(Editor's Note: The Hiawatha World was contacted by Hiawatha native Rod Colvin, who said the producers of the show contacted him late last week that the show had already aired but will be repeating several times. The story of the Rulo, Neb., cult has been documented by the book “Evil Harvest,” written by Colvin, who said that he was originally notified by producers of the show that it was to air at 10 p.m. E.S.T. (or 9 p.m. Central time) on Investigation Discovery on Wednesday, Feb. 22. It is also available on Amazon streaming right now, called Season 2-Episode 5, "Son of the Prophet." It is also found on YouTube at the following link: http://freewatch.4ktvshows.com/series/306194/2/5)
The Discovery Channel will be airing a Rulo-cult related story called “Evil Lives Here.”
The focus of this piece is Dennis Ryan, then 16-year-old son of cult leader Michael Ryan, who was convicted of 2nd degree murder in the torture and death of James Thimm, a cult follower who the elder Ryan felt was turning against him.
The story of the Rulo, Neb., cult has been documented by the book “Evil Harvest,” written by Hiawatha native Rod Colvin, who told the Hiawatha World that he was notified by producers of the show that it will air at 10 p.m. E.S.T. (or 9 p.m. Central time) on Investigation Discovery. However, over the weekend, Colvin found out the show had already aired in some locations and is repeating. It is available on Amazon streaming right now, called Season 2-Episode 5, "Son of the Prophet." It is also found on YouTube at the following link: http://freewatch.4ktvshows.com/series/306194/2/5
The cult was a group of around 20 adults and several children, who followed MIchael Ryan, on a farm near Rulo, Neb. Michael Ryan died in 2015 of brain cancer after serving on Nebraska’s death row since 1986.
The elder Ryan had met the owner of the farm, Rick Stice, and his wife Sondra at a meeting of followers of James Wickstrom in Hiawatha. Wickstrom was an anti-semitic hate preacher who believed in the extremist and anti-tax group Posse Comitatus. Stice and his terminally ill wife, Sondra, had gone to the meeting in search of religious healing and that’s where they met the bearded truck driver Michael Ryan. Sondra Stice died in 1983 and after that Rick Stice allowed Ryan and his followers to live on the farm.
The cult was an anti-semitic group that believed Armageddon was coming. They stockpiled weapons and food as they believed Ryan’s predictions. He called himself their king and convinced followers he was a former CIA agent and he shared his body with Michael the Archangel. They worshipped “Yahweh,” and followed Ryan’s teachings. His son, Dennis Ryan, was considered the “Prince.”
Michael Ryan determined that follower James Thimm and the young Luke Stice, only 5 years old, were starting to question his teachings and that of “Yahweh,” so he ordered them chained and tortured horrendously for several weeks before their deaths at the hands of him, his son and some of the followers.
Michael Ryan was given a death sentence for the April 29, 1985 murder of James Thimm and was also convicted in the second-degree murder of Luke Stice, which happened prior to Thimm’s death, according to court records and testimony at the trial.
Rick Stice eventually fled the farm, which was raided in June 1985, not long after the murders. Two months later, the Federal Bureau of Investigation joined the case in another raid and the bodies were uncovered from their shallow graves on the farm. It took several months, but Rick Stice eventually joined the prosecution as an eye witness and provided valuable information in the case against Michael Ryan, his son, Dennis, and three followers — Timothy Haverkamp, James Haverkamp and John David Andreas. The latter two were later released and in 2009, Timothy Haverkamp was paroled.
Dennis Ryan, only 16 at the time of the murders, was initially sentenced to life for his part in Thimm’s murder. A legal loophole allowed him a new trial but he was released in 1997 after pleading guilty to manslaughter. When he learned of his father’s terminal illness, Dennis Ryan told Omaha Magazine that he couldn’t wait for the nightmare to finally be over.
Ryan died in May 2015 of brain cancer, just days after the state legislators in Nebraska dissolved the death penalty there.
(Information from this story was obtained through research of the book “Evil Harvest,” and articles published by the Hiawatha Daily World and the Lincoln Journal-Star.)