These past few months have been trying for me, personally, and it has cost me some energy here on the blog. Please understand at the outset here, however, that I don’t regard this blog to be a life or death matter, nor do I imagine that anything changes because of anything we write here. I only do this stuff because it is worth doing. I am happy so many people stumble through evidence with me trying to find something true. The whole Miles Mathis gig went by with me as an observer. I’ve been attacked, even viciously, and I feel no sting, have no regrets. I did not write the pieces about the guy, but I read them and am behind the authors, one hundred percent. The reaction is interesting, and I just yesterday offered the following movie clip to Kevin as a nicely descriptive analogy to what has happened at Cutting Through the Fog.
“Flying Monkeys” is what that clip is called. That’s all Team Mathis did in the aftermath of the expose’ – dispatch the monkeys. As I indicated a few nights ago in a comment over there, now buried by scores more by the monkeys, the disproportionate response is indicative of … sometheeeeng. This is a small blog, 900 followers, 1,500 hits a day, not even a blip on the radar in the bigger scheme, and yet, look at the trouble they went to! It’s as if they are … hiding something.
I’ve got bigger fish to fry. There was an event in my life that happened 31 years ago that will not go away. In fact, it might come to trial in the near future. It might not. If there is a trial, I dread the whole thing. I do not deal in lies. I realized last night that I am not without a forum, even if a small one. In advance of any proceedings in Montana, I am going to tell most of the truth about that event and the circumstances leading up to it, and everything since. I am withholding critical details, as I must.
I thought by necessity this must be kept private. But then I realized that my daughter Linda went public with her story, and for that reason, I too am free to tell my side. Here is a link to a three-part story about the rape of my daughter as I slept in our basement. The Helena Independent Record will ask an intrusive question before letting you read it –
“There’s nothing to celebrate about the fact that it’s been 30 years since a man climbed through the bathroom window of a Billings home, walked past the room where a mother slept with her nightmare-prone son, grabbed a belt and stuffed it in the mouth of an 8-year-old girl, threatened to kill her if she made noise, raped her three times, covered her head with a pillow, and climbed back out the window.”
That story appeared Montana newspapers in July of 2017. The events of that night may soon come to a head. A man, Ronald Dwight Tipton of White Sulfur Springs, Montana, has been accused of that crime based on DNA evidence. His trial will most likely be the lie-fest, and is the reason why I write this. I was there. I was alive, alert, and missed nothing (even as I did not exist in the eyes of the Billings Gazette reporter Jayme Fraser, who wrote that story, and missed quite a bit.)
This matter now sits before the Montana Supreme Court. They must make a decision based on statute of limitations. In any case, some of the truth will exist here on this blog.)
What follows below is a recounting of the events of March 19/20, 1987 and subsequent months.
I left the house for a meeting that night, and returned later that evening, though I do not know what time. I don’t remember putting the kids to bed, or going to bed myself. I don’t remember having dinner, and only know I had nothing to drink, as I did not drink in those days so as not to set a bad example for my children. In fact, it was just a day in the life, and I don’t remember anything until approximately 4 A.M. when Linda came into the room in the basement where I lay sleeping, shook me awake, and said
“Dad, there was a man in my room, and he was kissing me all over.”
Thus began the nightmare. She was eight years old. The man who was in Linda’s room raped her. It is the ugliest crime I have ever been privy to. The most haunting thing for me is my little girl that night as this horrible thing went on was thinking “Where’s my mommy? Where’s my daddy?”
Daddy was asleep.
Our then-home and house, which sits on Virginia Lane in Billings, Montana, was a small two-story job with four bedrooms – two on the top floor (the only rooms up there), one on the main and one in the basement. I insisted when we moved in that we parents take the basement bedroom, as I did not want any of my children feeling isolated and alone down there. That was, in retrospect, a huge mistake. Linda occupied one of the two bedrooms at the top of the stairs on the second floor. Consequently, on the night/morning of March 19/20, 1987, I was as far away from my daughter, two floors and perhaps a hundred feet, as was humanly possible while being in the same building.
After Linda woke me, we went upstairs and awakened my then-wife from her slumber on our living room couch. I had Linda repeat her story. After she was done, I was incredulous, and I said to her “Linda, sometimes dreams seem very real.”
She yelled “IT WAS NOT A DREAM!!!”
