Related topics

Three-State Attempts To Unravel Young’s Twisted Plot

May 18, 1986 GMT

COKEVILLE, Wyo. (AP) _ Authorities in three states struggled Saturday to unravel the twisted thinking that led a man and his wife to take an entire elementary school hostage in a $300 million ransom scheme that went fatally awry.

Gov. Ed Herschler said he hoped the government would help provide medical and psychiatric aid to the 150 students and teachers who spent a terrified Friday afternoon watching David and Doris Young try to carry out the plot.

Young shot himself 2 1/2 hours after the takeover of Cokeville Elementary School began, when a homemade gasoline bomb exploded in his wife’s hands, killing her instantly and burning scores of the hostages.


Seventy-eight people suffered second-degree burns and music teacher John Miller was shot in the shoulder while trying to escape down a hallway.

Thirteen people remained hospitalized Saturday, one student in critical condition and another serious. Miller was released Saturday.

School Principal Max Excell, one of those held hostage, said classes would not resume until late next week to give children and their parents a chance to take part in counseling sessions.

Explanations for the Youngs’ behavior were sought Saturday in Tucson, Ariz., where the couple most recently lived, and in nearby Idaho and southwestern Wyoming.

The emerging portrait was of a man who loved guns and ″still thought he lived in the Wild West,″ said Cokeville Mayor John Dayton, who once hired and fired Young as marshal for this isolated town of 500.

″On his day off, he’d wear a six-shooter on his hip and tie it with a thong like the old boys used to do,″ Dayton said. ″I think he was a little off his rocker when we hired him and I think he steadily got worse.″

Young was marshal for about six months in 1979, then was fired for not doing his duty and for dating his future wife, Doris, while still married to another woman, Dayton said.

Dayton described Young as ″very quiet, very hard to talk to.″

The Youngs were both in their late 40s, said Lincoln County Sheriff Deb Wolfley.

Young was certified to work in law enforcement in Nebraska and Idaho, and had worked in that field in six states over the past 10 years, said Wolfley. The sheriff said he did not know which states.

Papers siezed from Young’s white Toyota van dated back to 1978 and included diaries and sheaves of typewritten and handwritten treatises with no apparent connection to any known extremist groups, the sheriff said.

″We really can’t tell about his affiliations,″ Wolfley said. ″There’s a little hint of language in (Doris Young’s diary) that might connect them with the Posse Comitatus.″

Members of Posse Comitatus often are linked to federal income-tax protests and assert that a county sheriff is the highest law-enforcement authority.

Young wrote in the diaries of ″plans for some new race of new people″ but attempted to recruit others with lures of money, Wolfley said.

In one of his diaries, authorities found the notation, ″1986: The year of the biggie.″ In Mrs. Young’s last entry, dated Tuesday, ″she mentioned she was feeling a little shaky,″ the sheriff said.

Three people who were traveling with the Youngs but apparently refused to participate in the school takeover were being questioned Saturday, Wolfley said.

He identified them as Princess Young, 19, Mrs. Young’s daughter; Gerald Deppe, 42, of Grenwell, Idaho; and Doyle Mendenhall, 32, of Preston, Idaho.

″They swear up and down they didn’t know what he (Young) had in mind and we tend to believe them,″ the sheriff said.

The Youngs took a small arsenal with them in a wire cart when they entered the school - three gas bombs, nine handguns and four rifles, Wolfley said. More weapons were found in a motel room in nearby Montpelier, Idaho, he said.

They herded the students and teachers into a first grade classroom, using the pretext of a treat or an emergency, students said. Young demanded to talk to President Reagan, announced, ″This is the revolution,″ and handed out a typewritten, 1978-dated statement of purpose for his ″revolution.″

″Zero equals infinity,″ it said in part.

Teachers read stories and led songs in an effort to keep the children calm.

Mrs. Young died after her husband gave her the gasoline bomb he carried and told her to hold it while he went to the bathroom, Wolfley said. She accidentally detonated it, he said.

″All of a sudden the room turned pitch black, and then bright orange, then all you could see was fire, then lots of screaming″ said 10-year-old Amy Bagaso, a fifth-grader whose clothes were set afire.

Princess Young said her mother and stepfather planned to stay in the school for up to 30 days, said sheriff’s Deputy Randall White. Excell said Young told him he expected the standoff to last 10 days because he figured Congress would have to meet to approve the ransom.

The governor, who toured the damaged building Saturday, said, ″The cafeteria was almost empty and he would have been out of food pretty soon.″

Wolfley said Young had talked publicly several times over the past year of his desire to kidnap for a large ransom. Friday, he asked for $2 million for each of his captives.

Most of those approached and asked to participate refused, White said. Deppe and Mendenhall were handcuffed to the back of the van Friday after they refused, the sheriff said.

Princess Young told authorities her stepfather handed her the keys to his van after he unloaded the weapons, then told her to leave. She drove to the Town Hall and alerted the sheriff.

The Youngs chose Cokeville, Excell quoted Young as saying, because ″people care about their children here.″

Karen Stonecipher of the Cokeville Ambulance Service said Saturday that many of the students’ families had both parents unemployed, because of the energy slump, and had no medical insurance to pay for the victims’ care.

Herschler said his aides were checking to see about financial and medical help for the injured and about state aid for repairing the heavily damaged school.