Dean Templeton was a lot of things. Above all, he was a character with a colorful yet often dark past.
On June 9, 1928, 22-year-old Ralph Templeton married 15-year-old Myrtle Irene Groosbeck in Lapeer, Michigan (the first of two marriages for him and five for her, according to family records). The following year, they began their family when Myrtle herself was but a teenager.
Ralph “Dean” Templeton was born in Flint on January 18, 1931, the second of couple’s five children. Doris June was the eldest child, born in 1929, followed by Dean, Douglas Edward (1932), Delbert “Gordon” (1933) and Delores M. (1934). According to the 1932 Polk City Directory for Flint, the family lived at 1106 E. Lorado (today, a vacant lot).
The Templetons (who were said to have ties to the Templars), made their way from Scotland to Michigan, by way of Canada while the Groosbecks were from the Lapeer area according to a 1981 biography about Dean called “From Asininity to Assassination – a biography about a peripatetic presidential candidate” by Pyro Atomic Bomb (under a copyright registered with the Library of Congress by Marion A. Feany of Prineville, Oregon).
On page 464 of this book, a most interesting claim is printed where Dean states that his mother Myrtle Irene Grosebeck (as it was spelled) – was the “olive branch” (aka child) of Gladys Dilling (most likely Delling) and Alexander J. Groesbeck, Republican Governor of Michigan from 1921 to 1927.
It is unclear how Dean came to believe this to be true, but according to Myrtle’s family tree on Ancestry.com, her father was actually Oscar Groosbeck. Digging further, there does not appear to be any connection between the Groesbeck and Groosbeck families (although it is common for names to be misspelled or changed over time).
For clarification, the GROESBECK family of Detroit did have ties to various governmental agencies in Michigan. According to PoliticalGraveyard.com, Louis Groesbeck served as Sheriff of Macomb County from 1879 to 1880 and again from 1883 to 1886. His brother, Charles G., was a member of the Michigan State House of Representatives for the Macomb County Second District in 1863 and 1864. Louis’ son, Alexander Joseph, was in fact elected as Governor of Michigan from 1921 until 1927.
The claim by Dean that his mother hailed from this elite political family appeared to be false. In fact, there are some serious questions about the validity of many of the assertations throughout his biography, so careful verification of facts must be made whenever possible.
Things in the Templeton house were less than copasetic from the onset. In Chapter 37, Dean shared an almost unbelievable account from early in his life. In that excerpt, he claimed he was improperly fed by his young mother – who also failed to hire a wet nurse to provide the proper nourishment for the infant. So lacking was his care that he was taken to Hurley Hospital in Flint where he was fed through an I.V. – an act that he claimed to have actually remembered despite being just a few months old.
Yet, it was more than just the physical aspects of that incident that Dean recalled…he also picked up the spiritual elements of a near-death experience including the sights, sounds, smells and feelings much like a sensitive would in the presence of a spirit or ghost. One might say it was that situation that changed the course of Dean’s life in more ways than one.
Over the next decade, the Templetons moved around the Genesee County area, expanding their family. During that time, the relationship between Ralph and Myrtle became nothing short of volatile. A Tuesday, November 23, 1937 newspaper article in The Flint Journal gives the details as their marriage began to implode and ultimately crumble (note that even before their divorce, Ralph and Myrtle were living in separate homes in Flint).
“A young mother deserted her five children in police headquarters today, putting them in the care of her husband just after he had been sentenced for assaulting her.
“The act bought the arrest of the mother, Myrtle Templeton, 24, of 110 Austin avenue, on an abandonment charge.
“As her husband, Ralph, 31, of 1114 Stockton street, was locked up because he could not pay a $5 fine and $5 costs, the woman was jailed in default of $200 bond.
“Templeton arranged to have a relative provide shelter for the children, two girls and three boys, ranging from 3 to 5 years old, and police took them to the relative’s home.
“Templeton appeared today for trial on an assault and battery charge preferred by his wife. Municipal Judge Mallory found Templeton guilty and ordered him to pay the fine and costs or serve 10 days in jail.
“Detective Clare Sobey took Templeton from the courtroom to the office of the patrol division. In the office, the children grouped around their father and clung to him. Sobey asked Templeton to explain and the man said his wife had deserted the youngsters.
“Sobey found Mrs. Templeton in the corridor outside the courtroom. He said she told him she would not care for the children any longer. She declared the children were also Templeton’s and that he could take care of them, the detective said.
“With her husband and the crying children, Mrs. Templeton was taken to the police matron’s office. Then Sobey found Assistant Prosecutor Dale Showley in a courtroom and the warrant for Mrs. Templeton was authorized.
“Taken before Judge Mallory, she was put under bond for a hearing Dec. 2. At noon, she had not posted the bond and her husband had not paid his fine.
“Templeton had $5 and his wife had a slip that would enabled him to obtain a pay check that had been tied up under garnishment proceedings, police said. Mrs. Templeton refused to give the slip to him, although it was worthless to her, police learned.
“Sobey and a matron were preparing to drive the five children to the detention home when Templeton made arrangements to have them taken in by a relative.”
The children were sent to live with their paternal uncle, Dan Templeton. For how long it is unsure, but Ralph filed his petition for divorce in less than a week (November 29, 1937) citing “extreme cruelty, desertion and abandonment” on the part of Myrtle. The Templetons were officially divorced on October 13, 1938 with $50 permanent alimony awarded with Ralph being given non-contested custody of their five children.
Just five months later, on February 11, 1939, Myrtle married John Smith, Jr., from Troy, New York in what would be her second of five marriages. The U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, found on Ancestry.com, notes her with the last names of Chojnoski, Anderson and Stubbs over the course of her lifetime.
