Sunday, September 12, 2010

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part LXVIII): Retrospective on a cult murder-suicide

A recent edition of the Newton County Times featured a so-called "Blast from the Past," which recounted the story of a bizarre murder-suicide in the county in July, 1982. As it happens, I witnessed part of the scene, which involved two followers of a Newton County cult leader, Emory Lamb, who called himself FOU, hijacking a Continental Trailways Bus and ordering the driver to park it across the Highway 7 bridge in Jasper. The couple who were in their mid-20s, Keith and Kate Haigler, demanded media coverage of their cult and its leader. They also demanded to be killed by police so that they could rise from the dead three days later, thereby proving that their religious leader was the Messiah told of in the Bible's New Testament book of Revelation.

Here's part of the newspaper's excerpt from under the headline, "FOU Followers Hijack Bus, Die in Shooting on Jasper Bridge." The subhead is "FOU Disciples Demand Death to Fulfill Revelations Prophecy."
The first of Haigler's demands was fulfilled about midafternoon when newsman Jim Caldwell of KYTV, channel 3, Springfield, MO., arrived via helicopter to begin negotiations.

Sheriff Ray Watkins who had already been to the door of the bus talking with Haigler, returned with the television newsmen, and upon request of Caldwell, seven hostages were released before the interview began.
Following an interview on the bus, the remaining hostages were released just before 3 pm, more than 2 hours after the bus was first parked on the bridge. Several area residents who knew the Haiglers approached the bus to talk to them, asking them to give up, but none were successful. Haigler then asked to visit with the local press, which he did. The Haiglers "said they were angry at news organizations for not telling their story." The newspaper then reports in great detail what the Haiglers said regarding their mission to die; it also details how they died.
We are the spiritual son and daughter of the long-awaited Messiah who lives within us all. We are going to be back in three and a half days. It has been predicted that we will be killed by the beast of the bottomless pit. We have enough faith to know what we are doing.
The couple repeatedly referred to Chapter 11 of the Book of Revelation, saying, "we are both going to die. There is nothing impossible with this father."
More than once pleas were sounded over loudspeaker for the couple to lay down their guns. But soon after they left the bus, they knelt and began walking on their knees.

They faced each other, kissed, and began moving on their knees toward the officers.

It was a matter of seconds when the Haiglers raised their guns--and the sharpshooters who had orders to fire at the right shoulders of the two, opened fire.

Both fell on their backs when hit and flinched and rolled momentarily. Mrs. Haigler had fired at least twice toward the officers while a third bullet went astray as she fell. She then raised and fired at her husband, missing as a bullet mark and was later found on the side of the bridge. However, a second shot his his body (not his head or face as some reported) and then she turned the gun on herself to fire the last bullet into her right chest.

Mrs. Haigler was pronounced dead later at the Boone County Hospital, while Mr. Haigler died at the scene.

Although the two hoped to be killed by police sharpshooters, they ultimately both died from bullets fired by Kate Haigler.
As these events transpired, the Sheriff's Department contacted Emory Lamb, "Father FOU," but Lamb refused to come to the bridge, "less than two miles from his home." Lamb was quoted in a later interview with the AP as saying "I thought for a minute and I thought I'd rather not go, because it is a police situation and I thought they would be better able to handle it." He said he knew the Haiglers well and didn't think he "could have changed the situation." In the run up to these events, the Haiglers had been living in and around Jasper for about four years, at the Emory Lamb home.


Jamie Seed said...

Hi there Lisa! Thank you SO MUCH for this article! My name is Jamie Stevens. I live in Harrison and have been researching the FOU incident ever since I came across the footage from the bridge that day, shot by the KY3 cameraman. I am in the process of doing a project about this and would absolutely love to pick your brain sometime. Please let me know if you would like to collaborate on this with me! The 30 year anniversary is next summer as you know...please contact me and I'll give you some more info!

Lisa R. Pruitt said...

I'd be happy to chat with you, Jamie, but you'll have to email me at so we can make an appt. to chat. Look forward to it!

steve shutt said...

I was there! My family and I were in the cemetery overlooking the whole thing