|CCI'S MOST MYSTERIOUS He passed what he thought was a yellow truck. Then he heard Hammond scream again. "When she screamed at me out the window," he said, "I put it in reverse and started chasing him. " Shafer chased the truck about a mile, he said, racing south on Clinton's 2nd Street, then turning west on Culvert Drive. But his car's transmission failed, Shafer said, and the pickup - maybe a 1969 or 1970 Ford - sped away. The truck may have had a decal of a water scene on the back window. Hammond has not been seen since. Police found her car in the parking lot that night, said Clinton Detective Damon Parsons.|
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James Dee Francis Sheker
This was a case that caught my attention one day, while looking for other possible aliases for a killer who now sits on Florida's Death Row. There are quite a few twists and turns in this story, an unknown man, still to this day, as far as I have heard. As he used aliases of victims he killed, there are still some unanswered questions. It is amazing to me that people do things like this. I don't think this man is in prison anymore, if he is still even alive. The last time I checked he was alive. (2 years ago)
The Washington Post
August 18, 1977
AN ODD DISAPPEARANCE
On Nov. 18, 1975, Farlan Speer, a shy 42-year-old Stanford Ph.D and former researcher at the National Academy of Sciences here, boarded Braniff Flight 15 at Dulles international Airport for a 3:20 p.m. flight to Oklahoma.
He has not been heard from since.
About the same time, another man, calling himself Michael Carr Speer 111, which was Farlan Speer's name until he legally changed it to Farlan Speer in 1973, arrived in Oklahoma City with a briefcase full of references versity and the National Academy of Sciences.
This second man took out an Oklahoma City driver's license, a loan, approached oil and utility companies with investment opportunities and was hired by a multi-state construction firm as vice president.
All of this he did in the name of Michael Speer 111.
The man who entered the Oklahoma business community with so much fanfare was five feet nine, with thick, jet black hair and brown eyes. He had a swarthy complexion, Indian or Spanish, according to those he contacted, and he was missing the last joint on his middle finger and the tip of his ring finger on his left hand.
"It is always the same description" said Paul Speer, father of the missing researcher. "His description nowhere fits my son's," whom he described as 6 feet 2, blue eyed, balding, and about 190 pounds.
On July 30, 1976, a private investigator retained by Speer's father interviewed the second man, and a woman who claimed to be his wife, Dorothy Speer.
The investigator, Robert Cunningham, said he traced the license plates on the cars parked in front of the six-room suburban bungalow to a James D. Francis Sheker, a former Centreville man wanted by the FBI and Prince William County on unrelated fraud charges.
Two hours after the interview, the investigator said, he returned to find the couple had moved without leaving a forwarding address.
On August 26, 1976, Cunningham said he recieved a collect telephone call from a woman identifying herself as Dorothy Sheker who said that she and her husband had taken false names, Michael and Dorothy Speer, to get a new start in life.
Where is Farlan Speer, the reticent researcher with the genius IQ who could work a Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in 10 minutes and speak several languages fluently ?
"I assume he's dead," said his 74-year-old father, Paul Speer, a municipal finance consultant in Chicago. He said he has spent thousands of dollars on private investigators trying to find his son.
In mid-1975, Speer was employed as a researcher for the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, was winding up his work here and was soon to be unemployed.
His supervisor at NAS, Robert Long, described Speer as trusting and naive, a little adrift on his own thoughts. He was better suited to being a quiet researcher than being "thrown in with the sharks."
Speer placed a brief description of his background in a Labor Department bulletin in the hope of catching the attention of a prospective employer. Shortly thereafter he came across an employment ad for someone with just such qualifications in a newspaper, according to Washington Police. Speer answered the ad and was contacted by a man claiming to represent an international mining company.
Details of the job could not be divulged, he was told, because competing companies might discover the site of the mineral explorations, Speer told friends.
He would be making $50,000 tax free in the new job outside the U.S. and had recieved checks in the mail ranging from $200 to $500 while waiting for the job to start, Speer told friends.
"We thought Farlan was working for Howard Hughes," said Rashad Mills, a friend of Speer's.
Speer gave a man, who identified himself as a representative of the mining company his resume, references, and several personal records when he applied for the job and in subsequent interviews.