On page 469 of his biography, Dean recounted the damage that Myrtle’s second marriage had on him – once again bringing up the neglect he personally experienced at her hands as a newborn as well as the abandonment as a young child. And, based on the known details about the lives of his siblings, it is apparent they all suffered in one way or another.
Dean attributed most of his anguish in life to these repeated and careless gestures by his mother. He noted that his father even sent him to a “loonie bin” as a young boy and again at other times during his childhood to deal with his emotional and mental issues. However, there are no records of him actually being admitted to any type of facility, either for in- or out-patient care. It was a theme, however, that he would repeat several times in the biography.
There was (and is) a facility in Flint called the Whaley Children’s Center, which was founded in 1924 with a mission of providing care for “homeless and neglected children.” Still in operation today, the center has no records dating that far back to verify if Dean had ever spent time living there. But, in his biography (page 481), he noted that he occasionally visited the home and peaked in the windows where he often witnessed the staff beating the children there.
The book also includes a handful of references to an institution in Greenville, Michigan but in contacting historians in Montcalm County, it was determined no such facility operated in that region.
Ralph struggled to maintain his role of a single father in the wake of the Great Depression. It couldn’t have been easy, working as a machinist in an auto factory (based on the 1940 census) and trying to raise five young children alone. Their simple house, which they rented for just $15 a month, was located at 730 East Russell Street (just east of Saginaw Street), north of present day Gracelawn Cemetery (today just a vacant lot). And while he worked, Grandmother Grosebeck often managed the children “so my father would have to pay her alimony” Dean recalled in his biography.
During the summer months between the ages of 10 and 14, Dean was reportedly sent to work on the nearby Pomeroy farm, while his brother, Douglas, was sent to the Murphy farm. Doris, Delbert and Deloris remained in Flint essentially as latch-key kids of the era. As the years went by, every single troublesome situation was another mark on the mind, heart and spirit of Dean Templeton.
Ralph eventually remarried, a Roman Catholic woman three years his senior named Olive Blanche (Dimock) Taylor. Ancestry.com notes the union between them took place on December 14, 1946 in Detroit (Wayne County). Olive had one child from her first marriage to Ralph Wilfred Taylor, a daughter named Beatice Arlene, who was born in 1926 and therefore three years older than the oldest Templeton child.
Dean, who had never had much of a mother figure beyond his older sister, Doris, failed to bond with Olive and over time resentment set in and flourished. This was amplified when Olive compelled Dean’s father to put Delores (age 12) out for adoption (to a couple named Lloyd and Mildred, no last name noted), according to his biography.
Continually unsatisfied with his home life, Dean claimed to have enlisted in the Army and went off to basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky in Patton’s Tank Corps – Third Armored Division. He noted his first duty was in Anchorage, Alaska followed by a second duty in Adak, Alaska. However, searches on Ancestry.com, Fold3.com (the military division of Ancestry), FamilySearch.org and the National Archives yielded no documentation that Dean actually was an enlisted man. However, records for his brother, Douglas, were found from about the same time period.
It should be noted that on July 12, 1973, a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri destroyed or damaged as many as 18 million documents and military personnel files for persons discharged between 1912 and 1964. So, it is possible that Dean’s records were among those lost at that time – if in fact he had actually enlisted and served.
Things for Dean took turn for the better when he met and fell in love with Lorraine Stella Jacobs. She was born in Detroit around 1932 to Henry Herbert Jacobs and Stella Marie Drouillard. On December 26, 1950, Dean and Lorraine were married – but the union was short-lived as they were divorced by 1953.
Dean’s broken heart was apparently quick to mend as within months of his divorce, he was engaged to Charlene Natalda Stoner of Valparaiso, Indiana (born May 30, 1930). The Ohio Department of Health has on file a “Certified Abstract of Marriage” for the two issued March 17, 1953 (the date the marriage was solemnized) although on June 1 of that year, the Vidette-Messenger of Porter County in Indiana noted the couple’s engagement and that “wedding plans are indefinite.”
The couple welcomed their only child, Mark Forest, in Detroit on November 1, 1954. Yet another Templeton born into a world of uncertainty, and eventually, a life of despair and destruction decades in the making.
By 1955, this new family was living in Denver based on an obituary for Dean’s younger brother, Douglas, who was killed in action on November 28, 1950. Five years later, in 1955, a burial marker was acquired for him and placed in West Deerfield Cemetery in Lapeer where most of the family has been laid to rest over the years.
The Mile High City would prove to be one of drama for the Templeton family. Ten years after they were married, Dean and Charlene divorced leaving 10-year-old Mark left to divide his time between his parents. Perhaps it was the rumored drug use by Charlene which sparked the break-up or maybe it was Dean’s growing mental instability but likely a combination of both caused the relationship to fail.
Into the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dean began to develop an elaborate plan to catapult himself into the world of politics. And he wasn’t looking at anything small scale on the local front…he was going for the highest position in the country. Dean Templeton was focused on becoming President of the United States.
His first letter “To the People” was originally written in November of 1971 and later filed along with his official committee registration form and “report of receipts and expenditures” with the Office of Federal Elections (part of the U.S. General Accounting Office) in September 1974. This office was the predecessor of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which wasn’t established until April 1975. In late 1974, Congress enacted – and President Gerald Ford (also of Michigan) signed into law – a set of amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 which provided for the establishment of the FEC.
Dean was also known to carry copies of this manifesto with him, in a cheap vinyl looking black briefcase personalized with what appears to be self-sticking letters that read:
The briefcase served two purposes – it made Dean feel official but also allowed him to always have on hand copies of his letter to distribute to constituents, leave at local newspaper offices for publication or submit to individual states as part of his write-in campaign.
