Wednesday, November 21, 2007

don larose

CENTERTON - The story of Don LaRose reads like a script for an old made-for-television movie - Satanism, brainwashing, kidnapping and assumed identity.

The stories of Don LaRose have little validation - but reveal a man who was eager to share his story with others.

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Double life: Centerton mayor is pastor who disappeared in 1980
A life in his own words
For Ken Williams - who has been mayor of Centerton since 2001 and has been a radio personality in the county since the early 1980 s - the story of Don LaRose has been a deep, well-kept secret.

So well-kept, it turns out, that on Tuesday night, when asked his age, Williams said "69. "Asked if that is the age of Don LaRose or Ken Williams, he replied," That's Ken's."

Bruce Kent Williams - yes, Kent with a "T" - was born July 26, 1938.

Don LaRose was born March 11, 1940.

The similarities between the two men are striking - from a resume history of radio personality, ministry and parallel trips to Israel to facial features and a comb-over hairstyle.

There's a reason for the similarities: Ken Williams is the name Don LaRose assumed when he began a new life before coming to northwest Arkansas in the early 1980 s.

On Monday evening, Williams denied he was LaRose. For more than 24 hours after being contacted by The Daily Record, he maintained the denials.

That changed Tuesday night.

Indeed, he said as he sat in his Centerton home with two Daily Record reporters and a photographer: He is LaRose. Discovery

The connection between Williams and LaRose was made when a LaRose family member's Internet search turned up a Web site - Earlier this year, the Web site's domain name was registered. The site claims to share a story "filled with excitement, tension, murder, intimidation and much more."

LaRose's nephew, Ed Miller of Holland, Mich., told The Daily Record that a family member conducted a "whois"search to determine the site's ownership.

That's when they discovered the site was registered to Ken Williams in Centerton, Ark.

Two family members called The Daily Record on Monday afternoon to talk about their discovery.

On Monday evening - when Daily Record reporters asked him about it - Williams denied a connection to LaRose, even though the site bears a striking resemblance to Williams' own site,

On Tuesday morning, Williams continued to deny the connections during an interview with two Daily Record reporters. Williams even kept asking the reporters to repeat LaRose's name. "What was his name again ? "Williams asked.

Williams then looked at the Don LaRose Web site, stroking his beard as he pointed out what he thought were the most interesting parts of LaRose's story.

As the news about Williams' past came to light Tuesday night, some people who knew him expressed surprise.

"I'm shocked," Rogers Mayor Steve Womack said after viewing an old photo of LaRose. "I've known Ken - who I thought was Ken - for well over 20 years. He is the last person I would consider living a double life."

Womack said that if the claims about Williams are true, then there are obviously going to be some serious questions about the violation of public trust.

Womack said the greater issue is one of deception and whether any laws were broken.

"It's so bizarre that it's madefor-TV material," Womack said. "It won't surprise me if we have television producers all over northwest Arkansas. It's the type of thing Hollywood drools over.

"It's absolutely incredible," Womack said. "There are no words to describe how bizarre this is."

Kermit Womack, the owner of radio station KURM in Rogers and Steve Womack's father, was shocked about the revelations concerning Williams.

"This is incredible," Kermit Womack said. "Ken Williams worked for me 16, 17 or 18 years. He one of the most professional employees I ever had, and I find this incredible. "1975 headlines

In November 1975, LaRose's story made headlines around Maine, N. Y., when the then 34-year-old pastor disappeared from the First Baptist Church.

The circumstances were deemed mysterious, according to a Feb. 13, 1976, story in the magazine Christianity Today. Church members suggested the disappearance was an abduction by Satan worshippers.

According to early news reports, LaRose claimed to have been teaching a course on Satan when he received threatening letters from Satanists who accused him of blasphemy.

But when LaRose was found more than three months later, his claims of abduction and brainwashing were deemed unfounded. An extensive investigation by detectives revealed that LaRose had caused his own disappearance, according to the story in Christianity Today.