"They wanted a total history of his background," said Faisal Klitzner, a friend of Speer's who overheard the interview. The mining company representative, Klitzner said, "wanted to know the guy's likes and dislikes, who he worked for, what schools he went to from elementary school on, his friends, everything from soup to nuts," Speer also was told to get his passport in order, according to another friend.
The man who identified himself as the representative of the mining company was described as being about five feet nine, 160 pounds, with a complexion like that of a "Spaniard or Indian" according to several of Speer's friends. Speer's friends say they later identified that man from FBI photos as Sheker.
At the time Speer was attempting to get the mining job, Sheker was employed by Ames Associates, job placement service in Betheseda. Sheker had been working there for six months at a $30,000-a-year salary, according to Michael Ames, the business' owner.
Sheker was a very private person, very tight-lipped, who claimed to have close ties with the CIA, Ames said.
The CIA, in a September 30, 1976 letter to Speer's father, said Sheker "has not ties to this agency."
After Speer was chosen for the mining company job, he was told that he would have to go to Oklahoma City to be briefed on his job, then flown to an undisclosed location for the actual mineral exploration.
"He was excited about his new job, it was an unknown, but it had a future," said Ruth Johoda, a friend of Speer's who drove him to the airport for his flight to Oklahoma City, and is the last person known to have seen Farlan Speer. Speer left his Fiat with a friend and planned to pick it up later, but never did.
Speer had recently been divorced and had alimony payments to make, and investigators said Speer could have made those payments, that he had a sizeable amount of money in his bank account when he left, and that his only outstanding bill was for $35 which he owed the gas company. Repeated efforts by the posts to reach Speer's estranged wife, who reportedly is living in California, were unsuccessful.
SGT. Michael Fenske, a Washington policeman, has worked on the Speer case for 13 months, the last 10 of them on his off-duty hours. He said Speer left Washington intending to go to work for a company that the policeman does not believe exists. Fenske says that he thinks that the mining company and job that Speer was to fill were created by an impostor.
When Speer's father stopped hearing from his son he hired Cunningham, the Oklahoma City Private Investigator. Cunningham discovered that a Michael Carr Speer had taken out an Oklahoma City driver's license.
The social security number,name,and date of birth were Farlan Speer's according to Speer's father, Washington police and Cunningham.. But, the description was of a man who was five feet nine, 160 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.
In the months between Farlan Speer's disappearance and the sudden departure of the couple calling themselves Mr. and Mrs. Speer following the investigators interview, a man with James Sheker's characteristics approached many business people, using Speer's credentials, looking for investors in a "coal degasification plan" and for personal employment, according to Washington police and others.
Sheker landed a job with Drum Construction Co., a San Antonio, Texas firm, which put Sheker in charge of it's Oklahoma operation for four months of 1976, according to police. As vice-president of the company, his name appeared on the company's letterhead as Michael Carr Speer, and he represented the company, his name appeared on the company's letterhead as Michael Carr Speer, and he represented the company on business transactions across the country.
Sheker left the construction firm in the spring last year. The last message he was known to have sent was to a man who operates a job placement service for professionals in high-level executive positions, according to investigators. Sheker said he had found a job and no longer needed the man's services. The letter was postmarked in California.
Meanwhile, 15 to 25 FBI agents nationwide, are looking for James Sheker in connection with the Prince William County fraud charge, in which Sheker allegedly obtained money for services as a civil engineer. The civil engineering certification number he used belonged to that of a retired engineer, police said.
There is no indication that Sheker was ever certified as a civil engineer, although he supervised construction of roads and waterlines in the Dunfries as a civil engineer while employed by the Montclair Developement Co., according to Washington police.
Dorothy Sheker is living in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla, according to her stepfather, Ernest L. Hogan, Chairman of the Board of People's Life Insurance Co. in Washington. He refused to disclose his stepdaughter's location or phone number, which is unlisted. Numerous other efforts to talk with her were unsuccessful.
Washington police have stopped looking for Harlan Speer. He is an adult, free to leave the city as he chooses, they said.
Oklahoma City Police said they have no interest in the case, having no evidence that Farlan Speer was ever in their city.
"There has been no crime committed that we can prove at this time," SGT. Fenske said, admitting it irks him not to be able to pursue the case.
Sheker, James D. F.
