Radical Right Link Suggested in Hostage Case

Times Staff Writer

Investigators on Saturday scoured diaries and notebooks containing rambling, sometimes incoherent language for clues as to why a couple took 167 adults and children hostage in an elementary school here.

They had demanded more than $300 million in ransom money Friday afternoon and proclaimed: “This is a revolution.” Two hours later, David Young, 43, and his wife, Doris, 47, both died by their own hands, she an apparent accidental victim of the bomb that threatened others and he a victim of suicide apparently provoked by the explosion.

Possible Comitatus Ties

Lincoln County Sheriff Deb Wolfley, seated Saturday behind an imposing array of 20 handguns and rifles taken to the school by the Youngs, said Doris Young’s writings were suggestive of the writings of the radical-right group known as the Posse Comitatus, a political fringe group that believes all governmental authority above the county sheriff level is illegal.


Violent Clashes

Members of the Posse Comitatus occasionally have been involved in violent clashes with law enforcement agents, but it has been in apparent disarray in recent years.

“There’s a little bit of language that might connect them to the Posse Comitatus group,” Wolfley said, “but we really can’t say anything about an affiliation with a terrorist or right-wing group.”

The people of this town, population 515, searched for answers Saturday to a multitude of questions but were grateful that while two children were severely burned, none had been killed. Fourteen children and one adult remained hospitalized Saturday.

“I just think we had angels in the classroom,” said Max Excell, prin cipal of the Cokeville Elementary School. “This is the biggest disaster that ever happened here. It will never be the same.”

Young took command of the school on Friday, bringing in several plastic milk containers filled with gasoline and connected to blasting caps and batteries. He demanded $2 million ransom for each hostage.

He distributed copies of his 1978 writings to teachers and school staff. One declared: “Zero equals infinity.”

In his diary for 1986, Young began the first page “YEAR OF BIGGIE.” On Tuesday, his wife had mused in her diary: “What will we do with the money? What will we be called in the new world? I’m feeling pretty shakey inside.”

Seven years ago, Young, who held a police science degree from a college in Nebraska, was the town marshal here for six months. He was asked to resign because of community complaints and an alleged affair with Doris; both were married to others. They “left on a motorcycle together, and this is the first we’ve seen of them since,” Mayor John W. Dayton said.

On, Off in Police Work

Since then, Young worked on and off in law enforcement in several states and most recently was living in Tucson, authorities said.

The Youngs returned to Cokeville earlier in the week, accompanied by Doris’ 19-year-old daughter, Princess, and Gerald Deppe, 42, a Des Moines resident who apparently was graduated from high school with Young. Once here, Young brought in another friend, Doyle Mendenhall, 32, from Preston, Ida.

The daughter and the two friends were questioned at length Saturday and released. Police described them as witnesses, and said they expected no arrests.

Investigators said Deppe and Mendenhall apparently accompanied Young because they had been told he had a plan to make money. On Friday, when he finally told them what he intended to do, both refused to join. At gunpoint, they were handcuffed by Young in the van. After unloading his bombs and guns and diaries and blasting caps at the school, Young told Princess, as he threw her the car keys: “Get the hell out of here!”

Reported Hostage-Taking

She drove to the town hall and reported the hostage-taking to police.

Excell became the intermediary. His daughter was a hostage, and sheriff’s deputies had children in the class. “All he indicated to me was that he had some disagreement with the federal government and they wouldn’t listen to him and this was his way to get them to listen. They seemed very rational,” Excell said.

Young stood in the middle of the classroom, his bomb, carried in a shopping cart, tied to his wrist.

Throughout the ordeal, children were nauseated on gasoline fumes and fear, but books were read and songs were sung.

At about 3:40 p.m., while Young crossed the hall to the bathroom, Doris Young took control of the one-gallon milk container filled with gasoline and connected it to two blasting caps and batteries.

She announced: “It’s quiet time.” As she turned to a teacher, she apparently accidentally set off the bomb.

“Her back caught the brunt of the explosion and just peeled her,” said Richard Haskell, a bomb technician with the Sweetwater County, Wyo., sheriff’s office. “It killed her instantly.”

Two Fireballs

There were two fireballs, witnesses said. Young returned to the classroom and shot a music teacher who was trying to escape. Children poured out of the doors and windows, covered with soot, some with burning clothes and hair. Young’s ammunition was being discharged by the fire, sending bullets amid the fleeing children.

“The windows were open because of the strong fumes from the gasoline in the building,” Haskell said. “If they had been closed, it would have taken the whole front of this building off.”