Defendant forbidden from seeing his family — (The Pantagraph)

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The Pantagraph

Thursday, April 10, 2003

By Kevin Simpson

Pantagraph staff BLOOMINGTON — A Bloomington firefighter accused of making threats against his wife and others will not be allowed to see his family, despite a claim that his mental state has improved.

Walter J. Bess, 33, of rural Bloomington displayed a calm, even temperament during an order of protection hearing requested by his wife, Sally, on Wednesday. She has filed for divorce. Walter Bess said an anti-depressant drug caused him severe emotional problems and erratic behavior, but he didn’t speak specifically to the threat allegations. He no longer takes the medicine. “It only took three weeks on that medicine to screw up my life,” Bess told Associate Judge Paul Lawrence. “I didn’t realize the medicine was affecting me this way. I’m better, your honor. I truly am. I just want to pick up the pieces.”

Judge says too risky

Lawrence said Bess’ future is unclear and ruled the risk to Bess’ family too great should Bess post the $50,000 cash bond needed to be released from jail. Lawrence granted the protection order and denied Bess access to the family home, his wife and his two young daughters. Among the allegations is that Bess:

  • Indicated he had placed an explosive device under his wife’s bed.
  • Pointed a gun at his wife.
  • Slammed a pipe bomb on the dining room table while the family was eating.

“Many times we talked about him wanting to kill people,” Sally Bess said. “He told me if I ever turned him in, I had chosen my own fate.” During the hearing, Walter Bess asked his wife if everything was OK at home. She said it was, but did not speak further at her attorney’s request.

Offers apology

“I love you and I’m sorry,” said her husband, choking back emotion. Bess has pleaded innocent to charges of threatening a public official, unlawful use of weapons, intimidation, unauthorized production of marijuana, aggravated assault and possession of drug paraphernalia. He is accused of communicating a threat that placed Fire Chief Keith Ranney or a member of his family in “reasonable apprehension of harm,” according to one charge. A search of Bess’ home revealed 20 marijuana plants, about 50 guns, ammunition, a silencer and packaged gunpowder, according to authorities. Contact Kevin Simpson at ksimpson@pantagraph.com