“To the people,
“I seek the Presidency of this Republic of these United States as a write-in candidate. I need the people of DC to acknowledge my qualifications so that we may convey, convince and convene with the citizenry of the United States in a new Democracy with new ideals of individuality with these concepts under military isolation. I am 43 born in Flint Michigan United States of America.
“If I become your President these things we must do,
“We will build a new Washington DC centered in our land.
“We will build a man made bridge from Alaska to Russia.
“We will have a new monetary system.
“All church profits and property will be taxed.
“All business profits and property will be taxed.
“We must bring all of our service people home.
“Complete amnesty for those who choose not to serve under government of wars, past-present and future.
“$25,000 no filing federal tax system, yearly.
“$5,000 federal tax free wage, yearly.
“$5,000 automatic retirement check, on day of retirement, for those who worked so hard so long.
“Reopen the investigation of the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy. All Civil Rights and inherited liberties shall be restored.
“If I do become your President, I will convene at Washington D.C. with the recognized United States Congress and a “4th Continental Congress” will convene at Kent State, Ohio to legislate a new Democracy into a new United States Constitution, so write in Dean Templeton on your next Presidential ballot in 1976 for your 39th President.
“Thank you. Dean Templeton.”
One of the earliest articles about Dean’s candidacy was an AP (Associated Press) story published on December 22, 1971 (page 5) in the Carroll Daily Times Herald in Carroll, Iowa.
“A Seattle, Wash., man has asked Iowa Secretary of State Melvin Synhorst to allow him to run as a write-in candidate for president in Iowa next year. The letter was signed by Dean Templeton, who said he is 40 years old and a native of Flint, Mich.”
FindAGrave.com notes that Dean “was a speaker at the 1972 Democratic National Convention. His bid for the 1972 nomination was cut short when George McGovern clinched the honor. After his loss to McGovern, Templeton began organizing a write in campaign to run for president again in 1976.”
According to the Library of Congress (loc.gov), “The Democratic national convention [DNC] was held in Miami Beach, Florida on July 10-13, 1972, with 3,203 delegates attending. In the primaries the major candidates were South Dakota Senator George McGovern, former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and Maine Senator Edmund Muskie. On the first day of the convention challenges to the seating of McGovern delegates won in the primary were settled in favor of McGovern. The next day Humphrey and Muskie withdrew from the race which assured McGovern the nomination. McGovern won the nomination on the first ballot with the support of 1,865 delegates.”
Online searches of LOC and DNC documents show no mention of Dean’s name in either 1972 or 1976. Officials in Massachusetts, one of the states where he clamed to have filed election paperwork, were unable to find any evidence of correspondence in its state archives when asked about it via email this summer. The State Archives of Iowa also does not have general correspondence from that time period for Secretary of State Synhorst, to verify the article above.
A handful of editorials and articles have been found through Newspapers.com under headlines like “Candidate Tells His Platform” and “Wants Presidency Vote” both published in late spring of 1972 in Michigan and Indiana, respectively.
“I seek the presidency of the United States of America as a write-in candidate. I am for the people, I need the people of Michigan [or Illinois] to acknowledge my qualifications…”
The letter sent to the News-Palladium, in Benton Harbor, Michigan, was signed Dean Templeton of Hazel Park (Michigan) while the letter published in Illinois noted Dean was from Royal Oak, Mich (the towns are adjacent). His city of residency would remain a constantly changing thing as he began his cross-country campaigning by hitchhiking along the way – a system he felt gave him more time with voters.
The Tennessean was one of the few major newspapers to run an actual article about Dean’s campaign, with a page 14 piece on September 13, 1972 by Jim Squires.
“Dean Templeton warned Richard Nixon four years ago.
“‘I issued a statement in 1968 that if he didn’t end this war I was going to run for president,’ said Templeton, 41, a former Michigan construction worker. ‘I started to run then but I decided to give Nixon a chance to stop the war, and he didn’t.’
“Now Templeton, a gregarious man with twinkling eyes and a quick smile, is hitchhiking across the country keeping his promise…”
On Monday, October 16, 1972, The Morning Herald Tri-State News in Hagerstown, Maryland published a descent sized article by Doug Coombs on the top of page 15.
“Richard Nixon and George McGovern are spending millions in their quests for the presidency.
“Things are different for Dean Templeton.
“While Nixon and McGovern continually jet back and forth across the country, Templeton hitchhikes.
“Instead of high-priced public relations firms and extensive advertising, Templeton has spent 11 months handing out photostated copies of his campaign platform telling what he’ll do after Nov. 7 if he is elected President of the United States…”
Just a few days later, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran two identical regional articles on October 23, 1972, “This Candidate Leads Own Poll” and “Hitchhiking Candidate Promises World Travel by Car,” both written by Kathy Begley.
“Dean Templeton reached into his brown plastic briefcase and pulled out an official campaign statement promising all Americans peace, freedom and the chance to drive their cars to Europe and Asia.
“‘When I become President of the United States, one of the first things I’ll do is build a man-made bridge from Alaska to Russia so that we may drive all over the world,’ Templeton said. ‘This is a crucial issue.’
“Templeton probably has the edge over President Nixon and Sen. George McGovern among the nation’s bloc of Drive-to-Asia voters. He’s spent the last 11 months of his campaign hitchhiking across the country while the other two are flying all over the place.
“I’ve met a lot of people on pickups,’ the 41-year-old Detroit, Mich., man said shortly after his ride from Dover, Del., dropped him off Sunday in Philadelphia. ‘And in my own poll, I’m getting 94 percent of the vote.’
“During the next five days, Templeton hopes to get a job here as a dishwasher and rub his sudsy elbows with more of the common people he’s met during his 20,000 mile hitchhiking trip.