Church members, who rallied and prayed for his return, dropped the search, and the church board terminated its relationship with LaRose.

The Christianity Today article led to LaRose's discovery - when someone who'd read the article recognized him in Minneapolis. When confronted, LaRose claimed to be Bruce Kent Williams.

He claimed to be the son of a Dr. and Mrs. Kent Williams of Middleport, N. Y., according to an undated story in the Teapot Hollow Journal. On Tuesday, Middleport police verified the report.

Bruce Kent Williams is the name of a 19-year-old man who died in a car accident in Norwich, N. Y., in 1958.

The story in the Teapot Hollow Journal reported that when he was found, LaRose explained that he had been kidnapped, forced into the back of a van and brainwashed with an electric machine attached to his forehead that made him forget his life as a minister and believe he was Bruce Kent Williams.

According to the Teapot Hollow Journal, LaRose told a reporter he only learned who he was after treatment with the truth-serum sodium amytal.

In 1977, LaRose, his wife and family then headed to Hammond, Ind. He became pastor of the Hessville Baptist Church in 1978 after the former pastor died. LaRose appeared eager to share his story, speaking publicly about his alleged kidnapping experience and his life as Bruce Kent Williams. Missing again

On June 10, 1980, LaRose went missing again. That day, he told his wife, Eunice, that he was going next door to the church to visit someone, according to the missing persons report filed with the Hammond Police Department.

When LaRose went missing, church members believed he had been kidnapped by the same satanic cult who he claimed had kidnapped him in 1975.

Lee Roy Floyd was a member of the Hammond Baptist Church's Deacon Board for 45 years and knew LaRose. A reporter with the Times of Northwest Indiana newspaper interviewed Floyd on Tuesday.

"The night before he disappeared, he was speaking to a group in the church, and in the middle of his sermon he stopped talking and looked at the back of the room," Floyd said. "No one else who turned around saw anything, but LaRose later claimed he had seen one of the Satanists through a window outside.

"And the next day he left. He was gone," Floyd said.

In fact, the pastor loaded up a backpack and headed to Wyoming, Williams told The Daily Record on Tuesday night. He abandoned his life, his wife and his two daughters. Seven years later, she had him declared dead, according to Ed Miller, LaRose's nephew.

Miller said LaRose was featured on an episode of HBO Undercover in 1984 and was interviewed in a follow-up story on the television program. But no records of LaRose's existence showed up until February, when surfaced on the Internet.

The Web site explained that LaRose moved to Israel in 1996 - the same year Ken Williams headed to Israel for a 10-day trip that changed his life, according to the Ken Williams Ministries Web site.

Pat came into Williams' life, and they married in 1986.

Miller, as well as another family member in Indiana who refused to be named as part of the story, have been searching for LaRose since his 1980 disappearance. Catching up with the past

"Oh my goodness. Oh my word," Floyd said when told of the discovery. "Isn't it something. What puzzles me is, why hasn't he contacted his dad and children, and now grandchildren ?"

Floyd said LaRose's former wife still lives in Hammond and remarried seven years after the disappearance. When his ex-wife recently found out that he could still be alive, the shock of the news "threw her for a loop."

Floyd said LaRose has two daughters and that his disappearance has deeply affected them.

"Boy, he knew the Word. He was good," Floyd said. "He was a good pastor. "Painful truth

Tuesday night, after admitting his true identity, the pain of living a second life was evident.

"I think my dad's still alive, but he's 96, if he is," Williams said Tuesday night, surrounded by photos of his second family.

His dad lives in New York, near Binghamton. Williams said he had searched online for his family.

"I'd love to see my daughters. I don't know what their reaction would be.

"If they believe everything they read in the newspapers, they probably think their dad is a pretty bad guy." The service at Hessville Baptist Church back in 1980 was disturbing to say the least. Pastor Don Larose seemed frightened by someone in the church, and the next day, he disappeared, leaving behind a wife and two children. Friends told police he might have been kidnapped by a satanic cult he feared from his past.