Associated names: Sheker, James
Possible relative: Sheker, Dorothy
Las Vegas, NV
Boynton Beach, FL
I"m not sure if it's deja vu or what, but I'm pretty sure I've heard of this case before.
Probably on DoeNetwork or something?
xfxsNAH - just looked around - it was posted by some wacky chick named Hollow over on WS! http://www.websleuths.com/forums/arc...p/t-40650.html
The Washington Post
April 21, 1978
FBI FINDS BODY BELIEVED TO BE RESEARCHER'S
A body tentatively identified as that of Washington researcher Farlan Speer, who has been missing since he boarded a flight at Dulles International Airport in late 1975, was uncovered by the FBI late Wednesday in a shallow grave about 30 miles north of Oklahoma City.
Speer's body, which had three gunshot wounds in the head, was identified through dental records, the FBI said. Further records have been requested for a certain identification.
An FBI spokesman said that Speer had been buried in a two-foot deep grave in a ravine and covered with rocks in the "rugged country" of Logan County, Okla. Agents found the site with the help of a confidential source and metal detectors, he said.
James Dee Francis Sheker, 46, who was arrested in California last week as a fugitive from a fraud charge in Prince William County, has been charged with the kidnapping of Speer. The FBI spokesman said, however, that Sheker has made no comment about Speer's disappearance. No murder charges have been filed in the case.
Speer, who had a doctorate degree from Stanford and was a researcher at the National Academy of Sciences here, was last seen in November, 1975, as he boarded a plane at Dulles for a mysterious job interview in Oklahoma City.
Soon afterward, however, a man answering Sheker's description and using Speer's name, references and social security number began approaching oil and utility companies with investmant oppurtunities. California authorities said Sheker had some of Speer's personal identification, including his college class ring, in his posession when he was arrested.
The Washington Post
September 16, 1979
THE GREAT IMPOSTER
For 15 years, his suburban Virginia neighbors believed he was James Dee Francis Sheker, a good family man and a successful engineer who wave to them each morning on his way to work in his Jaguar convertible.
To Oklahoma neighbors, he was Michael Carr Speer 111, a congenial bachelor with a genius IQ and a Stanford Ph.D. As Speer, he was about to close a million dollar deal.
California neighbors knew him as Dallas Dean Rust, the wheeler-dealer operator of a gold mine in French Gulch. He drove a pickup truck, wore a Stetson had and carried a .38.
In each case, the man the neighbors knew did not exist.
There is no record of the engineer's birth in any of the 50 states and two of his bridges collapsed. The real Speer was found in a shallow Oklahoma grave, three bullets in his head. As for Rust, a drifter from South Bend, Ind., he was last seen in Florida.
Then, who is this man? A man who has juggled identities,birthplace,age ,nationality and profession for so many of his 50 years that he has become one of the great impostors of the century?
"It has been a trauma. Some people say I am a manipulator, a master of disguise. I am a real person. I wasn't hatched. I breathe air. I drink water," he said in a recent interview. He speaks with the trace of a Spanish accent. His face is oriental, with high cheek bones, quill-straight black hair and dark engaging eyes. Around his neck he wears a Star of David and on his little finger, a Mexican gold coin. He is muscular, with a large circular scar on his back. The middle and ring finger on his left hand are mere stubs.
Again, he is calling himself "Jim Sheker" but he says he does not recall the last time he said his real name aloud.
There is nothing of the slick confidence man about him. He is polite and shy with an almost professional air. Monday, he is to go on trial for the murder of Speer, a soft-spoken Washington scientist whose identity Sheker assumed.
Sheker's story then, comes not from his own lips but from those of his family, friends, colleagues, and a legion of FBI agents,police,private investigators and reporters who have tried to look behind the many masks of Jim Sheker.
It was in early 1960 that a military transport from Okinawa touched down in California with a dark skinned 30-year-old passenger aboard. His name then was James Sheker. From California, he took a Greyhound that let him off on U.S. 1 in Alexandria. When he stepped off the bus, he was wearing a Navy Commander's uniform, carrying a duffel bag and holding his military orders in his hand, recalls his first wife,Arlene. She was startled. She knew he had not been in the military. He told her it was the quickest way he could be with her.