“Templeton hopes to wind up his write-in campaign next week in New England, where he’ll prepare his inaugural address.
“And what if he loses? Well, that’s one thing Dean Templeton doesn’t like to think about. In that event, he would want to leave the country.
“‘But how can you hitchhike to Europe with conditions the way they are now?’ he asks.”
Ironically in 1972, Templeton wasn’t the only write-in candidate for President hitchhiking cross country on the campaign trail. One might wonder if he ever bumped into Billie Joe Clegg, 47, of Springfield, Missouri. Noted as “evangelistically oriented” and “stocky,” Clegg was running as an independent conservative. By the 1976 campaign season, Clegg had surpassed Templeton in one key area – he had acquired a car and was no longer dependent on the courtesy of others to get him from town to town.
With the re-election of Richard Nixon in 1972 (the largest margin victory in the Electoral College for a Republican in a U.S. presidential election at the time), Dean was forced to step back and look ahead to the 1976 election. But he did not waiver in his determination or platform mission.
And while Dean remained focused on the campaign front, drama in his personal life continued. His father, Ralph, had died in April of 1970 in Detroit, followed by his stepmother, Olive, in 1972. Both are buried in the West Deerfield Cemetery in Lapeer, along with Dean’s brother, Douglas. In the early 1970s, Dean’s first wife, Lorraine, had remarried and ultimately had four children with John Gordon Schaad.
After their 1963 divorce, Dean’s second wife Charlene found herself in one precarious situation after another. Family letters noted she had issues with drugs and was known to run in rough circles. In fact, several men tied to her died under mysterious circumstances between 1973 and the 1990s according to an account penned by her son, Mark. Charlene later remarried a man named George Florian and the couple lived and worked on a farm in Oregon. Mark, a young man at this point, was also living in Pacific Northwest region. Dean would maintain contact with the two of them as he made his way west to continue his presidential quest, much to their chagrin.
As the next election loomed, Dean’s optimism continued. Claiming he learned his lessons in 1972, he was convinced his trip to the White House would become a reality in 1976.
Out west, Dean found odd jobs, rooms to rent, food stamps and allies in Patrick and Marion Feany who lived in Prineville, Oregon and were appointed (by Dean) to help him run his campaign. It is not quite known how, when or where they all met, but based on the extensive details included in Dean’s 586-page biography written and published by the couple (under the pen name Pyro Atomic Bomb), they were intimately involved in his life. Some may wonder if they were maybe a little too ingrained in his affairs.
Life on the campaign trail was tough, especially for an often unemployed, hitchhiking write-in candidate. Money was always of concern and for a drifter with lofty ambitions of becoming President of the United States, well-paying employment wasn’t easy to come by (plus, he needed time to campaign after all).
In a last-ditch effort to keep going, Dean sent a letter to his brother Gordon’s family on a Wednesday in January 1975 (misspellings below are as they appeared in Dean’s letter), which was obtained during the summer of 2020 from the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Department under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
This would be the last letter Dean would ever send.
“Carol, Christ [Dean’s nephew]
“Gordon was to have called Dad’s estate lawyer for me so that I might receive some money soon.
“I need the money or clothes or travel exspences payed for, I need all of these things very badly because the police continual (sic) to harass me till I have quite my jobs or get fired, the local police demand this from the local employees were I have worked for the past 10 years every jobs, every day since Charlene got her falsified divorce in Denver Colorado. They, the police harass me continually.
“If dad’s estate money is freeed from courts and lawyer criminal proceedings, send me some money I am in dire need.
“Love from all of me, Dean to all of you, Christ, Carol, Gordon. Dean Templeton Presidential Candidate ‘76’”
602 Pine Street North #4
Family money would never find its way to Dean, to be used for his campaign affairs or anything else. In fact, just a couple months later, this write-in candidate for President of the United States disappeared.
In 1975, Dean was living at what he referred to as Dolly Madison’s rooming house at 602 Pine Street (room #4) in Ellensburg, Washington. At that time, the boarding house was owned by Mrs. Helen Sackett, based on a 1975 city directory on file at the Ellensburg Public Library.
According to chapter 43 of his biography, on a cold winter day in January of 1975, Dean stopped into the local Chamber of Commerce office to proclaim his candidacy and to pick up a list of local businesses and a map of the area to aid in his campaigning.
Next, he visited at the town’s employment office, where here he was given a lead on a job. The Sunset Café in Cle Elum, a family run restaurant operating since 1936, was looking for a short order cook. He was hired, with a warning that politicking on the job would not be tolerated. He would last just three days, receiving his first and last paycheck of $19 around January 21 (just three days after his 44th birthday). It was noted that upon leaving the restaurant, he had an unpleasant encounter with a customer who harassed him not only for his lack of cooking abilities but for his absurd political ideas. That person, whoever it was, would be one of the last people to see Dean alive.
January in Washington can be bone-chillingly cold, especially for someone hitchhiking from town to town. It was a dark and artic night as Dean made his way from the café to his boarding house some 27 miles southeast along Thorp Prairie Road. It was ironic that his primary mode of transportation over the past few years – his way of communicating one-on-one with his constituents – would turn out to be the vehicle for his demise.
Chapter 44 of Dean’s biography provides a detailed account of his final minutes, which was either based on first-person observations at the hands of the authors or was an elaborate work of fiction that they concocted. Whoever the driver was, at least based on the printed account, clearly knew Dean – or at least knew of him – because he (or she) referred to him as “Mr. Presidential Candidate” while also making reference to Dolly Madison’s rooming house.
