And, now after they're dead, the demonization....
Farm known for sex, drugs -- now deaths
September 5, 2001
BY SHAWN WINDSOR, JIM SCHAEFER and MARYANNE GEORGE
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITERS
VANDALIA -- Long before two men who ran a pro-marijuana farm in southwest
Michigan died by law enforcement bullets, their parties had drawn the eye
of the government.
A law enforcement affidavit on file in Cass County says that children
attending annual pot fests witnessed drug use, took drugs themselves, and
sometimes saw nudity and sex.
After one festival in April, a teenager who had purchased a hallucinogenic
drug at Rainbow Farm died in a car crash, the documents said.
Friends and family said Tuesday that Grover (Tom) Crosslin and Rolland Rohm
tried to evoke change, pushing for the legalization of marijuana. But their
parties sometimes ran afoul of the law.
And always, friends said, their disdain for government drug policies was on
At the 34-acre farm in May 1998, someone towed in an expensive car that was
about to be forfeited to the government in an unrelated drug investigation.
The car was parked right in front of a music stage at the annual Hemp Aid
festival. The crowd, egged on by the vehicle's owner, smashed it "like it
had been in a trash compactor," said Richard Lake of Escanaba, who said he
was there. "I took swings at it. I thought it was a great idea."
The crowd's opposition to the government's authority to seize property
associated with illegal drug activity was that strong. But family and
friends of Rohm, 28, and Crosslin, 47, wondered Tuesday whether the men
were so fervent in their beliefs that they would sacrifice themselves.
Wild parties aside, their friends said Crosslin and Rohm tried to work
within the system to promote changes in drug law and were generous to
people in need.
"You can push people until they break. I think they were pushed until they
broke," Lake said. "That's not the people I knew."
The men died in separate, though similar, ways. Crosslin was shot late
Monday afternoon after he left a building on his farm with a rifle, ignored
calls to drop it and pointed it at an FBI agent, authorities said. Brandon
Peoples, a man with him, sustained minor injuries and was released pending
further investigation. Rohm died the next morning, about 6:30 a.m., after
he walked out into the yard with a rifle and aimed it at a Michigan State
Police trooper, authorities said. The FBI was reviewing the shootings.
Both times, the men had set fire to buildings on the property before
leaving. Friends said they are sure the men did so to keep the government
from seizing the property.
Crosslin's father, Grover Crosslin, said FBI agents knocked on his door in
Vandalia shortly after the 10 p.m. news came on Monday. They asked him to
turn off the television, he said.
"At first they said they shot my son. They didn't want to say he was dead,"
the elder Crosslin said. "Then they said they shot him in the head and he
was dead. I was too upset to get mad and throw them out of the house, but
I'm mad now."
A standoff began Friday when the younger Crosslin skipped a court date
related to drug and weapons charges.
Federal officials suspect that he shot and hit a news helicopter and fired
at a state police airplane and a small private plane over the weekend. A
federal warrant was issued Monday for Tom Crosslin, a former truck driver
and flagpole installer, alleging the attempted destruction of an aircraft.
On Monday police tried to coax Crosslin from his farmhouse about 10 miles
north of the Indiana border. He came out about 5:45 p.m. and was shot by an
Police did not announce the shooting until six hours later, saying they
wanted to notify his relatives first.
John Livermore, the stepfather of Rohm, heard about the standoff on a local
news channel at his home in Rogersville, Tenn. After several phone calls,
he was put in touch with an FBI agent at the farm.
He told the agent that Rohm was his stepson.
"They told me when I got there I could mediate," he said. "I was going to
bring him out."
Livermore left Tennessee and drove all night with his wife, who had adopted
Rohm as a child. He pulled into the Vandalia temporary media compound and
identified himself to troopers about 7:40 a.m.
An hour later, a minister told him his stepson was dead.
"We came to mediate, and we are picking up a dead body," said Livermore, 52.
Livermore said his son was a little slow but sweet.
Cass County Sheriff Joseph Underwood Jr. said Rohm had spoken with his
attorney for about a half-hour early Tuesday morning and negotiations
seemed to be progressing. Authorities said there was an agreement to let
Rohm speak to his 12-year-old son by telephone, and then Rohm would surrender.
"They had assured him that that was going to happen," Underwood said of the
negotiating team. "His son had been brought to the staging area" for
officers about three miles from the compound.
But for some reason, Rohm came out and leveled a rifle, Underwood said.
Family Independence Agency officials had taken Rohm's son from him in May
and put him in foster care. Rohm and Crosslin, who lived together on the
farm and had a long relationship, were said to be outraged.
Cass County Circuit Judge Susan Dobrich would not release the juvenile
court records of Rohm's son Tuesday, citing confidentiality. However, a
neglect-and-abuse petition was on file in court.
Underwood said the boy was taken from the home after investigators
discovered marijuana was being grown inside.
He said the violent ending seemed to be a combination of the custody battle
and other court matters. Rohm and Crosslin both were facing charges of
manufacturing marijuana, maintaining a drug house and felony firearms, the
result of a two-year undercover investigation, which included alleged
details of their parties.
In a court affidavit filed to stop the festivals, State Police Lt. Michael
Brown of the Southwest Enforcement Team said informants and undercover
officers saw minors consuming drugs and witnessing drug use.
On May 23, 1998, an informant observed children as young as 13 smoking
marijuana in front of adults. The informant also reported children as
young as 7 or 8 present as nude adults strolled the grounds and freely
engaged in public sex.
Also according to Brown's affidavit, a 17-year-old boy ran a stop sign on
April 21 and collided with a school bus, flipping it and killing himself.
He wore a festival wristband at the time of the accident. A friend later
told police that he and the teen went to a festival the night before at
Rainbow Farm, smoked pot and bought "liquid acid" for $5 a hit. The dead
teen had three hits, police were told.
The friend saw the teen drive away by himself at 2 a.m.
Contact JIM SCHAEFER at 313-223-4542 or firstname.lastname@example.org or MARYANNE
GEORGE at 734-665-5600 or email@example.com.
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