A path from destruction to redemption and back, and a family's trouble with witness protection

The Last Ride of a Cleveland Hells Angel Informant 

A path from destruction to redemption and back, and a family's trouble with witness protection

Page 5 of 5

They continued to stay in touch for the next 7 years. "He was still paranoid about the Hells Angels," she says. "With them, it's not a five-year statute of limitations. It's a lifelong thing. He never did turn in his colors."

Taylor had no idea that her father had been enduring the same struggles with Witsec and obtaining records that she had. And she had no idea he had mentioned her in his letter. If she knew, they would have been even closer, she says: "I'm getting to know my father in death, which sucks."

On March 25, 2013, Crouch sent a letter to the Feds. "To The Administrators," it begins.

"This is an appeal under Federal Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C 552. I am making a FOI Act request for Papers, Medical Records, Newspaper Articles, Files, Birth Certificates and any other Documents seized by the Witness Protection Program, Marshal Service, In I and my Family Members behalf, ie 'Security,' dating from 1981 to 1993.

"I'm dealing with the Social Security in an attempt to get my Disability," it continues. "Without Medical Records of my past, they have denied my disability, leaving me to appeal this decision. Also enclosed is a copy of an article my child was forced to do in the Billings MT newspaper, since the Marshal's Witsex Program had refused to help them over the years. I request that these stated problems be resolved and/or my children be afforded the help they seek."

While Crouch confided some of his failing health to his daughter—"He had arthritis and neuropathy," she says. "He had arthritis his whole life. His toes were curled by the time he was 30. He was in an unbelievable amount of pain by the end."—he didn't burden her with the full weight of his life. Taylor says he rarely could afford pain pills, but would make tables and other furniture—he was an accomplished woodworker—for neighbors and friends. $50 here, $60 there, eventually cobbling together enough cash to go to the doctor.

But he wasn't receiving Medicare, something he had been pestering the government for for three years, and his family's health was even worse than his.

Vivian was losing her eyesight, according to Taylor, and had tumors up and down her spine. Willard Landry, her son who had come to live with the couple, had terminal brain cancer. By the end, Landry was down to 100 pounds and was unable to make it to the bathroom on his own.

Crouch shared some of this with his acquaintance in a May 2013 email.

"Health? Like I said, been in bed a lot lately. Getting old and all these damn bullet holes and stab wounds," he wrote. "Then on top of all that, my stepson is 66 and is laying up on a hospital bed in my front room dying. Hospice comes two or three times a week, but those assholes don't do anything but write in clipboards and leave all the bathing to my wife and I. Last year he was strong and sharp as they come, but now it's like taking care of a stepped-on tomato. Bless his heart and hers. TV, we watch a lot of it these days. I'm 73 now. I've been fighting with SS for three years to get some kind of Medicare. Well, it's 1:30 a.m. and I gotta take him to Walmart in the morning. What a trip that's gonna be! Last time, and why she won't go tomorrow, she found him eating grapes with both hands."

That was the last correspondence the person received from Crouch.

***

Crouch wasn't right the last few weeks of his life, at least not right in the sense that neighbors had known him. 

He'd been sitting in his car most days, unable to walk. Then he'd retreat inside, refusing to answer the door. Neighbors said his dogs, normally tucked away safely indoors at night, were roaming the streets. Really, he hadn't seemed normal since Father's Day.

He'd take his three-wheeler into the woods and putter about sometimes. A few days before the incident, he drove it to One Eye Jack's, just on the other side of the fence that buttressed his yard, and sat out front, calling Sabrina Greer to bring him out two packs of cigarettes. He couldn't make the short walk. He handed her a $20 and told her to keep the change. He never did that.

Investigators think Vivian Dome and Willard Landry had been dead a couple of days before the fire. She was shot once in the chest. He was shot once in the chest and once in the head.

Crouch had taken all his money out of his checking account and put it in his pocket—the sum total of his life at that point just somewhere north of $100.

Taylor says flame retardant was found in the grass on the property and along the fence. He was concerned it would spread to the liquor store. He watched. He waited. Only a precise, calculated move, at least until the trash collector showed up. No collateral damage, not this time. Then Clarence Crouch, or Paul Vern, or Paul Dome, fired a bullet from an off-brand, foreign .765-caliber into his head.

Jackee Taylor was on the last day of a vacation with her children at Disney World when she got the call from her aunt around 11 p.m. Her aunt wouldn't be up this late normally. Something was wrong. 

"I was very angry at first," she says. "I went down to make sure he had a proper burial and the sheriff was there telling me he couldn't believe what happened with my father, that he was a great guy, that the town was torn up. This has to be stressed: This wasn't a cold-blooded killing, I don't think. I never said it was a mercy killing. If he did in fact do this, it was more, 'We're not getting help and we're not getting better, so we might as well go out together.'

"This is bullshit, though. It didn't have to end this way," says Taylor. "This could have been avoided if Witness Protection did what they were supposed to do. He was a monster, I won't deny that. But he sure as hell wasn't the last 20 years. He was trying, and he was trying very hard. You can't put a man like my father in Witsec and dump him. He has a past. He has the potential to do what he did."

Taylor is planning a small ceremony for her father, perhaps in January sometime close to his birthday. 

Crouch's obituary ran all of three sentences: "Mr. Paul Allen Dome, 73, of Avinger (Lake O' the Pines), Texas passed away, July 8, 2013 in Avinger. Cremation arrangements were by Haggard Funeral Home. No services were held."

More by Vince Grzegorek

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