While the death chapter stretches out for 30 pages, most of it contains back and forth banter and condescending comments aimed at Dean and his political endeavors. One gets the sense that the driver is fed up with Dean’s antics – so much so that he (or she) is willing to assassinate him just to put an end to it all. The writer also casts suspicion toward involvement by the C.I.A. who had allegedly put a hit on Dean because of his bid for presidency. Robbery wasn’t a likely motive, because the only money Dean had was that three-day paycheck from the Sunset Café and that was found in his wallet when his body was recovered. What wasn’t found was his briefcase and the papers contained inside.
Dean eventually ended up with two bullets in his head, his dead body crumpled over on the side of the ditch where he would remain for more than five weeks. Given the depth of detail, one might question if the author(s) may have been inside the car at the time of Dean’s death.
Several pages of a conversational exchange are included between two people after Dean was shot and left to die – the driver and a person in the back seat who witnessed the murder. Were these hitmen actually hired by the government to end Dean’s presidential bid? Or were these two of Dean’s friends who ultimately betrayed him?
The book features an interesting account of an out-of-body experience reminiscent of Dean’s trip to the hospital in Flint when he was a newborn that was outlined earlier in his biography (and this article), being aware of his spirit leaving his body and seeing himself face down in the snow. From there, his spirit traveled back to Michigan to witness his own funeral at the West Deerfield Cemetery in Lapeer – next to his father, stepmother and other members of his family.
Nearly six weeks after that cold and dark winter night, a partially decomposed body was found at 3:17pm on Tuesday, March 4, 1975, face down in a mud- and snow-covered ditch along Thorp Prairie Road.
The Ellensburg, Washington Daily Record was first to break the news of a body found, including a photograph, on Wednesday, March 5, 1975 (page 14). Of note, in the caption, it mentioned “no signs of foul play.”
That soon would prove to be an inaccurate statement.
The Ellensburg paper ran more detail the following day, on Thursday, March 6, 1975 (page 12) under the headline:
“The members of the Kittitas County Search and Rescue unit will be conducting a grid search alongside the Thorp Prairie Road about 10 miles west of Ellensburg today looking for clues which could help in the identification of a body found there Tuesday.
“‘A routine search of the immediate area where the body was found is being conducted in an attempt to locate any evidence which will aid in the investigation,’ a Sheriff’s office spokesman said today.
“‘Identification on the body indicates that he is a 44-year-old laborer originally from Flint, Mich. Positive identification has not been made. An attempt is now being made to contact next of kin who could aid in the positive identification of the body,’ the spokesman added.
“The badly decomposed body was found laying alongside the road by a Pugent Sound Power and Light crew Wednesday afternoon. An autopsy was performed Wednesday by Dr. Robert Boniface of Wenatchee. The Sheriff’s office said it is awaiting the results of the autopsy to determine the cause of death. ‘The report is expected sometime Friday,’ said the spokesman.”
By March 11, the Ellensburg Daily had reported in its article “Man died of gunshot wounds” the body had been positively identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation latent prints section in Washington D.C. as Ralph Dean Templeton. Gunshot wounds to the head were the cause of death as noted by pathologist Dr. Boniface as reported by Kittitas County Coroner Joe Panattoni.
It was ultimately determined that two .22 caliber bullets had ripped through the left side of his skull and pharynx. The ultimate cause of death was “bronchial hemorrhage” according to his death certificate.
On Friday, March 21, 1975 (page 3) The Bulletin in Bend, Oregon provided more details.
“Ralph Dean Templeton, 44, a former Prineville resident and self-proclaimed 1976 presidential candidate, has been found murdered near this central Washington city, according to the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office.
“A spokesman said yesterday Templeton’s body was discovered March 4 by a power company lineman about 10 miles west of here. The body was along a county road about 250 yards from Interstate 90, he said. It was frozen and partially decomposed.
“An autopsy has shown that Templeton, who lived in the Ellensburg area and had held odd jobs there for the last six months, died from two gunshot wounds to the head.
“Templeton was last seen about January 21, the spokesman said.
“He said an investigation of the shooting is continuing but deputies are following ‘a cold trail.’ No motive or suspects have been identified yet.
“‘It’s definitely classified as a homicide,’ he said. ‘Robbery could have been a motive, but we’re not sure.’
“Templeton worked various odd jobs around Prineville last summer and fall. While there, he conducted a campaign for the 1976 presidential nomination. Among his campaign platforms were locating the nation’s capital in the center of the United States, building a bridge from Alaska to Russia, and taxation of church properties and profits.
“He has also been campaigning in the Ellensburg area.”
It has been 45 years since Dean was murdered…more years than he was actually alive, and there remain just as many questions about his cold case death today as in 1975. With so much time gone by, it is likely the “who” and “why” may never be known. There are suspicions and theories (such as my own here), but little evidence to shed light on what really happened to Dean on that cold January night in 1975.
During that six-week time period when he left the Sunset Café with his final paycheck and his remains were discovered, did anyone report him missing or orchestrate a search party to find him? Like the Feanys, who worked for his campaign? Or Mrs. Sackett at the boarding house in Ellensburg who still had his belongings (which are still in the possession of the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Department). What about his son or his ex-wife, Charlene, for whom he maintained deep feelings for even years after their divorce?
Maybe everyone just considered him a drifter who had moved on to his next political stop.
SUSPECTS & MOTIVES
Perhaps, Dean was the victim of a “serial killer” who was leaving behind dead bodies in the region. In June 1975, a series of news articles appeared in Kittitas County including one under the headline “Case similarity” – (source and date unknown).
“Chelan County Chief Criminal Deputy Bill Patterson exchanged information today with Kittitas County Sheriff’s office relative to a homicide which was discovered just north of the county line separating the two jurisdictions and the Dean Templeton homicide being investigated here.
“Patterson said the unidentified male, between 35 and 40 years of age, was found last Wednesday about 22 feet off the Blewett Pass Highway a little more than 120 yards north of the county line. He said the body was decomposed and had been in the area for an undermined length of time.