I was perplexed and went down a hallway to the bathroom to take a leak, and as I entered I felt a rush of cold air, and saw a branch propping open the bathroom window. I instantly realized it was true. I ran upstairs to check on Michelle, our oldest, who occupied the bedroom across from Linda’s. I looked in on her, leaned over her. She was sleeping peacefully. The room stank of alcohol. I knew the intruder had been here, looked at her, but had decided she was not to be his victim. Linda had been pre-selected.
We had moved into the house several months before, placing our main home a few blocks away up for rent. I had notions at that time, long since disabused, that there was money to be made in owning more than one house. Before moving in to the house on Virginia Lane, I would come there in the evenings to putter, painting and fixing things. One night as I worked in the basement I was leaning over and working on something on the floor – a window or door frame – when the hair on my neck stood up. I suddenly felt I had to get out of that place. I quickly put things away and left the house, looking around but seeing nothing. As I drove home I decided I was being paranoid. Only years later do I suspect that our intruder was spying on me, and that I had sensed the presence of a psychopath. We were being stalked.
In retrospect, I now see that we had done everything possible to accommodate our intruder.
- I had placed myself as far away from Linda as humanly possible in that house. Of course this was unintentional, but part of our exposure.
- Our house was on a corner, and was covered by shrubbery on the north street side.
- Our back yard was surrounded by a privacy fence that covered the view of the east and south sides.
- In the front yard was a large Colorado blue spruce, and it had not been trimmed so that branches reached all the way to the ground.
- We had no pets, no guns.
- I had put up a swing set for the kids in the back yard on the south side and under the bathroom. I had set it up in such a way that the intruder only needed walk up the slide to get himself high enough to crawl through the bathroom window.
- The bathroom window, hinged on the top to swing out, was not secured.
Our intruder had no obstacles, in fact, must have felt welcomed. We could have only done one thing more to aid our assailant – place a target on the house. Perhaps we could have used sheep’s blood.
Crime solving, as done in detective books seen on TV, is a process that inevitably leads to truth. There is usually some piece of physical evidence, some human connection, that leads to the perpetrator. But when a crime is random (as I suspect, but am not sure, this one was), when there are no human connections, evidence means nothing and leads nowhere. Before our intruder left, he walked around our main floor and took my wife’s purse and my jacket, and walked out the front door.
I brought Michelle downstairs and placed a mattress in the center of the living room, and put Linda and Michelle there to get some sleep as I sat over them with a hammer in hand. There would be no more violence on my family that night. Detectives came around later in the morning. Linda was taken to the Children’s Clinic for a rape kit, and Michelle went to school. The younger three children … I don’t know where they were that morning … did we take them to a friend’s house? I only know they were somewhere else, and safe.
I sat in our living room looking out through the picture window at traffic going by on Virginia Lane. I had a purpose in doing so – I thought whoever did this crime might drive by the scene, and if so, would look in. I had a car ready to go, and if someone by chance did look in, I was going to follow him and get his license plate number. No one looked in.
I also realized that the purse and jacket were incriminating evidence. I knew that the intruder would get rid of both, and quickly. So I went through every alley for blocks around looking in dumpsters and under bushes. (Looking back, I don’t know why the police did not do this.) Soon the garbage trucks would do their job, so I had to be on top of that. What I did not know, what I did not realize until this year, was that I had covered the wrong ground. Our house was surrounded on three sides by neighborhoods, streets and alleys. Across from us was a small undeveloped area. The street immediately south of us, Beverly Hills Boulevard, ended at Virginia Lane, and picked up again on the other side of the trees and bushes of that area. I did not look over there.
The man accused of the crime is Ronald Dwight Tipton. According to the 1988 Billings phone book, a Tipton family lived on Beverly Hills Boulevard just over there, maybe one block away. But I am getting ahead of myself here. Much more injustice ensues.
Linda was asked to describe her intruder, and a police artist drew a sketch. Another officer looked at the sketch and said it looked like James Bromgard, a kid officers knew who had been in trouble with the law. He was brought in to stand in a lineup, and Linda, who hid behind a podium and peeked out, was asked if she recognized anyone. She said it might be James. Was she sure? Only 60-65% sure, she said.
This was a crime that screamed out for solving. Cops cannot let stuff like this go by. It was a headline in the local newspaper, and everyone was shocked, everyone placing themselves in our shoes, everyone distressed that such things happen. Our names were kept out of it, of course, but our friends of that era quickly figured out it was us. Given a lack of evidence, solving it was going to be difficult, if not impossible, and yet … it had to be solved.
