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Cult Leader’s Son Sentenced in Torture Slaying

May 9, 1986

FALLS CITY, Neb. (AP) _ The 16-year-old son of a survivalist cult’s leader was sentenced to life in prison today for his part in the torture-slaying of another member of the cult.

Dennis Ryan, who was convicted of second-degree murder last month in the death of James Thimm, 26, received the maximum penalty from Richardson County District Judge Robert Finn.

Ryan placed his head on the defense table and cried just before the sentence was read.

″I’m just sorry for what happened,″ Ryan told the judge.

On Thursday, former cult member Timothy Haverkamp, who had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, was given a life sentence.

″I’m truly sorry for what I did,″ Haverkamp told the judge. About 25 members of Haverkamp’s family, including his mother and father, filled one side of the courtroom.

Haverkamp, 23, and four others admitted that they tortured Thimm last April, but disagreed about who was responsibile for his death. Thimm’s body was unearthed by authorities last August at the survivalist cult’s farm near Rulo.

Last month, cult leader Michael Ryan was convicted of first-degree murder in Thimm’s death.

At Thursday’s sentencing, a psychiatrist who examined Haverkamp said he presented the ″classic picture of the sort of young person who gets involved in cults and follows charismatic cult leaders.″

Haverkamp had doubts about the cult’s activities but didn’t resist because he feared Ryan, said Dr. Beverley Mead, associate dean of the psychiatry department at Creighton University. ″He was trapped,″ Mead said.

Haverkamp’s attorney, Daniel Wherry, said his client was a ″good kid who had never been in any kind of trouble″ before coming under Ryan’s influence.

Earlier this week, former cult members James Haverkamp and John David Andreas were each sentenced to 30 years in prison for their involvement in the torture and other crimes. The Haverkamps are cousins.

The Haverkamps and Andreas all pleaded guilty to reduced charges in exchange for their testimony against Ryan and his son.

Ryan’s sentencing has been delayed because he faces another trial in August on a first-degree murder charge in the death of 5-year-old Luke Stice. The boy’s body was found on the Rulo farm at the same time as Thimm’s.

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