“An autopsy revealed the man had been killed by a single caliber bullet which entered the back of the neck. Templeton, found on March 4, was killed by two .22 caliber bullets to the head.
“Templeton was found on the side of the Thorp Prairie Road about 17 miles west of Ellensburg, just off Interstate 90.
“Kittitas County Sheriff detective Fabian Kuchin, who is investigating the Templeton homicide case, said ‘Right now we are only exchanging information and talking about similarities in the case. We have no reason to believe the cases are related but we are not ruling out that possibility.’”
Just days later, another brief article appeared in the Spokane Daily Chronicle which read:
“The body of a shooting victim found last week at Blewett Pass has been identified as that of Franklin Lee Monohan, 50, Mercer Island.
“Monohan, a Seattle engineer, had been missing nearly six months.
“A spokesman for the Chelan county Sheriff’s Office said Monohan had been shot in the back of the head with a .22 caliber gun. The body, found by a motorist, apparently had been under snows at the pass since near Dec. 13 when Monohan disappeared.”
Little was printed in newspapers beyond the summer of 1975 about the Monohan case, including any conclusion about whether it was related at all to the Templeton murder. The similarities were that two men were shot and left by the side of the road in a relatively close geographic area about five weeks apart. Monohan was last seen around December 13, 1974 and Dean, around January 21, 1975.
More questions than answers remain today about Dean’s tragic death, like where is his briefcase with all of his political papers inside? Did he have a life insurance policy or any other government or military benefits, and if so, did anyone claim them? What about any funds collected for his campaign?
The pages of Dean’s biography are littered with stories, likely elaborate enhancements at the hands of the authors who were among Dean’s few friends. Patrick was actually noted as Dean’s “campaign treasurer” during his time in Washington and Oregon and there is a reference on page 160 in the book where Dean asks him to step into the role. According to her biography on the back cover of the book, Marion was also in the middle of all the political action and based on Federal Election Commission documents was registered as “chairman” of Dean’s campaign.
No longer in publication, “From Asininity to Assassination” is hard to find online, but every now and then used copies of this rare title show up on eBay or Amazon (for a hefty price). In early June 2020, I scored a copy for $49 (plus tax/shipping).
Turns out, it was a big win…as the copy I found was not only autographed by Pyro Atomic Bomb (aka Marion) herself, it was also personalized: “Happy reading Harriet, Mother, & Grandmother.” As it turns out, Harriet was Marion’s mother-in-law. Patrick Feany was born in 1928 in Iowa to Andrew and Harriet (Nelson) Feany. Also inscribed was an interesting and telling note: “The passages underlined in red pen were constructed by your middle button, Patrick C. Feany.”
This usage of “middle button” was one of several unique phrases woven throughout the book, along with “my rib” when referring to a spouse and “olive branch” when referencing offspring or children. Often these statements are attributed to Dean in the book, but it is likely they’re actually part of Pyro’s language. In two letters from Marion written in 2000 provided through FOIA, she noted the author of Dean’s biography “murdered the English tongue” – which is odd given the back cover of the book identifies herself as the actual author.
Flipping through the voluminous copy of my book, I found a handful of passages underlined in red – leading me to believe that they were written or said by Patrick as Marion indicated in her handwritten inscription.
Given the number of personal photographs of Dean printed in the book, as well as images of folks he met and places he worked along the way, it appears that Marion and Patrick traveled with him on the campaign trail at least while he was in Oregon and Washington. Or they acquired the images from Dean – either before (or after) his death.
Many of the accounts are printed without attribution and attempts to track down articles or documentation as proof were futile. Determining fact from fiction remains a challenge even months into research and review of sources.
Among the documents received from the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Department was a redacted statement from February 29, 2012 taken by Detectives Greg Bannister and Andrea Blume with a local resident who apparently during the summer of 1975 was the recipient of a “confession” from another local man. According to this confidential informant, this man picked up Dean when he was hitchhiking and the “Presidential Candidate” proceeded to make a pass at the driver by placing his hand on the driver’s knee, which ultimately led to Dean’s murder.
This informant apparently shared these details with investigators back in the 1970s, so it wasn’t really new information – it was just a review of the statement to bring everyone up to speed. If this man who “confessed” was an actual suspect in Dean’s death, it seems he would have been interviewed back in the 1970s or most certainly over the past few years if detectives thought there was truth in this alleged confession? The fact that he is still around and wasn’t taken into custody leads one to think there was no real evidence to this claim.
Another FOIA document obtained was an email exchange from November 2015 from David A. Shotts, an employee of the Oregon Department of Corrections to Detective Blume regarding a conversation Shotts had with Dean’s son, Mark (see below for more about his tragic story).
“Inmate Templeton said they went back to a restaurant in Ellensburg where his dad used to campaign about 5 months after they found his body. Their (sic) he talked with the owner of the restaurant. After they were done talking with the owner, they left and some guy followed them out who overheard and he told them he saw his dad leave the restaurant and get into a tan, 2 door car with a female driving.”
Again…a statement which leads to more questions than answers. Who was with Mark when he went to the Sunset Café (which in fact was in Cle Elum, not Ellensburg)? Did they share this information about the “tan, 2 door car with a female driving” with authorities? Did police ever follow up on this lead?
The email continued: “He said he (sic) dad always carried a black brief case…soft covered with a zipper on it. Templeton for President in 1978 was stenciled on the side of it. It was never found. A lady who wrote a book about it, claimed to have papers which he only carried in his briefcase. Inmate Templeton said, or misspoke, she must have kept the briefcase when she shot him in the car and he fell out into the ditch.”