A year earlier, they had met in Okinawa and fallen in love. "Jim" she remembers, was an exciting man and a person of mystery. He told her he was an engineer with the U.S. government. She had heard him speak French, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, English and Phillipine dialects. He was a gourmet cook with a flair for curries and other oriental dishes. He was a world traveler, and he was an incurable romantic. In their year apart, he had mailed her blades of grass with "I Love You" incised in painstaking detail.
He had told her he was born in Montreal. Unknown to Arlene, the only connection he had with Canada was his engineering certificate, which belonged not to him, but to a Canadian engineer. Why he left Okinawa when he did is unclear, but Lynn Larsen, a close friend of his who also lived in Okinawa recalls him telling her that he had to leave the island in a hurry, that he was "under some kind of cloud."
Sheker moved into a small apartment on Washington's 16th street. Arlene recalls him lying on the floor running his finger over a map of the United States, looking for a town to claim as his birthplace. She remembers him mentioning a small town, Richmond, Texas, where fire had gutted the court house and destroyed records.
For the next five years, Sheker told friends, associates and U.S. government that he was born in Richmond, Texas.
In December 1960 SHeker lost two fingers on his left hand. He told his wife it was an industrial accident. He later told friends it was a nuclear accident. Whatever the cause, he spent several weeks in Prince Frederick (MD) Hospital. There he began an autobiography that assiduously avoids giving any clues to his true identity or background.
"Many men and women are content with their lives as they are. They manage amazingly well, better than I could it seemed to me.Looking at their lives from the outside with envy and admiration I observe the perfection of their smoothly ticking days," he wrote in the unfinished manuscript.
A darker side of Jim Sheker emerged. Arlene remembers the genleness sometimes giving way to fury. Twice he broke his hand putting his fist through the wall of their Alexandria Mobile home at the Oak Grove trailer park. Once he chopped down a tree in a fit of rage. Cappilaries in his nose burst with rage.
Arlene recalls that by mid-1965 Sheker used to discuss his work with her, saying it involved construction for the government at a top-secret site. Sheker returned home wearing government identification tags and voice printouts he said were necessary to enter underground facilities.
Each Saturday he put on a Navy Commander's uniform and disappeared for the day, saying he had to report to Patuxent Naval Air Station to flight excercises. Arlene was afraid to ask questions. Things didn't jibe, she said. Their marriage was disintegrating. In mid-1965 she called the FBI and told them of her husband's naval activities.
On June 24, 1965, two FBI agents interviewed Sheker at his home at 6360 Frontier Drive in Springfield, VA. According to an FBI report, Sheker told the agents he was not a U.S. citezen. In his wallet they found two Defense Department Identification cards. Sheker told them he recieved the cards as a civilian employee on U.S. military bases in Okinawa in the 1950s.
He told the agents he bought the Navy uniform in a pawn shop, that he wore it because he liked the way people looked at him when he was in uniform. The FBI ran an extensive check on Sheker's background. They found no record of his birth or military service or civil service.
But, the FBI brought no charges against Sheker. Agents said federal prosecutors would be reluctant to bring the case to court unless they could show Sheker had benefited monetarily from his impersonation. Sheker continued to wear his Navy uniform undisturbed for the next 10 years.
He told friends the CIA had intervened on his behalf and had cautioned the FBI to "leave this one alone." His story of a CIA connection was nothing new. Since Okinawa days he had been telling friends that the agency provided him new identities whenever needed as well as the military identification necessary to carry out his assignments.
Sheker never forgave Arlene for calling the FBI. In 1978, 13 years after the FBI incident, he wrote her from an Alexandria, VA. jail where he was being held for kidnapping Speer. "You started this whole nightmare when you called the FBI about my Naval activities... from that time, you started a chain reaction, blowing my cover. I left the agency (CIA) without any choice, it finally led to this..."
Sheker married Dorothy Jennings in 1966. For the next three years they lived in the Yorktown Square Apartments in Falls Church leading an ostensibly normal suburban life. But, Sheker's talk of the CIA continued.
Most neighbors were convinced that Sheker was with the CIA. He never went into detail about his work for "the company" as he sometimes called it. Instead he casually displayed a CIA ID card or dropped hints and half-completed sentences, leaving the rest to his listener's imagination. His singular appearance, his wide range of languages, and his familiarity with farawy places lent credibility to his voice.
