Babe 'n Arms: Tom was a hot-tempered cross-dresser with a garage full of guns — and then he became Rachel

Scott Clark heard screams as evening fell on May 24, 2007. He had just returned from work and climbed out of his car. The air was cool up on the wooded ridge in House Springs, where his home and a dozen others line a secluded lane. Cries of "God, help me," were coming from his neighbor's garage.

Clark was familiar with the woman next door, who asked that her name be changed to "Karen" for this story. She was heavyset and suffered from various health problems that made movement difficult. Still, she was a sociable neighbor, unlike her husband, Tom Hibdon IV, who'd barely spoken to Clark in the two years they lived side by side. Clark knew virtually nothing about Hibdon, only that he was a union carpenter with thick muscular arms.

Clark rushed into his house and shouted for his fiancée to call the police. He wanted to run next door and intervene, but authorities ordered him to stay put.

A four-year-old Tom Hibdon in a wig.
Courtesy of Rachael Amratiel
A four-year-old Tom Hibdon in a wig.

The source of the screams soon appeared at Clark's front door. It was Karen. "She was hysterical," he remembers. Minutes later, Karen's six-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son hurried over, visibly shaken, to join their mother. The son reported that he'd just seen his dad toting a large rifle.

A deputy from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office pulled up just before 8 p.m. Karen told them what had happened: An argument between her and her husband grew so fierce that he shoved her, chased her with a thirteen-foot spear and held a sword to her throat.

She also conveyed to police that Hibdon, who served in the first Gulf War, was armed to the hilt. What Karen failed to mention were her husband's other identifying traits that evening: tweezed eyebrows and girlish hoop earrings.

The deputy tried to reach Hibdon on his cell phone. No answer. Two more officers arrived, and all three tried to coax him to come outside. Again, no luck. Deputy Nick Todd set up near the rear of the residence and waited in the dark. A long and tense hour ticked by.

Suddenly, Todd heard the crunching of leaves and aimed his flashlight at a human figure. At the back of the house, Hibdon had emerged from the shadows, Rambo-like, with a loaded rifle in his right hand, a two-foot sword in a sheath over his shoulder, three rounds of ammunition in his right pocket and a loaded Glock nine-millimeter pistol in his left.

Blinded by the beam of light, Hibdon raised his rifle toward it. Todd dived behind a tree for cover.

Scott Clark heard loud shouting and raced out to his back patio, only to see three officers pointing their guns at Hibdon.

Says Clark: "They're yelling, 'Motherfucker, get down! We're gonna shoot you!' I swear we're gonna shoot you!'"

Hibdon put the rifle down but kept his left hand hidden from the officers. "Stay back! Stay back!" he repeated, his speech growing louder.

Meanwhile, Deputy Will Mertens was creeping toward Hibdon alongside the house, out of view. When he got close enough, Mertens blasted his face with pepper spray. Hibdon collapsed to his knees. The officers swarmed. As they subdued and cuffed him, they accidentally knocked off one of his earrings.

Clark heard one of the officers tell Hibdon, "Do you know how stupid that was? Do you know how close you came to getting shot?"

Karen gave police consent to search the residence. In the garage they came across a safe about six feet tall, which Mertens opened and peered inside. "It was filled up pretty good," he says. There were eight rifles (three with scopes), two shotguns, seven handguns and numerous rounds of ammunition. There was also a green hand grenade, its pin secured with a short strip of duct tape.

Concerned that the grenade might be live, federal and county explosive experts were dispatched from St. Louis. They arrived on the scene after midnight and set up their equipment to detonate the bomb on the ground behind Hibdon's house.

Clark's fiancée, Wendy Dickerman, says officers knocked on her door at about 2 a.m. and told her to move to the front of the house where it was safer. Then the bomb squad set it off. "It was a big boom," she says. "It was so loud it shook everything in the house."

According to a police report, the blast scattered the bomb squad's equipment some 30 feet from its original spot, leaving a hole, estimates Mertens, about the size of a car's hood.

In addition to the firearms, deputies also found in the garage some medieval weapons and armor Hibdon had fashioned himself. "The garage was freaky," Deputy Todd recalls.

In his report Mertens wrote that Hibdon appeared to be intoxicated. When Hibdon was transported to the Jefferson County jail that night, authorities processed him and performed a customary strip search. They discovered that he was wearing pink women's panties.

The state eventually charged him with three felonies stemming from the incident: two counts of unlawful use of a firearm and one count of possession of a loaded firearm while intoxicated.

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