James Bromgard was not guilty, but a search for evidence ensued. Based on the paltry lack of said evidence, Bromgard was accused of the crime, and stood trial later that year. Here is what they had: The contents of my wife’s wallet were found in a gutter near Jim’s house. That is it. They had no fingerprints, no other physical evidence. (In retrospect, I wonder if the wallet contents, which could have been dumped anywhere in town, had been moved to a place near Jim’s house. I am reasonably certain that by that time police had decided that no matter who did the crime, the crime was going to be hung on James Bromgard.)
We sat through the trial. James was given a sorry excuse for a public defender, a man well past his prime named John Adams. He was known to spend his court recesses in a bar. His defense amounted to some crocodile tears for Jim, nothing more. The jury found him guilty, and Jim yelled out “Fuck the jury!”. We all went back to our lives. We moved out of that house months later.
Here is a description of what ensued from the Innocence Project, which secured Jim’s release in 2002 after fifteen years in prison:
“At trial, the prosecution’s case revolved around the identification and the misleading testimony of the state’s forensic expert. The semen found on the victim’s underwear could not be typed, so the forensic case against Bromgard came down to the hairs found on the bed sheets. The forensic expert testified that the head and pubic hairs found on the sheets were indistinguishable from Bromgard’s hair samples. He further testified that there was less than a one in ten thousand (1/10,000) chance that the hairs did not belong to Bromgard. This damning testimony was also fraudulent: there has never been a standard by which to statistically match hairs through microscopic inspection. The criminalist took the impressive numbers out of thin air.”
That was the hole card. They had no evidence of any substance, and so made some up. If there is any justice, it is found in the fact that Jim got a very large settlement from the state of Montana for his unjust conviction. Normally, when someone is jailed even though innocent, he his given a suit of clothes and nothing more. Oops! But in this case there was conscious intent to deceive the jury, and that cost Montana $3.5 million. God bless you, Jim. Enjoy every penny.
Meanwhile, we were left with an unsolved crime, and I was resigned to the notion that it would forever stay that way. But great strides had been made in DNA evidence, and Linda’s rape kit had been preserved. A man named Ronald Dwight Tipton was arrested on marijuana charges, and to avoid a prison sentence plea-bargained, agreeing to 30 conditions set by the state. Number 11 was that he submit to DNA testing. That led to a match from the 1987 case. This has all happened within the last two years.
There has been nothing but legal haggling since. Just this April lawyers argued before the Montana Supreme Court concerning statute of limitations. That is where the case stands as of this moment. Jim Bromgard attended that session and told me that he felt the Montana Department of Justice lawyers had done a poor job and were perhaps just phoning it in, wanting the case to go away. I read some of the testimony, and was surprised that Tipton’s lawyer, Rob Stephens, essentially admitted Tipton’s guilt. He was only arguing legal technicalities. I wondered if he too was phoning it in.
During the court battle over a settlement for Jim Bromgard for his unjust conviction and imprisonment, the now Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath made an interesting statement. He said that they should consider the possibility that the real perpetrator of the crime was Linda’s father. That would be me. (McGrath has recused himself from the current proceedings.)
Some time before that I had spoken to a news reporter for a Chicago newspaper, and he suggested that I should seem more upset than I was, 20 years after the fact. I thought that an odd statement, and only later made the connection, that the reporter, who I now judge to be an idiot, was developing a daddy-did-it scenario in his head. Though I don’t know, I suspect this is where the seed was planted that I had raped my own daughter. That suggestion was reprinted in stories in Montana and Chicago newspapers, of course, without using my name.
McGrath and I have since come to terms. I asked for and got from him a sincere apology. It is water under the bridge. He said those words were never meant to leave that room, but that reporters ran with it anyway.
But I have since wondered who besides a dumb reporter might plant such a lie. It’s a ‘do you still beat your wife?’ kind of complex accusation, one that leaves a mark. Any answer I might give is essentially self-incriminating. Who is capable of such insidious and effective lying?
It is hard to know. People love to talk.If I tell the whole story here, I might prejudice my case when called to testify. If the powers that be decide that Tipton is to go free, none of it matters. He will have gotten away with a monstrous crime.
My wife and I separated in 1993 and divorced in 1994. With or without this incident, the marriage was a dead letter and needed to end.