On one occasion in mid-1975, Michael Ames, a Maryland executive and employer of Sheker's, went as Sheker's guest to an invitation-only dinner at the Army-Navy club at Fort Meyers to meet the joint chiefs of staff. Ames recalls Sheker dispalying an Air Force ID at the door and being ushered in to the select affair. Later he and Sheker stood in a reception line and were presented to the nations top generals......
Continued next post
...Sheker's fascination and expertise with guns were also well known to neighbors. He seldom went anywhere without his .38 tucked in his coat. He even carried it to his friends' homes for dinner parties. Later at his Lambeth Square home in Centreville, VA., he displayed a dozen exotic guns in a glass case.
On August 4, 1975, Sheker returned home holding his left arm. It was bleeding, he had been shot, he told his wife and his neighbr, by a CIA agent who had intended to scare him off. He reported the shooting to Fairfax County Police as an accident. He said he had been cleaning one of his guns and that it had gone off.
A 1978 FBI report notes that while Sheker had never been in the U.S. military, "he had definatly at one time flown the F-9 aircraft." In an effort to trace Sheker's background, the FBI requested a defense deartment list of all countries to whom the United States had sold the sophistocated Panther jet, a carrier fighter.
William Ausley, a car salesman who sold Sheker a Jaguar and who was himself is a Panther pilot in the Korean War, remembers Sheker discussed the operation of the aircraft with him in great detail. He went away convinced that Sheker had piloted the aircraft.
But, to most of Sheker's neighbors, he was just another suburban dweller He was well liked, given to entertaining, selfless with his time and always good for a spellbinding story. Each Sunday he attended the Christian Assembly Church in Vienna.
No one questioned his success as an engineer. Neighbor Jerry Hargis recalls Sheker this way:
"He was a construction engineer. He got up early and went to work. He came in late. Steady. Open. Honest. Apparently he was just a good engineer because I think he was working on some rather important prjects. I think he was employed at one time on the restabilizing of the Capitol facing and on the Washington, D.C. Metro Project."
By 1970, Sheker's income had improved markedly, and he moved into a Centreville townhouse. He and his wife Dorothy, took frequent trips around the country, including weekend trips in private planes piloted by Sheker. D.C. police say there is no record that Sheker had a pilot's license. He drove a new Jaguar convertible XKE, a 450 SLC Mercedes-Benz and a Chrysler.
How did he get by at work? "He always knew the right buzzwords. He knew all the words you're supposed to use," said Ed Daniels, a former Vice President at Montclair Developement Corp., where Sheker worked as chief engineer for two years. "He was the ultimate great impostor."
Like many of Sheker's former employers, Daniels credits him with a photographic memory. Sheker was a regular at area libraries where he took out texts on subjects his employers assumed he already knew. In addition, Sheker was careful to stay in a supervisory capacity, maintaining a distance from front-line decision making. He approved others work.
Sheker had told Daniels he had a masters degree from the Colorado School of Mines and was working towards a Ph.D in sanitary engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. When Sheker informed his colleagues that he had completed his Ph.D. requirements, they were so impressed they held a catered surprise party for him at the Montclair Country Club and gave the entire staff the day off. Sheker showed up in cap and gown, recalls club manager Art Colasanti.
Later Daniels learned VPI did not offer a Ph.D. in sanitary engineering and had no record of Sheker's enrollment. Nor was there a record of him at The Colorado School Of Mines.
Sheker's credibility as a professional engineer ran into trouble in late 1974. Daniels discovered there had been enormous cost overruns and defects in engineering. He checked Sheker's engineering credentials.
His engineering stamp was 3714. That number, according to the Virginia Board of Registration, belongs not to Sheker, but to a retired engineer, now living in Homesdale,PA. The State Board had no record of Sheker as a professional engineer.
In April 1975, Daniels fired Sheker. Prince William County Police issued an arrest warrant Nov. 26, 1975, charging Sheker with fraud. Sheker had already vanished from the state......
Continues next post
..Since then, a 40 foot bridge and a 20 foot bridge Sheker had built at the Montclair golf course have collapsed, according to Daniels. The wood bridges were apparently based on plans in an old Army manual. They would have supported a tank on dry land but they were not designed to stand in water, said Daniels.
