Patriot Leader Bo Gritz Shoots Himself Under Troubling Circumstances

Will the real Bo Gritz please stand up?

The Rudolph Factor
So it was with Rudolph.

It didn't matter that Rudolph, 32, had been discharged from the U.S. Army for using illegal drugs. It didn't matter that Gritz believed that Rudolph had the know-how to be a bomber and probably did carry out the Birmingham attack. As Gritz explains in his lavishly worded style, he was called by God.

"It was well into the night, the house was dark, my bride lay asleep, as I stood before the plate-glass window in our living room looking out into a sea of darkness and distant diamonds of light," he said. "My heart lovingly focused on communion with our Creator. 'Father, I would do thy will. Please help me.'"

Gritz had been to Rudolph's neck of the woods before. On as many as eight occasions, he held SPIKE training sessions there at the invitation of the late Identity leader Nord Davis Jr. Rudolph, a Southern Poverty Law Center investigation has found, was a Davis follower and a longtime believer in Identity theology.

Prior to her departure from Almost Heaven, Claudia tried to reason with her husband. "Honey, I wish you'd reconsider your options," Gritz remembers her saying.

But Gritz plunged ahead, leading 86 volunteers in a fruitless search through the dense brush and limestone caves of the Nantahala National Forest. What he wanted was to keep "a bunch of Nazis ... militarized police" from another Waco. What he and his Confederate-flag-capped followers got was a week of beestings, bruises and boredom.

On the day of his return, Claudia packed up her belongings, grabbed the keys to their motor home and left Almost Heaven. Three weeks later, she filed for divorce, citing "irreconcilable differences" in an Idaho County court document.

The Ark Takes on Water
High on a timbered bluff overlooking the Clearwater River in north central Idaho, Gritz discovered his own personal Shangri-La. Gritz says he found this spot, "the safest place in America," after studying weather, water supply, defensibility, nuclear strike probabilities, earthquake zones and other potential hazards.

Far from the cities he sees as potential riot centers, he established his "ark in a time of Noah."

Gritz didn't wait long to make a splash.

He ingratiated himself with locals in a 1994 Kamiah town meeting by calling the public school system a "cesspool." Various government officials, he pronounced, were "faggots."

"When most people move into a rural area, they know enough to keep a low profile," Larry Nims said. "Gritz came here and made a lot of noise. He told people that if they didn't like him, then get out of Dodge. And I'm thinking, 'Who's he to tell people around here to get out of Dodge?' He didn't even live in Dodge yet."

Almost Heaven was conceived as a place to weather the end-times, a community that Gritz and Gillespie would develop by selling lots to like-minded people willing to abide by certain rules. But after starting out strong, the venture quickly turned into something of a business disaster.

Aside from the problems with Gillespie, there have been others. The two men began by setting up what turned out to be an illegal common-law trust called Constitutional Properties of America (CPA) for buying and selling property. They offered lots under a "biblical" no-interest leasing program, after which buyers supposedly could buy out the lease and obtain title to their homes.

But new residents were chagrined to discover that they couldn't get title to their lots or title insurance because a common-law trust cannot acquire title to property in Idaho. A few of them have filed civil suits. One lot-buyer, Richard Sullivan of San Mateo, Calif., filed a consumer complaint with the Idaho attorney general's office.

"They created a mess for themselves," said Dennis Albers, a Gritz attorney who has created a new legal entity called Constitutional Properties of America Holdings, Ltd., in Nevada. "I'm trying to get Bo in a position of providing assurable titles."

In the meantime, disgruntled lessees like Sullivan were attacked for complaining publicly. "How dare you!" Gritz wrote Sullivan on June 21, 1997. "You have lied about me. You will stop and rectify these lies immediately or face consequences." Sullivan worked with a Realtor to sell his property. He never moved to Almost Heaven.

Several contractors also filed lawsuits against CPA, Gritz and Gillespie, alleging they failed to pay for road construction work, well-drilling and culvert placement. Kamiah excavation contractor Robert McKay, for instance, filed a claim for $22,781.

"I wouldn't work for that outfit again," McKay said.

'We Stand Ready'
Greg Heun is Gritz's new land salesman at Almost Heaven now that Gillespie is gone. Heun says about 80 percent of the lots have been sold at Almost Heaven I and II, and another Gritz development called Shenandoah. Fifty lots are occupied and 20 remain for sale, he says.

Jack McLamb — a former Phoenix police officer who is a longtime friend of Gritz's and a conspiracy-mongering Patriot leader — is developing an adjacent "constitutional community" that he calls Doves of the Valley.

Almost Heaven is not a gated community, a compound protected by armed guards like some others in the antigovernment movement. Former Quaker-owned wheat and hay farms have been cut up into smaller lots, many of them now occupied by cheap trailers. A few more well-to-do residents have built spacious log homes.

Heun is typical of many who have moved to Gritz's development. He says he brought his wife and three children to Almost Heaven in July 1995 to escape the rat race in Phoenix. He's been to eight of Gritz's paramilitary SPIKE training sessions.

"Bo Gritz's SPIKE," his black cap reads. "We Stand Ready."

"The thing I see are some real hard times coming for the future," Heun said. "If we have an economic depression and the armed gangs take over, the cities will be dangerous places to be. We won't get away from it up here, but we won't take a direct blow."

Gritz can sound militaristic when it suits his needs — but he's not ready to pull the trigger.

"I would love to form a patriot army of Constitutional Rangers and plan a war against the international banksters and power brokers," he wrote in a 1994 newsletter. "But this is not the strongest urgings of my spirit."

That doesn't sit well with some people. Chad Erickson, leader of a militia called the Idaho Mountain Boys, said he's disappointed in Gritz's lack of interest in building an army. "I went to one of Bo's Preparedness Expos in Seattle in 1992, and the Bo Gritz running for president is not the same Bo Gritz who lives up here.

"I guess he's mellowed out a little."