Back when we were in Alabama we drove past the Maple Hill Cemetery. Having nothing else planned for the day, we stopped in. It was there we came across this grave marker with this bitter epitaph:
Well, of course, after finding this intriguing grave marker, I had to investigate further. Originally intending to only write a few paragraphs, the story of Jerry Bibb Balisok is like pealing an onion, it has many (tearful) layers.
And here is the fascinating story of a master conman, Jerry Bibb Balisok.
"He wasn't much of a person, but he was my son!" These are the words of Marjorie Balisok, mother of Jerry Bibb Balisok. From all accounts, Jerry was not a person of high ethical or moral standards, in fact, he was pretty rotten.
This story begins in 1975, when Jerry, in trouble for writing bad checks, and charging over $10,000 on his mother's credit card, fled the state of Alabama and completely vanished. The FBI got involved but were unable to locate him. For the next two years, nobody --including his anxious mother-- heard from him.
Then one day, Marjorie, was reading an article in a magazine on the horrifying events that occurred at the Jonestown religious commune in Guyana, South America. Over 900 followers of Reverend Jim Jones drank cyanide tainted Kool-aid and committed mass suicide.
As she turned pages filled with images of the lifeless victims, a gasp suddenly escaped her lips. She spotted a familiar face. The picture was a bit grainy but there, lying on the ground was the lifeless body of her "dark brownish-auburn curly haired" son, next to him laid his "blonde headed" wife and her five-year old son.
To make a long story short, she went into "mother bear" mode and contacted the State Department to have his body returned home. After investigating her story, the State Department and the FBI told her there was no evidence that the man she thought was her son, was in fact Jerry Balisok. The body, along with many other unidentified victims were then buried in Oakland, California.
Whether motivated by a mother's loving heart or because “I have insurance policies of all kinds that I cannot cash in until I have a death certificate or certificate of presumed death,” Marjorie conducted a long and unfruitful battle with the State Department for the remains of her son.
Like an exclamation point at the end of a long-worded sentence, the frustrated and distraught mother had the above tombstone laid as a final monument to her beloved son and as a big "FU" to the State Department.
Wearied from the fight, Marjorie passed away four years later, never able to give her son a proper burial.
..BUT THE STORY DOESN'T END HERE!
In April, 1990, on the other side of the country, in the town of Renton, Washington, 34 year old, Rick A. Wetta was charged with the attempted murder of his business partner. They were involved with a scheme to share millions in insurance money after a hotel Wetta owned "mysteriously" burned to the ground (he paid $5,000 for an abandoned Wenatchee hotel and hoped to collect about $3 million in insurance). When his partner-in-crime, after "getting religion", tried to pull out of the deal, Wetta shot him twice trying unsuccessfully to scare the "Jesus" out of him.
Unable to accurately verify his true identity, and with the man in custody refusing to cooperate, he went through the trial as John Doe (the sentence was to carry five-year jail term). But thanks to the persistence of King County Detective Randy Mullinax his true identity was discovered (SIDE NOTE: Detective Mullinax must be one heck of a good cop because he was the lead detective in the capture of mass-murder Gary Leon Ridgway, the Green River Killer).
As you may have already surmised, Rick Wetta was in actuality Jerry Bibb Balisok. When his lengthy record of previous crimes came to light, he was sentenced to twenty years behind bars.
..BUT THE STORY DOESN'T END THERE!
Due to a technicality, he served only thirteen years of his sentence and he was released in 2003. Afterwards, he changed his name to “Harrison Rains Hanover” and married two women in quick succession, both of whom, quickly divorced him after getting orders of protection for domestic violence.
He fled to Costa Rica after getting busted in a failed scheme to bilk Comcast and Cox Cable out of millions of dollars.
He then popped up next door in Nicaragua in October of 2012, where he was arrested and charged with crimes related to the sexual exploitation of minors. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison (his lawyer, Maria Enedina Castillo, was also found guilty as his accomplice --you just can't make this stuff up!).
In 2013, various reports came out that Harrison Rains Hanover (56) died from heat stroke while in prison. ("The American Harrison Rains Hanover, 56, died Thursday afternoon, apparently as a result of a heart attack, not resisting the intense heat inside the cells of the Penitentiary System of Granada, where he began serving a sentence of 24 years in prison for sexual crimes committed in San Jorge, Rivas.")
Sadly, it is unknown where his body is buried or if he was cremated. Is this master-conman alive or dead? We don't know for sure, but we do know he left behind a heart-broken mother, multiple ex-wives, three children, one shooting victim, multiple bad checks, and a reputation that makes for one heck of a fascinating blog post!
Jerry Bibb Balisok at approximately 56