On May 1, 1975, Sheker joined Ames associates, an executive placement firm in Betheseda that recruits engineers for the mortgage banking and construction industry.
He was affable, intelligent, and very knowledgable on all subjects," recalls Michael Ames, "He certainly sold everyone a bill of goods." Sheker had convinced Ames he was a Sioux Indian with CIA connections.
According to Ames, shortly after joining his firm, Sheker was introduced to Farlan (also known as Michael Carr) Speer, a quiet 42-year-old Ph.D. living in northwest Washington.
Speer, a man who could work a New York Times crossword puzzle in 10 minutes and had attended the Universit of California on a scholarship at age 15, had been unemployed for two months. He was just waiting for the right job to come along.
It was Sheker who worked with Speer and handled his employment file, recalls Ames. Sheker introduced Speer to Ames, and the three spoke together for several minutes before Speer and Sheker took up details of employment between themselves.
Sheker denies ever meeting Speer.
In October, Sheker left Ames associates. With him, he took Speer's file, according to FBI. A Centreville neighbor of Sheker's says she remembers Sheker sitting in the living room examining the Speer file in front of her and his wife Dorothy. He told them Speer was to be his new identity and that the CIA had provided him with the material, the neighbor recalls.
On the evening of Nov. 17, 1975, the real Speer called his parents in Chicago and told them he had a job offer from a man named "Jim" who promised him a $50,000 a year position in Haiti. First Speer would have to go to Oklahoma for orientation, he told his parents. He sounded terribly excited, recalls his father, Paul Speer Sr.
On Nov. 18, 1975, Ruth Jahoda, a close friend of Speer's, drove Speer to Dulles Airport for a 6 p.m. flight to Tulsa, Okla. It was the last time anyone was to see Speer, until his body was unearthed in a red clay grave outside Guthrie,Okla. 2 1/2 years later.
One month before Speer's departure for Oklahoma, Sheker took out an Oklahoma driver's license using Speer's date of birth and Social Security number. Instead of listing Speer's 6 foot 1 inch frame, blonde hair and blue eyes, Sheker wrote down a description of himself, 5 feet 9 inches, black hair and brown eyes. In short, Sheker became Speer.
Sheker went to banks, employers and neighbors telling them he was Michael Speer. Along with Speer's name, Sheker claimed Speer's impecable academic credentials and background.
"I don't deny I used Michael Carr Speer's identification but I didn't kill him," said Sheker in a recent interview.
Sheker refuses to say how he got Speer's identification or why he found it necessary to use another identity. He has told friends and associates it was the CIA who had directed him to assume this new identity. Sheker told them that the CIA had erred in giving him Speer's identity, that the agency believed Speer was without family and was himself affiliated with the intelligence community.
William Colby, former CIA director, says the identity switch described by Sheker does not ring true, that it simply is not how the agency provides new identities to it's agents. He called Sheker a "clear fake."
A few days after Speer's arrival in Oklahoma, Sheker registered at The GuestHouse Motel in Oklahoma City as Speer and according to FBI reports, gave away several items of clothing that were too big for him. Among these, reportedly, was a white sweater, like that believed to have been worn by Speer when he left Oklahoma.
Sheker acknowledges he may have given some sweaters away, "They stretched in the wash," he said.
On Nov. 21 Sheker telephoned Patrick O' Connor, a close friend from Virginia, who was then living in Florida. He told him he had killed a CIA courier in a gun battle, according to O'Connor's testimony in a preliminary hearing earlier this year.
O'Connor said Sheker had told him that the courier had failed to recite the code word and drew a gun on him. Sheker, according to O'Connor, said he then shot and killed the courier.
The next day O'Connor flew to Oklahoma and was met at the airport by Sheker. Sheker reportedly drove him to a remote tract of land a few miles outside of Guthrie. On the way, he told O'Connor the courier was to have provided him with a new identity. Sheker described how he neatly laced three bullets in the courier's head and remarked at the triangle pattern they formed.....
Continued next post.
...When Sheker and O'Connor arrived at the grave, O'Connor testified, they heaped stones and branches on top of it. "There was a space of newly turned earth, approximately 6 feet long and three feet wide," he said.
It was not until April 19, 1978, 2 1/2 years later, that O'Connor notified the FBI about the episode, and led FBI agents to the site. Beneath a foot of damp red clay in the bowl of a steep ravine, agents uncovered the body of a badly decomposed man. From dental records, authorities identified the corpse as Speer.
