Nebraska · Religion

Man tortured and murdered by cult leader

April 29, 1984
Nebraska
After prolonged humiliation and torture, James Thimm is murdered by antisemite, white supremacist, and cult leader Michael Wayne Ryan

Ryan had set up a commune on a farm near Rulo, Nebraska, convincing 21 others he was in direct contact with Yahweh. Early orders to his followers, by direction of Yahweh, involved nighttime burglaries to fund the stockpiling of weapons and ammunition to prepare for Armageddon.

Eventually, Ryan claimed he was told by Yahweh that the 5-year-old son of one of his followers, Luke Stice, was a “mongrel, the seed of Satan” and subjected the boy to torture and humiliation. He wrote the number “666” in red ink on the child, used his mouth as an ashtray, threatened to shoot him, chained him to the porch, and threw him against walls. Ryan ordered Luke’s father, Rick, to further abuse the child, commanding such atrocities as whipping and beating Luke and sexually assaulting his own son, all of which Rick complied with. Luke’s short life came to an end when he was struck by Ryan, sending the boy’s body flying. Luke struck his head and died later that evening when no medical help was sought. Ryan then ordered Luke’s father to dig a grave for the child.

His favorite target gone, Ryan turned his attention on 26-year-old James Thimm. His torment began by being shot in the face, which he survived. While suffering from his wound, he was chained in a barn, allegedly forced to rape a goat, sodomized with a shovel handle, beaten until his arm and legs were broken, had pieces of his flesh stripped from his body, and was finally killed when Ryan stepped on his chest, crushing him. Thimm’s torture lasted several days. Ryan then ordered his followers to shoot Thimm in the head to ensure he was dead and bury him in an unmarked grave.

Police entered the farm, arresting cult members for illegal possession of weapons and ammunition. Luke’s father Rick became FBI informant after a few months to help cement the case against Ryan. When asked why he allowed the abuse against his son, he replied “I thought that was what was to be done.” Ryan was found guilty of second-degree murder for Luke’s death and first-degree murder for Thimm’s and sentenced to death. He died of natural causes in prison on May 24, 2015.

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