By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Allison Babka
By Lindsay Toler
By Lindsay Toler
By Ray Downs
At their monthly meeting on May 8, 2008, the elected officials of Gerald, Missouri, agreed to demolish the old cattle barn, discussed problems with a resident's ditch and chewed on the idea of creating a website for the town of 1,200. All in all, routine business.
Until just before adjournment, when the powers that be unanimously approved the hiring of Bill Jakob, a resident of the nearby town of Washington, as a "reserve" police officer. The following day Jakob, a dark-haired, moderately tattooed 37-year-old with a doughy physique, would log his only official day on the city's clock.
For weeks Gerald had been abuzz with rumors that an undercover federal drug agent had infiltrated the community. Residents whistled and bristled at stories of doors busted open, homes turned upside-down without warrants, a shotgun cocked to people's heads.
On May 9 investigators from the Franklin County Sheriff's Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation pulled up in front of Gerald police headquarters to follow up on the hearsay. Specifically, to pay a surprise visit and ask Bill Jakob whether he'd been playing cop.
Jakob professed his innocence, directing the investigators' attention to a tome of city ordinances pertaining to littering, lawn mowing and the like, which he said he'd been hired to enforce as a "code officer." He was well aware, Jakob told his inquisitors, that impersonating a police officer was a federal crime.
"The violation is called a 1001," notes FBI special agent Patrick Cunningham. "He was the one who mentioned it and described it to me."
Jakob wore a sergeant's badge and a handgun clipped to his hip. Gerald's police chief, who was also present, barely made a peep during the interview.
The investigators left, more suspicious than when they'd come.
Three days later Jakob's scheme unraveled. He confessed to impersonating a police officer and would subsequently make a brazen appearance on national television, telling Katie Couric as the 60 Minutes cameras rolled, "I'm not ashamed of the fact that I cleaned up a town."
"This was a holy-cow, catch-me-if-you-can sort of deal," sums up Sergeant Jason Grellner, who heads the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit. "The ego this guy had! His ability to charm and enchant and lie knew no bounds."
One year later, as Jakob stews behind bars in Texas, a pending $7.25 million federal lawsuit pits Gerald residents against their town's public officials, and Missouri native Brad Pitt's film-production company, Plan B, is at work on a screenplay involving one of the bizarre tale's curious subplots.
Meanwhile, many of those whom Jakob hoodwinked through at least a decade of fraud and fabrication still scratch their heads and wonder:
Who was Bill Jakob? And why didn't someone stop the con man sooner?
A Franklin County school bus had just deposited six-year-old Daymeon Bradshaw in front of his grandpa's auto shop on Highway 47 on May 13, 2003, when Bill and Amanda Jakob approached in their Ford F-150 pickup. Like the three cars ahead of them, the Jakobs were going the speed limit, according to court records, when Daymeon inexplicably ran into the road.
The other drivers managed to avoid the kindergartener. But Bill Jakob's truck hit Daymeon, propelling him 50 feet into the air and into a ditch. The boy's mother pulled him off a ventilator an hour later at St. John's Mercy Hospital, and subsequently filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Jakob.
When the case went to trial in Franklin County Circuit Court in early 2007, a jury returned with a $600,000 judgment, finding Jakob partly liable for Daymeon's death. The jurors did not know, however, that Jakob was living a lie of a life — a fabrication that he brazenly recounted in his defense.
Jakob claimed to have been medically discharged from the military after being injured in a rocket attack in Iraq. He said he sustained short-term memory loss and suffered a mini-stroke after his return stateside.
"[He was] very believable, very convincing," recalls attorney Jessica Mikale, who represented Jakob at trial. "He was in tears on the witness stand. He was in tears prior to court. And so was his wife. His wife corroborated, on the record and as part of the trial, what he told me about the accident, and about who he was."
But there never was a tour in Iraq, and there was no medical discharge.
In fact, according to a Department of Defense investigation undertaken last year, in January 2004 Bill Jakob fraudulently enlisted in the Missouri Army National Guard by doctoring a diploma from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and apparently submitting papers that stated an inflated rank and training record from a stint he'd served in the Illinois Army National Guard.
While stationed at Fort Leonard Wood with Missouri's Guard, Jakob wore badges and stripes of ranks he never held, military investigators learned. He told fellow soldiers he'd served in Korea and in Operation Desert Storm. He also promoted soldiers whom he had no authority to promote, investigators concluded, and was thought to have stolen money from a fund for injured servicemen.
"He stated he wasn't married. But yet he had three different [women] calling the armory saying they were his wife," reads an affidavit from a fellow soldier.