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'Going to Jail for the Elk'

Local RMEF Sheriff's Deputies
Arrest 70 Seeley Residents...All in Fun for a Good Cause

Jailbirds Bruce Wold & Ed Bezanson

Jailbirds Bart Peterson, left, and Charlie Williamson surrender to the Elk.

Jailbirds Joan Baker and Jill Hoen

Seeley Swan Pathfinder
May 20, 1999

by Patricia Swan Smith

Thanks to the professional work by local RMEF Sheriff's deputies, over 70 Seeley Lake residents were arrested on Friday without one shot being fired.

While many of those arrested went peacefully, there were some tense moments. Some went to jail kicking and screaming, and others made horrid threats on their way in.

Anyway, the reason behind all these arrests had more to do with raising funds for the local chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) than it did with Seeley Lake's shady characters. You could simply pay to have someone arrested, and then once they were in the slammer, they had to call and get bail money to get out.

After being bailed out, some of the more vengeful criminals were out to nail those responsible for getting them arrested, which led to over-worked deputies and lots and lots of money. Deputies Elinor Williamson, Larry Marx and Trent Toms had to deputize Pam Keller to keep up with the high demand for more arrests. It got ugly, but the story must be told!

Due to confidentiality rules, some of the names of those arrested have been left out, others were changed to protect the small amount of innocence left in their lives, and many are actual names for the sake of shear humiliation.

The first to be arrested and jailed was Billie Sytsma (That may look like a made up last name, but it's for real). John Sytsma, her husband (who also did jail time that day), said that one of Billie's out-of-state friends paid in March to have Billie arrested in May. (With friends like that one certainly doesn't need enemies)

Some arrests came easier than others. Sheriff's deputies had to sneak into the back door of the mill (also known as Pyramid Mountain Lumber) to arrest a couple of the "Johnson" boys. (actual last name and Steve Johnson, one of the Johnson boys, had tons of people arrested so many were glad to learn that he too was arrested)

Speaking of the mill and friends, Deann G. was arrested at her place of employment (Pyramid Mountain Lumber office) so she called Pam P. (who also works in that office) to bail her out. Pam P., being a devoted friend and co-worker, immediately went and bailed out Deann G. (Prior to the arrival of Pam P., Deann G. paid to have Pam P. arrested right after she paid her bail) Now that takes guts!

The prisoners who were known as the "biggest snivlers" were Bart Williamson and Charlie Peterson (their real names if you switch the first names around). "The bigger they are, the harder they snivel," said Sheriff Elinor.

Sheriff Elinor said that perhaps the biggest reason they whined so much is because the jail was very small. "I don't know what the exact measurements were," said Sheriff Elinor, "but let me tell you with Charlie and Bart in there, there wasn't any room left to dance."

The loudest criminal was a business owner, who will remain anonymous. But we can tell you he was arrested and thrown into the jail in front of Rovero's, and he yelled and screamed at his employees to bail him out immediately. (The employees being yelled at were across the street from Rovero's where they are employed at Kurt's Polaris) The owner threatened and threatened his employees, but they didn't budge with bail money until the owner's brother (Bruce Friede) said he'd pitch in $5 toward the bail money if it would help stop the noise near State Highway 83.

Another criminal turned himself in because he lives way out of town on the Rich Ranch and he, Jack, (Jack + Rich = real name) knew it was too far for the deputies to drive and most of the Seeley deputies don't have a driver's license, so they tried to stay off the main roads while arresting people.

Anyway, after being jailed the criminals were allowed several phone calls to find bail money (some criminals are harder to get rid of than others thus numerous phone calls). Sheriff Elinor said that it seemed very suspicious to her, but of all those jailed on Friday only a couple of them called their own spouses to bail them out.

A local psychiatrist said that this could have happened for several different reasons, but said that the main reason was probably the fact that most spouses would have not only refused to bail their loved ones out, but would have possibly been tempted to have them arrested over and over again while they had the chance. Love is so hard to understand at times.

A certain flower at the mill resisted arrest and ran into the dense forest, thus leaving an unserved warrant. (Look Mister, if I were you, I'd pay up before the Wanted Posters go up all over town. Everyone will be able to recognize that mug shot)

Both Conrad and Sharon Rowe escaped over the state line before they could be arrested, but the sheriff's department has ways of dealing with these types of people!

Anyway, to make a long story longer, when the deputies retired at 5 p.m., they had collected $1,742. The funds will be used to help with the Clearwater Game Range Project.

Chairman of this fund-raiser, Elinor Williamson, said they would like to thank all of the employers who were patient enough to let their employees be hauled to jail. She also said she would like to thank the Seeley Elementary Grade School for donating the jail and a jail costume as well as Bruce Wold for donating jail attire and handcuffs. (Mr. Wold refused to tell the reporter why he had these items, but not all the details are necessary to write a story. In fact some things are better left unsaid)

The Seeley Lake Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation said that there are still numerous ways to get involved in this year's banquet and fund raiser. For more information you may call Wayne Heaton at 677-3773 or stop by High Basin Sports and talk to Joe Bender.

The Seeley Chapter would also like to invite everyone in the area to the public hearing concerning the Blackfoot-Clearwater Game Range, which will be held at the Community Hall, Wednesday the 19th at 7 p.m. Wildlife Biologist Mike Thompson of the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will explain the details about the proposed purchase of 856 acres of the Game Range. Currently, this area in the heart of the Game Range is owned by Plum Creek. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has designated this proposed purchase as a national priority for fundraising due to the important wildlife habitat in this area.

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