Coming directly from Dean’s “olive branch” was a blatant accusation that Marion Feany (aka Pyro Atomic Bomb) was responsible for the assassination.
So, was Marion (and perhaps even Patrick) interviewed? Did she provide an alibi for the day of Dean’s disappearance and subsequent death? What kind of car did she drive? And, did she have Dean’s briefcase (which actually said “76” and not “78”) in her possession which may have provided personal details for her book?
More than four decades later, the “who” and the “why” of Dean Templeton’s death sadly still remain a mystery. Even the few members of his family who are still alive provide little more than theories.
What we do know is that during the early 1970s, Ralph “Dean” Templeton of Flint, Michigan, made a passionate plea with the American people as a write-in candidate for the President of the United States. And after being brutally shot and killed in the winter of 1975, his body was laid to rest at the West Deerfield Cemetery in Lapeer, Michigan with other members of his family under a headstone that reads:
RALPH DEAN TEMPLETON
JAN 13 1931 JAN 25 1975
ASSASSINATED WHILE CAMPAIGNING FOR
THE NOMINATION TO THE PRESIDENCY
OF THE UNITED STATES
Interesting enough, Marion Feany traveled almost 2,300 miles east to attend his funeral and records from FamilySearch.org (attributed to the Lapeer County Clerk’s office) include her name, misidentified as Dean’s 50-year-old sister.
BEYOND DEAN’S LIFE & DEATH
The year after Dean’s death, a handful of news articles were published about his presidential bid and his untimely death. It appears his “campaign chairman” Patrick Feany failed to alert the Federal Elections Commission that his “boss” would no longer be continuing his bid for election given the fact that he was no longer living.
An Associated Press article appeared 14 months after Dean’s death, on April 30, 1976, in the Ironwood Daily Globe and The Daily Okahoman which both stated that it wasn’t until March 10, 1976 that the Federal Elections Commission was notified by the “Dean Templeton Write-In Roundup Committee” that Templeton was no longer a candidate and that his name was removed from the official register.
A more detailed account of this action by the committee appeared in the May 6, 1976 issue of Campus Crier, the student newspaper at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, written by David Wasser, News Editor.
“The Federal Election Commission has a dead man from Ellensburg listed as a candidate for president.
“Dean Templeton is registered as one of 90 lesser known candidates for the oval office. He has been dead for at least 15 months.
“The 44-year-old man from Flint, Mich., was murdered sometime during January, 1975. According to Fabian Kuchin, Kittitas County sheriff’s detective, the case is still active. ‘We have no suspects,’ Kuchin said.
“Templeton’s body was recovered along the Thorp Prairie Road on March 4, 1975, about 15 miles from Ellensburg.
“According to Fran Hagan of the public records office of the Federal Elections Commission, the commission has no official word that Templeton is dead.
“’The last thing I have,’ Hagan said, ‘is a termination notice of his committee. The notice was dated March 1, 1975, and signed by Patrick Feany, Templeton’s committee treasurer.’
In reviewing copies of Templeton’s filings from the FEC, there are some discrepancies with dates recorded and those printed in the media in 1976.
While he was accumulating receipts ($544) and expenditures ($569) as early as July 2, 1974, Dean didn’t register his “Templeton Write-in Roundup” committee until early September of that year – using 1322 Crestview Road in Prineville, Oregon (the Feany’s home) as the committee’s official address (although his personal mailing address is noted as 126 West 1st Street in Prineville). That document shows Patrick Feany as committee treasurer and Marion Feany as chairperson.
The second financial report was submitted on January 6, 1975 (three weeks early of the January 31 deadline) in Kittitas County – the only one of the four SEC documents filed in Washington state – with Dean’s address as 602 Pine Street North in Ellensburg. This document included financial numbers from September through December 1974 ($352 in total receipts, $362 in total expenditures and with $10 cash on hand at the beginning of the reporting period for a balance of zero). No figures were every recorded for January 1-27, 1975.
The final report was again sent to Oregon, submitted and signed by Patrick Feany on March 10, 1975 (not March of 1976 as the newspapers reported) for the period of January 28 through March 9 with annual receipts to date recorded at a mere $2.90.
Feany’s bookkeeping however was off – as the report shows $1.40 as an unitemized contribution (for a “total individual contribution” of $1.40) yet he erroneously added these two figures together to come up with the $2.90. The same miscalculation appears under expenditures. Had this figure been a significant dollar amount, one might question it…but for less than a buck-fifty, it wasn’t likely a concern. Also, unlike the two previous filings, this report included a “Section D – Debts and Obligations” used as part of the “termination report” as noted main page.
This final report also was identified as a “termination report” – officially ending Dean’s campaign.
According to an email on October 21, 2020 from Myles Martin, Public Affairs Specialist with the FEC, “termination reports are intended to be the campaign’s final report prior to closing. I’m not sure how the review process went back in those days, but committees registered with the FEC still file termination reports today, which should indicate how any residual funds were spent (or will be spent). Once a committee has satisfied its reporting obligations, the Commission sends a termination approval letter.”
No copy of this “terminational approval letter” was provided by the FEC.
Now, the final days, weeks and months of Dean’s life and campaign are hazy…even to this day.
Dean was last seen on or about January 21, 1975 and his body was found on March 4 (noted on his certificate of death). On March 5, the first newspaper article (with a photo) appeared announcing the discovery of a body alongside Thorp Prairie Road. The following day, a news brief was published identifying the victim as a 44-year-old from Flint, but no name was printed. It would be March 11 before Dean’s name was published following positive identification due to FBI fingerprinting.
