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Gerawan home search yields guns, survival gear

Gerawan home search yields guns, survival gear

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Pistols, rifles, cash netted in residence of kidnap suspect

A cache of semiautomatic military-type weapons and ammunition, a set of body armor, a gas-mask kit and survival equipment were among the items found when deputies searched the Snowbowl Road home of Matthew Gerawan, who was arrested this month for allegedly helping Brian and Ruth Christine flee Oregon after they abducted their three daughters at gunpoint.

Gerawan, 36, waived extradition and returned to Oregon to face 10 felony charges in the kidnapping. He was released from custody after a relative posted a $50,000 bond, 10 percent of his $500,000 bail.

A search warrant unsealed Wednesday showed that Missoula County Sheriff's deputies found 16 rifles and pistols, including a .50-caliber rifle kit during a search of his residence Aug. 9.

Two of the weapons, a Mossberg Model 352K .22-caliber rifle and the .50-caliber rifle kit had no serial numbers.

The list of weaponry includes several semiautomatic military rifles and pistols including an SKS 7.62x39 rifle, the Chinese equivalent of an AK-47. Normally, it is not illegal in Montana to possess weapons such as these. Law enforcement is expected to hold the items taken in the search while the case is adjudicated.

Also found were four aircraft survival knives, a signal flare kit, night binoculars and several handheld radios.

Reloading equipment also was located in an office along with assorted ammunition, which was found in several rooms in the residence.

Some $1,900 in paper currency was found in a safe.

Gerawan was arrested at his home Aug. 5. Originally from Reedley, Calif., he moved to Montana in the early 1990s. Gerawan's criminal record reveals a single conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm in Oregon in 1989.

Ruth Christine and her daughters - Bethany, 6, Lydia, 4, and Miriam, 3 - were located later that day at the Ninemile Valley home of Mike and Aubrey Jessop, acquaintances of Gerawan.

Christine, who is in her ninth month of pregnancy, is being held in the Missoula County Detention Facility on $500,000 bail.

The Christines are charged with taking the girls from child welfare employees at a rest area on Interstate 5 in Oregon on Aug. 1.

Brian Christine was arrested near Big Timber on Aug. 3. He has refused to waive extradition and is being held in the Yellowstone County Jail.

Meanwhile, Mike and Aubrey Jessop are seeking to adopt Ruth Christine's unborn child.

Ruth Christine contacted Aubrey Jessop about that possibility and also wrote the Missoulian asking for legal assistance to see that the child is placed with a relative rather than becoming a ward of the state.

"Being a mother, it was really heart wrenching for me, so I just said I can't face myself everyday if I didn't say yes," said Aubrey Jessop this week.

They did not know Ruth Christine or her children until they were asked by Gerawan to help the family. She said they did not know they were fugitives.

The Jessops have two children of their own, a boy, 3, and a girl, 5 months.

Aubrey Jessop has visited Ruth Christine several times in the jail and said she has also signed up with the Department of Family Services as a foster mother.

"The state of Oregon thinks it's their baby, but Montana says she has parental rights," said Jessop.

An adoption fund has been established for the baby at the law firm of Datsopoulos, MacDonald and Lind in Missoula. Anyone interested in contributing to a legal defense fund for the Christines can contact attorney Ed Steele, P.O. Box 1255, Sagle, ID, 83860.

Reporter Mick Holien can be reached at 523-5262 or at mholien@missoulian.com.

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