Eventually, the church found a new pastor, and over the years, the pastor's wife found a new husband. Everything was back to normal here at the church -- that is, until this week.

The case of the missing minister took a very strange twist in the town of Centerton, Ark. It turns Larose is living a life as Mayor Ken Williams.

On Wednesday, Larose apologized and resigned.
Honey Dew Donuts shop owner Faraq Mohamed greeted a customer a little after 3 p.m. yesterday by asking: "Coffee or the wedding?"

The customer wanted coffee. Mohamed knew how he took it, and prepared it as the customer read a sign on the counter: "Congratulation. Today we celebrate the union of Joe and Cyndi."

In the tiny dining area, the groom sipped a cranberry juice and the bride visited nervously with friends and fellow customers. The balloons were up, the flowers arranged, the food ready. Everyone was waiting for Joseph B. White, 40, a former North Kingstown probate judge who was to perform the ceremony.

"I had the privilege of knowing Joe and Cyndi before they met," Mohamed said. "I watched as they fell in love."

Cyndi LaRose, 49, a caregiver for Coventry Home Care, has been coming to the coffee shop at 8230 Post Rd. since before Mohamed bought it three years ago.

Joseph David Smith, 58, a Vietnam veteran who works at Kingstown Mobile Home Park, came often when his niece worked behind the counter.

"I saw this good-looking guy standing up there," LaRose said. "He was a country-looking guy, the type I look for, the Grizzly Adams type," she said.

They fell in love while helping Mohamed with an errand on Veterans Day, just two Sundays ago. Two days later, Smith asked her to marry him. She said yes.

He'll never forget the date, because it was his birthday.

LaRose always wanted a small wedding with a justice of the peace, she said Tuesday night.

"I always wanted a puppy," Smith said.

LaRose wanted it to be casual. "I don't even own a dress," she said.

"You couldn't get me in a tie," he said.

"I'm really looking forward to it," she said.

"I'm as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs," he said.

They called White on Friday. He told them it was "too cold to go down to the beach, and everybody was coming here anyways," so they took Mohamed up on his offer.

They picked out rings Friday. On Monday they got their license.

Mohamed topped the triple-tiered cake with miniature Honey Dew coffee cups. He asked the shop's baker, Marjorie Harrison, to prepare the food. There was going to be a DJ and dancing, but the DJ couldn't make it. "They give me short notice," explained Mohamed, who is from Egypt.

His wife, Mona Mohamed, who worked the counter yesterday morning, invited Gene and Cheryl Giroux, who know Cyndi "from saying hi," to come back at 3 for the wedding. "We went home and cleaned up," they said while waiting for the ceremony to begin. They have been married 30 years.

Rob and Maureen Motherway, married seven years, come twice a day to the shop. Their role in the ceremony was to present the roses. Ray and Sandy Porcelli, friends of the groom, were ring bearers. They've been married 31 years.

Jack Cipriano came in his jogging pants, and Pat Manning, one of Cyndi's clients, came with Bill Ruggiero.

White arrived from Providence, where he works as a lawyer, and put on his judicial robe. He briefed the couple about what he would ask them to do, and then the moment arrived.

The groom stood up. "Time to take the lamb to the slaughter," he said.

In the more than 200 weddings that White has performed, he has developed ways to help the couple remember their ceremony. "A lot of times it's a big blur."

White told Cyndi to take Joe's hands, palms up, in hers, "so you may see the gift they are to you."

"These are the hands that provide strength and stability, that lift your chin and stroke your hair," he said. When Joe took Cyndi's hands, White described them as "the hands of your best friend, smooth and carefree on your wedding day."

Then came the exchange of vows and rings.

Joe's eyes crinkled at the corners, but his look was earnest. The tips of Cyndi's earrings trembled as she spoke her vows.

Then they exchanged roses.

