By Ray Downs
By Lindsay Toler
By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Allison Babka
By Lindsay Toler
The year he became Worshipful Master, the Washington Missourian printed a sympathetic feature about Jakob's cherished Masonic ring. "The important thing is that the Masons help good men become better by bringing out their traits," Jakob told the Missourian.
"It's gratifying knowing I have a sense of brothership. I belong to something that's bigger than me."
The Gerald Police Department comprises three rooms at the back of city hall. Hanging at the entrance: an eleven-by-fourteen-inch poster of the Bill of Rights, which Chief Clyde Zelch put up upon taking the reins last summer.
"I'm a constitutionally minded chief of police," Zelch says, pointing out a box that contains copies of the U.S. Constitution, which he gives to residents and visitors. "Some people think that's radical or fanatical. But I don't."
At age 43 Zelch is the father of six and grandfather of four, a lifelong resident of the Gerald area who works as a welder to supplement the chief's gig, which pays about $30,000 a year. He's done two tours overseas as a military contractor and maintains his own website touting his law-enforcement credentials.
"I was stabbed in the stomach, blown up three times, went to Germany to have things put back in the right places," he says of his stints in Iraq and Afghanistan. "But then, I've been shot at four times in the Gerald-Rosebud area! I've had beer bottles cracked over my head here."
Located roughly 70 miles southwest of St. Louis, the town of Gerald straddles Highway 50 on the north and south. Sans saloon or its own high school, a pair of water towers and a sprawling feed mill are the city's most prominent features. There are trailer parks and McMansions, a Dollar General and a fireworks shop. To the southeast lies a public park, its pond stocked with catfish of double-digit weights, and a rodeo ring once voted second-best in the state.
Gerald's sleepy South Main Street includes a library that some residents launched years ago on a volunteer basis. One local man takes a weeklong vacation to put on the annual July 4 barbecue. A group of citizens recently worked nights and weekends to erect an impressive veterans' memorial, funded by $45,000 in donations solicited by city officials.
It's the kind of town where nobody locks their doors at night and where a story whispered at one end of town has been broadcast at the other end within the hour.
At the end of the day, stresses Zelch, "it's got a lot of good people."
But like much of Franklin County — which has been called the methamphetamine capital of the United States — Gerald also has some drug problems that officials have been desperate to stamp out.
Zelch worked for a short time as police chief in 2007 before resigning to go to Afghanistan. His successor was dismissed under mysterious circumstances, paving the way for officer Ryan McCrary, 33, who took over in December 2007.
A paramedic who has spent time at different rural law-enforcement agencies, including a prior three-year stint in Gerald, McCrary spent three years as a military contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he worked narcotics cases.
That biographical tidbit was included in a January 2008 Washington Missourian article that is thought to have brought the Gerald Police Department to Bill Jakob's attention.
According to investigative records, in early 2008 Jakob was working on two fronts trying to find a job in law enforcement. He applied to become a security officer for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and was undergoing the requisite background check.
Says DOD agent Manley: "Bill made it known that his wife had terminal cancer and he really needed that job because it was steady, didn't require much travel and he needed to be there for his kids."
But the Fed "found his two sex arrests in the background search," says Manley. "He tried to argue his way out of them, saying he was just a kid, but the head of security didn't buy it and told him, 'Don't come back.'"
One day around that time, Jakob strolled into the Gerald PD to have a word with Chief McCrary. According to investigative records, the men's versions of that conversation differ.
Jakob would later tell the FBI that he wanted to find work as a security contractor overseas and that he and McCrary decided he could acquire the required experience on Gerald's force.
McCrary told the FBI that Jakob had claimed to be a federal officer who could be detached to Gerald to work drug cases undercover.
According to friends and former colleagues interviewed by the FBI, McCrary was interested in ramping up the five-man department's drug busts. He floated the idea of his own task force to compete with the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit headed up by Sergeant Grellner, who is known across the nation for his zealous pursuit of meth cooks.
Jakob appeared to be exactly what McCrary needed for the mission.
On March 17, 2008, per Jakob's instructions, McCrary sent a detailed fax to a person he thought was Jakob's boss, requesting the "Multi-Jurisdictional Narcotics Task Force" loan Jakob to Gerald. McCrary followed up with a phone call to a number Jakob provided.