He was born Clarence Crouch and died as Paul Dome.
No matter what name he went by, Jackee Taylor knew him as her father.
So when the news surfaced of Dome’s death three weeks ago under mysterious circumstances in a small East Texas town, Taylor was at first apprehensive.
The Billings woman couldn’t help but wonder if her father’s past had finally caught up to him.
And she worried that her own safety, and the safety of her mother and siblings also in Billings, could be in jeopardy.
But Taylor is no longer afraid. She’s ready to speak out against what she says was a tragedy that could have been avoided.
“This could have been prevented, and I’m here to make sure that this never happens again,” Taylor said.
Death in Texas
In the early hours of July 8, the body of 72-year-old Paul Dome was found in a car parked outside his burning home near the small town of Jefferson, Texas.
Dome had shot himself in the head. The bodies of his 85-year-old wife and 61-year-old stepson were later found inside the charred remains of the family’s home.
An investigation into the deaths is ongoing, but Texas authorities have said they believe that Dome killed his family and then took his own life.
Taylor said she didn’t know what to think when she first learned of the deaths.
For most of her adult life, the 39-year-old woman knew her father as a once-notorious Hell’s Angel who had turned state’s witness.
Although she had visited him once in recent years, much of Taylor’s feelings toward her father were related to her own lifetime of struggles as a result of the decisions he made when she was a child.
But after a recent trip to Texas, where she was given a crate full of her father’s letters and other documents, Taylor said her opinion of her father has changed.
In the early 1980s, Clarence Crouch was a high-ranking member of the Hell’s Angels gang based in Cleveland, Ohio, when he approached law enforcement for a deal.
He confessed to an unsolved murder. In exchange for a reduced sentence, he agreed to testify against several fellow gang members charged with murder.
As a result, Crouch, his wife and three children were placed into the U.S. Marshals Service federal witness protection program.
Crouch was separated from his family, and his wife and children spent several months in a Florida safe house before they were relocated in Billings under new names.
Taylor, the oldest child, was 7.
Crouch served several years in prison after his testimony helped Ohio authorities win several murder convictions.
When he was released, he was given a new identity and lived in Virginia and Georgia before settling in Texas about 15 years ago.
To his friends and neighbors in Texas, he was Paul Dome. For many years, until his health began to fail, he operated an RV park and bait shop.
As Taylor was to find out out after his death, Crouch had struggled for years with declining health. He had made numerous unsuccessful requests for help in receiving his medical records from the U.S. Marshals Service so he could qualify for assistance.
“I have letter after letter from him begging the Marshals,” Taylor said. “All he wanted was his medial records. That’s it. He did not get a response.”
Taylor said her father suffered from osteoarthritis and neuropathy, his wife was legally blind and her son was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
Shortly before his death, her father could barely walk, she said.
Taylor believes the burden became too great for her father. She still does not know if her father murdered his wife and stepson before taking his own life, but she believes the deaths could have been avoided if his pleas for help had been answered.
“It’s really a tragedy,” she said. “How long is a person supposed to live like that? If he indeed did do that, it wasn’t out of cold blood. I’m not making excuses for him, but it could have been prevented.”
Taylor said she has had her own struggles with the U.S. Marshals Service as a result of being in the witness protection program.
After going public in an October 2010 article in The Billings Gazette, Taylor said the federal agency seemed to finally respond to her request for help in getting a passport.
For years, Taylor was unable to do many things that others take for granted because she had no birth certificate or passport.
Two weeks after the story was published, federal agents flew her and her siblings to Denver and walked them through the application process for their passports.
“None of us ever received our passports,” Taylor said. “We called many times, repeatedly, and nothing happened. We went through all of this, and they spent thousands of dollars to fly us down there and we never got our passports.”
Taylor said she has looked into getting her birth identity reinstated, but the process for doing so is unclear. She has also been warned that she could be charged with fraud if she had two different official identities.
“Nobody seems to know how to do that,” she said.
Time for change
Between her own experiences and what she has recently learned about her father, Taylor said she believes the witness protection program is broken.
“What I would like to see done is a definite reform of the witness protection program if not ax it altogether,” she said. “It doesn’t work.”
According the agency’s website, the witness protection program was created by the federal Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. The program provides for the protection and relocation of federal witnesses involved in cases against violent defendants and organized crime.
By 2006, more than 18,000 people had been enrolled in the program, which is overseen by a special unit within the U.S. Marshals Service.
A message left with the U.S. Marshals Service in Washington, D.C., seeking comment for this story was not returned. A spokeswoman for the agency recently told another newspaper that the program was “vital and effective.”
Since going public in 2010, Taylor said she has heard from many other people in the program, especially those like herself who were placed there as children.
“I’ve never heard of anybody being happy in the program,” she said. “Most of us don’t have proper forms of identification. That’s what needs to be changed.”
Taylor said she is now consulting with attorneys and has already done several other media interviews. She wants to be a voice for others who for various reasons may not want to speak publicly about the program.
“I won’t shut up until something is done about this,” she said. “All of our civil rights have been violated for years.”