Even today, the outline of the grave is visble, and a few small bleached bones, perhaps only those of a small animal or bird, appear aginst the red clay. The body was cremated, but the skull sits in a cardboard box in the courthouse, probable trial evidence.
In the intervening two years that Speer has been missing, the impostor Sheker had approached utilities companies throughout the southeast and west with what he described as a revolutionary process he had developed for extracting gas from coal. At the same time he was a vice president with Drum Construction Co., a large multi-state firm that featured Speer and his Ph.D on it's letterhead.
Sheker met repeatedly with executives of Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company, who extended him VIP treatment and escorted him through their facilities. They even offered Sheker the use of one of their plants to test his unique process. At one point, according to the FBI, Sheker, known to them as Speer, held an audience of the company;s Ph.D's spellbound as he described his innovative catalyst that would make the gassification of coal cheap and easy.
"Obviously they would have thrown me out of the office if I had not known what I was talking about." bragged Sheker at a recent interview.
But while Sheker's plans were taking shape, two men he didn't know were closing in on him. One was Mike Fenske, a Columbo-like Washington cop who was mesmerized by Sheker's many identities and had devoted hundreds of off-duty hours trying to run him down.
The other was Paul Speer Sr., father of the missing scientist. Speer had recieved a mysterious phone call from a man with a heavy accent who told him not to worry about his son. The caller, who identified himself as Dr. Morgan said his son could not be reached but that all was well and Speer would be in touch in a few months.
Paul Speer hired an Oklahoma private eye, Robert Cunningham, to find his son. For Speer, it had been a nightmare without end. On July 30, 1976 the nightmare took an even more bizarre turn when Cunningham sent two detectives to interview the man who had taken Speer's identity and name.
Sheker told the investigators he was Speer and gave his birth date and social security number that of Speer. They recorded the interview. Paul Speer later listened to the tape recording and identified the voice as that of "Dr. Morgan." The next day the detectives returned to the house for another interview. Sheker had gone, leaving only a bathmat behind.
Sheker was arrested April 12, 1978, in Yreka California, by FBI agents and local police who surrounded the motel where he was staying. When arrested, he was carrying a .38 in his down jacket. On his finger was a Stanford ring, class of 1970, with the initials MCS inside it.
In his wallet was a complete set of identification for three people: Speer, George William Hohnstone and Dallas Dean Rust. He had stayed with Johnstone in Barrie, Ontario, several months earlier, Johnstone says he does not know how Sheker got his identification cards.
But it was under the name of Dallas Dean Rust that Sheker had been living from mid-1977 to mid-1978, as Rust, he had operated the Washington Gold Mine in French Gulch near Redding, Calif. He had lived with a 23-year-old Deanna Brobst, who knew him only as Rust.
Sheker had told her his parents had been killed in a car accident, that they were wealthy oil people and that they had left half their estate to the University of Oklahoma. She described Sheker as easy-going, except at night when he became nervous and stood at the window staring out into the dark. He was never without his gun, he was charming.
"He always wore this gold wedding band. He said his wife died three days after they were married and he wore it as a reminder. I guess I was kind of blind not to put all these things together," she said.
The real Dallas Dean Rust, according to relatives, is a drifter from South Bend, Indiana, who was last seen in Florida.
After his arrest in California, Sheker spent a year in the Logan County Jail in Guthrie, Okla. He was released on April 13, 1978 after posting a $20,000 bond. During his time in jail he established himself as a favorite of the guards. He was permitted to walk about the facility freely. He was made a trustee of the jail, baked cookies and cakes for the guards and even cleaned their guns.
Six days after he was released, Sheker appeared in Redding, Calif, claiming he was an I.R.S. agent. Federal officials prosecuted him for that imposture, leading to his conviction last month in a Sacremento federal court and a three year prison sentence.
Prior to that reverse, Sheker was living in Redding, driving around town in a Cadillac and boasting to his friends that he was on the verge of closing a multi-million dollar deal.
He seemed full of confidence. "I will not be a burden to the state, let me put it that way," he said with a smile.
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|Francis Moya, Florida||Starless||COLD CASE NEWS||0||01-08-2009 07:40 PM|