland police Chief Michael Blackwell and others. The double homicide had stoked fears of unchecked violence from the Hells Angels and other clubs. "We're not going to let any terrorist gangs take over," the mayor said. "We will not let these hoodlums be the cause of plunging our city into a blood bath."
The Hells Angels and their girlfriends present that night fled around the country, from New York to California. An intensive weeks-long search ensued and the bikers were rounded up, arrested, and shipped back to Cleveland. The lengthy trials and tabloid-esque reporting captured the city's attention and drew nationwide attention as convictions mounted. With all eyes on the club and many of the members in prison, the charter was frozen by Sonny Barger.
On Oct. 29, 1968, less than a year later, the Cleveland charter was unfrozen with enough new blood coming in from California and members out of prison to restart operations.
The following decade was among the bloodiest in Cleveland history. Danny Green and the Irish, the mob, the unions and the motorcycle gangs unleashed bombings and murders across the cityscape. The Hells Angels, of which Clarence Crouch was now vice president, became something other than team of young riders with a penchant for violence.
Murder, pimping, theft, witness intimidation, drugs, bribery, burglary and rape became commonplace as the Cleveland HA feuded with rival gangs, did business against and for other criminal organizations, bought off police officers and politicians and established themselves as one of the premiere chapters across the country. They were the "Dirty 30," proud to call Cleveland the best location in the nation... for Hells Angels.
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