"A few moments ago you were each holding one small rose, and now you are again holding one rose," White said. This first gift, he said, "is a symbol of true and abiding love."

"Remember to focus on what's right between you, not the part that appears to be wrong."

They plan to spend Thanksgiving at an unnamed casino in Connecticut. EAST LANSING, Mich. ?JupiterResearch, an Internet research firm, projects that online holiday retail sales will surpass $39 billion in 2007, with the number of Web users who plan to buy online increasing by more than 6 percent compared with last year� number.

While it's safe to do so, Michigan State University professors Bob LaRose and Nora Rifon, who study consumer privacy and online safety for e-commerce and social effects of the Internet, offer these tips for holiday shoppers going online to buy gifts.

�irst, don't be afraid to use your credit card online,?said LaRose, a professor in the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media. �he real danger comes from the bad guys hacking into the proprietor's Web site after the transaction has taken place. But that is also a problem in the offline world.?BR>

Try not to use your debit card online. Credit card companies have policies limiting your liability for purchases made by someone who steals your card or number. That makes credit cards a safer online payment choice than some other methods. Check your credit card� policy. If your debit card number is stolen, your account can be wiped out.
Check for a secure connection for your transaction. Before entering your credit card information, make sure that you are on a secure Web page. The two indicators of this are the URL has an �?in its address ?https: ?and a lock icon appears at the lower right of the screen in the browser frame. If either of these is missing, do not enter your credit card number and leave the Web site. The Cybertrust seal is a new program that also verifies that a Web site has a secure connection. Make sure to click on the seal to verify it is real.
In addition:

Set up a disposable e-mail account (like Yahoo or Hotmail) that you use only for shopping. Give that out when registering on e-commerce sites to prevent spam in your main e-mail account.
Use the disposable e-mail account when registering at a site. Provide only the information that is required. Never supply your Social Security number. Scroll to the bottom of the registration page and make sure to opt out of receiving e-mail for product updates or any other purpose. If you opt in, which is sometimes the default setting; you're setting yourself up for a deluge of spam especially if the site allows sharing with third parties.
Set up a PayPal account if you will be shopping at many sites so you won't have to give your credit card number to more than one location.
Look for reputable sites. Begin the search with reputable store front sites like, or if you're looking for electronic products ?CNET ?which maintains ratings of individual vendors.
Don� be a victim of phishing, or e-mail scams or fake Web sites. If you are shopping online, use an Internet browser that has a phish filter, and make sure the filter is turned on. Identity thieves set up Web sites pretending to be reputable sites to phish for information. A phish filter will alert you if you are trying to link to a known phishing site.
After the sale, you may receive e-mail that appears to be from the site that you have made a purchase from. But this could be part of a phishing scam to obtain your credit card or Social Security number. So, verify the URL in the message before you click on it, or call an 800 number from the site that you originally visited to verify the legitimacy of the message.
To avoid being tracked or spammed:

Check the privacy settings in the Internet options of your browser. In Internet Explorer, set privacy to �igh?to prevent third-party cookies from piling up on your computer. Or if you want to accept cookies to shop, dump them immediately after your session.
Read privacy policies. Click on the privacy policy and read it carefully, and if you don� want spam, avoid sites that mention that they will reserve the right to share or sell your data to third parties.
Click on a privacy seal, such as TRUSTe or BBBOnline. You should click on the seal to verify that it leads back to the seal authority and is not a phony graphic. But remember that privacy seals don� offer the promise of no data collection and sharing. They verify that the privacy policy is considered fair by the Federal Trade Commission and that the Web site will abide by its policy. Read the privacy policy to find out what the Web site will actually do with your personal information.

To prevent computer infections and avoid malware:

Examine your security settings, and disable �ctiveX?since this is a popular route for introducing malware to your computer. Malware is software that is developed with the intention to damage a computer system.
Update your protections: Don� forget to check if your virus protections are

It was a difficult day for the former mayor, but facing his former family might be even tougher.


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