From Kid to Killer

The entire family flatly denies newspaper reports that Matthaeus spent a summer in Idaho training with members of the Aryan Nation.

But no matter how confused or qualified his political ideology, Matthaeus Jaehnig stacked up a formidable record of violence and run-ins with police. By the summer of 1997, his family was profoundly worried about him. "Drugs had destroyed his scaffolding as a human being," Lyman Jackson says. "He was shattered by drugs."

Jelena has been living in Oregon since 1993, teaching at a Waldorf School in Eugene. When she left town, she lost her ability to communicate with Matthaeus. "Part of him wasn't at ease with me anymore," she says. "You could only get to know him well if you were sitting next to him--he would never make any effort to step toward you. Sometimes you'd have to sit there for an hour before he'd be willing to say anything." Visiting that summer, she found her brother withdrawn and angry. In particular, he was angry with police for injustices he felt had been visited on some of his black and Hispanic friends, she says.

Three weeks before the shooting, on Matthaeus's 25th birthday, Jelena called from Oregon and found him sullenly unresponsive.

When she received news of Matthaeus's death--and how he'd died--Jelena was not surprised. "Part of me was always afraid I'd get a phone call like that," she says.

Sam first heard about the events at Monaco Place over the radio. He learned that his brother was involved and that a cop was down and concluded Matthaeus was doomed. "He wouldn't survive having shot a cop," he says. For the next three hours, until the announcement that Matthaeus's body had been found, Sam sat alone, trying to imagine what his brother was feeling. "I kept thinking he was waiting for me," he says. "Hoping I'd show up and rescue him. Just scoop him up under my jacket and get him out of there."

The next day, Sam went to the coroner's office to identify Matthaeus's body. "His face was tense," Sam says, his own eyes haunted. "I believe his spirit got ripped out of him so quick he got lost for a while. Later at the funeral, with all his friends there, he didn't look so...desperate."

Until his brother murdered Bruce VanderJagt, Sam himself hadn't been in trouble with the law for ten years. He owns his own business and helps support his three children. Since that day, however, Sam has been stopped several times and sometimes arrested--for arson and weapons possession, on drug charges. He is spending a great deal of time and money defending himself in court; the family believes police are deliberately harassing him.

Jelena worries about Sam and her mother, who, she says, has been shattered by the deaths at Monaco Place. As for Matthaeus: "I send prayers to him. I hope that he would move away from the spirit of darkness and find the light."


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