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Profile: Dennis Ryan
Dennis Ryan was a participant or observer in the following events:
Dennis Ryan, 15, helps his father torture and kill a man. Michael Ryan, a partially disabled farmer in Rulo, Nevada, has for three years followed the violent white supremacist teachings of the Posse Comitatus (see 1969) through Posse leader James Wickstrom (see 1975 - 1978), who in 1982 told him to prepare for Armageddon. After speaking to Wickstrom for the first time in Kansas, Ryan told his son to quit playing football and begin practicing with a rifle. Wickstrom adopted Ryan as something of a protege, and steered some of his supporters towards him, making him a leader in local Posse circles. In 1985, Dennis, on his father’s orders, shoots James Thimm in the face. His father had become angry with Thimm. When Thimm does not die, the elder Ryan chains him inside a hog shed, kicks and beats him, and forces him to have sex with a goat. Dennis, again complying with his father’s orders, shoots off Thimm’s fingers and partially skins him. The elder Ryan sodomizes Thimm with a shovel and finally kicks him to death. The entire procedure takes two weeks. In 2001, Dennis Ryan will tell a reporter: “I don’t hold Wickstrom responsible for the crime I committed. I hold him responsible for getting my dad into it.… Wickstrom didn’t make my dad kill anybody, but he planted the seed. He planted it in my dad and then he helped it grow.” Author Daniel Levitas will agree, telling the reporter, “There could not have been the tragedy in Rulo if there was not a James Wickstrom.” Dennis Ryan wil add: “He was looking for something to believe in. He didn’t like blacks to begin with. I don’t think he was ever a popular person growing up. I think that it was the right time for the wrong thing. He was weak and you don’t let someone indoctrinate you into something like that unless you are weak-minded. He was all screwed up.” Former Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord member Kerry Noble will say of Wickstrom: “[He] is dangerous to the extent of provoking others. He is typical of leaders. They won’t do violent stuff, yet that’s all they’ll preach. They’ll push buttons, but they are extremely cowardly.” Dennis will recall: “Jim Wickstrom was the reason Dad got into this stuff. He’s the one who showed Dad how to talk to Yahweh, the reason we started getting guns and preparing for Armageddon. He was always so amazed at all the weaponry and how well Jim Wickstrom and his followers in Tigerton Dells (see 1978 - 1983) were armed.” After moving from Whiting, Kansas, to a farm in Rulo, Ryan ordered his family to steal farm equipment, livestock, and weapons in the name of Yahweh. Dennis will recall that the crimes were based on Wickstrom’s teachings, saying: “We were supposed to kill all Satan’s people. Dad was supposed to be the King of Israel and I was the Prince. He was supposed to die before the New Jerusalem was brought down from Yahweh, and then I’d be the king. I believed it 110 percent. All the way. Hell, I helped kill a man for it, and I never once questioned it.… Wickstrom wasn’t physically a constant presence in our lives, he wasn’t over all the time at the house or always on the phone with my dad, but he was there in that he was Dad’s teacher. We had all of his fliers and cassettes. Dad would even listen to Wickstrom while he was taking the garbage out.” Dennis will say that by 1985 Ryan had become obsessed with religious fervor and his conviction that Armageddon was imminent. He became more and more violent, focusing much of his rage on Luke Stice, the five-year-old son of follower Rick Stice, whom he savagely abused until March 1985, when he broke Luke’s neck. Rick Stice helped Ryan bury his child. Dennis will serve a 12-year prison sentence for his role in the death of James Thimm. Michael Ryan will be sentenced to death. Dennis, after serving his sentence, starting a family, and becoming a carpenter, will have no further contact with his father. He has little trust in organized religion. He says: “I look at the Bible and it scares me because I know how people twist it and use it for their own benefit. I don’t want some man up there telling me what God expects of me. I was told that before, and I killed someone.… So many people interpret the Bible so many different ways. I mean, take 9/11. That’s their religious beliefs. They’re no different than what my dad did except they actually carried it out. As far as killing thousands of people—that was his goal, too.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 12/2004]
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