Fair warning. Rebel is going to be on television again. The show is called Greatest Mysteries: Sturgis. It will air August 8 at 8 p.m. Pacific on the Travel Channel. And, just like you, I am clueless about what I will say.
I filmed my segment at Kiwi Indian in Riverside, California last October. At the time Bill Hayes was also appearing on the show although the producers filmed his segment separately. I suspect there have been some edits and revisions in the last ten months. Originally it was titled Death on the Way to Sturgis. The producers wanted to make a show about the death of a Hells Angel named James Bailey who was “mysteriously” murdered on his way to the Black Hills Rally.
Lamentably, I tend to be a nightmare for television producers. Like in this case, I told the producers that Bailey was murdered after Sturgis was already over and I thought the FBI did it. In my defense, I have to say I felt awful about telling the producers that. I felt like I had just told a little kid the awful truth about the Easter Bunny: About how Easter and Mrs. Bunny got divorced after one of their kittens – baby bunnies are called kittens – came out black.
James Bailey was killed on Thursday, August 14, 1975. He was a Vietnam era Navy veteran and the treasurer of the Cleveland charter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. The Cleveland charter was formed in December 1967 when the Red and White patched over two other Cleveland clubs. Bailey was on his way to the Angels National Run in Yankton, South Dakota with two other members of his charter.
Sturgis had ended the previous Sunday. Seventy-five was the first year Sturgis was a seven day event and the rally still hadn’t started licensing vendors.
The two other Angels were Richard Vesey and a guy who has been identified as “Chip” and as “Paul Philemon.” There are reports that “Chip” was killed during Bailey’s funeral because he was suspected of collaborating with the American Outlaws Association. There may have been two other Angels following the three bikes in a van. If there were, I wasn’t able to learn their names or locate them.
The bikes were on Interstate 80 near Colfax, Iowa when Bailey was killed. Bailey had just passed under the Highway 117 overpass. He was shot once in the neck as he rode away from the overpass with a round fired from a .357 Magnum pistol or, I think, a .357 lever action carbine. Bailey fell off his bike and skidded down the road. His bike ran straight and true until it drove itself into a ditch. Almost simultaneously, Vessey was hit by shotgun pellets. Vesey told police that before he was shot he saw flashes from the top of the overpass and the only way that would have been possible is if Bailey was riding well ahead of Vessey when the shooting occurred because Bailey was shot from behind and Vessey, if he was telling the truth, was facing whoever shot him.
The murder was investigated by six members of the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The Iowa BCI issued a press release that said two gunmen were involved. One of the shooters was on top of the overpass and the other shooter was under it. BCI recovered two shotgun shells from the top of the overpass but the area under the overpass was so littered with shell casings that the spent .357 cartridge that fired the bullet that killed Bailey was never recovered.
And, this was six years after Easy Rider was released. That film ends with a couple of yokels shooting Captain America off his bike.
According to a cocaine fiend and snitch named Clarence “Butch” Crouch, Bailey was killed by someone else in the Hells Angels because Bailey was carrying receipts with him that proved somebody in the Cleveland charter was stealing from the club. According to Crouch, Bailey wanted to show the receipts to somebody at the national Run.
Butch Crouch became an ATF asset in 1981 and he later testified against members of the club in three trials. He also claimed to have information about numerous bombings and murders.
Crouch, is a story in and of himself. He went into witness protection and became Paul Allen Dome. He died in Avinger, Texas on July 8, 2013, about two months before I started looking at the case. Crouch was cremated and no woman wept for him. I have always thought the definition of an evil man was a man who had no woman to weep for him when he died.
The Bailey case went cold until 2009 when the Iowa BCI formed a cold case unit and took another look at it. They got nowhere. Iowa BCI shut down its cold case squad two years later and the mystery of the murder of James Bailey once again went cold.
Bailey is buried in Mentor, Ohio.
Tune in to watch me solve this stone cold whodunit, or whatever it is that I said and did.