Thursday, 22 November 2007

Missing American pastor resurfaces as small-town mayor

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Here's an amazing story. The pastor of a church in Hammond, Indiana who mysteriously disappeared in 1980 has resurfaced under a different name – and it turns out he's been the mayor of the small Arkansas town of Centerton for the past six years.

Don LaRose, who was pastor of the Hessville Baptist Church in Hammond, disappeared 27 years ago, leaving behind his wife and two daughters. He had previously claimed to have been abducted by a Satanic cult in 1975 for "blaspheming Satan", saying they had given him shock therapy to erase his memory before dumping him in Minneapolis.

An investigation by local Arkansas newspaper The Benton County Daily Record revealed this week that LaRose had been living in Centerton under the fake name Ken Williams, serving as mayor of the town since 2001. LaRose finally broke the news to his new wife of 21 years this week, telling her: "Our whole world is about to crash down because I am Don LaRose, and I am Ken Williams, sort of".

Speaking to the Daily Record on Tuesday, having finally broken his silence, LaRose attempted to explain his disappearance. He claims the same Satanic cult that abducted him in 1975 – who he now says are an "underworld" crime group – returned in 1980 and ordered him to disappear, threatening to kill his family if he did not cooperate.

Adopting the name and social security number of a Bruce Kent Williams, who had died in a car crash in New York state in 1959, LaRose says he drifted for several years before settling in Arkansas. Since becoming the mayor of Centerton as Ken Williams in 2001, LaRose has twice been re-elected.

LaRose, who now intends to resign as mayor, says he fears the publicity he has received this week could put his family in danger from the group that forced him to flee.

It has also been revealed that the website, which details his missing years, was set up in March this year by LaRose himself. He claims he did this in the hope of getting attention from police, who he says ignored him when he tried to report his alleged abduction in 1975.