Were those five-plus weeks (between January 21 and March 4) just “business as usual” for the Feanys? Weren’t they concerned that they hadn’t heard from their “Presidential Candidate”? While Patrick did in fact terminate the committee on March 10, 1975 (just days after Dean’s body was found and identified), he gave no information as to why and shared no details with the FEC about Dean’s murder. It appears he never officially pulled Dean’s name from the write-in roster. In fact, an article on November 21, 1975 in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Texas still mentioned Dean in an article about countless obscure write-in candidates for the 1976 presidential election.
Back home in Michigan, the local newspaper – The Lapeer County Press – kept Dean’s story and case alive with a front page article on May 4, 1977 titled “’Assassinated’ candidate’s buried in Deerfield” by Don Poniatowski, a local attorney and reporter. His article offered some additional information from the lead investigator in the case as well as offering up more questions sparked by comments from Dean’s brother, Gordon.
“‘I spent so much time investigating his death, I feel like I knew him personally,” says detective Fabian Kuchen. ‘It seemed everytime he went to work somewhere he’d get into an argument talking politics,’ he said. The arguments often ended in fights and Templeton would lose the job. He had worked just 3 days in Cle Elum.”
The article states that Detective Kuchen spent months on the case, with little in the way of motive or clues.
“‘I’ve got a reputation around here of being able to solve anything. But I haven’t solved this one,’ he said.”
As the story continued inside, the writer noted that Patrick Feany could not be reached for comment. No idea if they tried to contact Marion.
“‘Templeton was a loner. So were Patrick and Marion Feany. They were an older couple but individualists. They lived in the mountains somewhere near Prineville,’ said Kuchin.”
It was the last few paragraphs that supported a claim by Dean (in a letter to his brother, Gordon) that he was being watched by intelligence groups in Washington, D.C.
“‘He was checked out by the CIA and Secret Service in January, and was shot later that month…I thought that was kind of interesting,’ he [Dean’s brother] said. ‘It was an assassination-type killing. He was shot twice in the head,’ he added. But Templeton says he doesn’t know why his brother was killed.”
The 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s came and went without much interest in or reporting on Dean’s campaign or murder. However, in 2011 this “Presidential Candidate” was again making headlines: ”Washington police examine 36-year-old murder case of Deerfield Township man” by Gary Gould, Managing Editor of Genesee County View Newspapers (including The County Press) on December 4 of that year.
“For 36 years the murder of Deerfield Township Native Ralph Dean Templeton has gone unsolved.
“Templeton, who played a small role in the 1972 Democratic National Convention and made an unsuccessful bid for the nomination to run for president, was found murdered in a ditch outside Ellensburg, Wash in March of 1975.
“His killer has never been found, but authorities in Washington are looking for family members or friends of Templeton’s to try and collect any information they can on the nearly 40-year-old case.
“Det. Andrea Blume, of the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office in Ellensburg, said she would like to talk to anyone who knew Templeton.
“’(We’re) looking to get more information on this case and specifically family information, as we have his personal effects still,’ she said.”
Anyone with information about Dean’s case is asked to contact Det. Andrea Blume of the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Department (509-962-7069).
THE REST OF THE TRAGIC TEMPLETON FAMILY STORY
Sadly, the Templeton family tragedies didn’t end with Dean’s unsolved murder in 1975.
A few years prior, on April 23, 1973, Mark Templeton married Denise Mumford in Denver, Colorado. That July, their only child, Kraig, was born. Much like his parents and grandparents, Mark’s marriage was short lived and the couple was divorced in Grant County, Oregon on April 29, 1977. Denise remarried in the summer of 1981, to Thomas James Stevens. Mark’s life, however, would eventually take a much darker turn.
On May 10, 1989, Charlene (Mark’s mother and Dean’s second ex-wife) and her husband, George Florian, were shot to death on their 5,000-acre cattle ranch along the John Day River in Kimberly, Oregon. Two months later, the Grant County Sheriff’s Department and the Oregon State Police, as well as other agencies in three western states, arrested two men for the gruesome crime: 31-year-old David Allen Barrett of Arkansas and 34-year-old Mark Forrest Templeton – Charlene and Dean’s only son.
- Couple shot to death on Grand County ranch (Statesman Journal – Salem, Oregon | Friday, May 12, 1989)
- Ranch couple found dead (Albany Democrat-Herald – Albany, Oregon | Saturday, May 13, 1989)
- Security unusual at ranch where pair found dead (Albany Democrat-Herald – Albany, Oregon | Tuesday, May 16, 1989)
- Two arrested in double slaying (Albany Democrat-Herald – Albany, Oregon | Tuesday, July 18, 1989)
The case was sent before the Oregon Grand Jury but was later dismissed because of improperly conducted hearings.
- Aggravated murder indictment dropped (Albany Democrat-Herald – Albany, Oregon | Wednesday, March 14, 1990)
- Judge rules grand jury mishandled charges (Statesman Journal – Salem, Oregon | Wednesday, March 14, 1990)
However, in the summer of 1991, Mark entered a no contest plea (a plea by which a defendant accepts conviction but does not plead or admit to guilt) to murder charges in the shotgun slaying of his stepfather. He also plead guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in the death of his mother. He was sentenced to life in prison at the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Pendleton for the murder and 20 years with a 10-year mandatory minimum for his involvement in his mother’s death (although one document notes it was a 20-year concurrent sentence for the charge against his mother).
- Man gets life sentence for double homicide (Statesman Journal – Salem, Oregon | Tuesday, June 18, 1991)
Over the years, Mark has petitioned to be paroled, citing claims such as unlawful indictments, evidence and witness tampering, and concerns that “his trial attorney improperly allowed him to enter into plea bargains despite his innocence.”
One of the most recent cases was filed in February 2017 against Rick Coursey, superintendent of the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institute since 2008. In a document found through Casetext.com, it is noted that Mark was challenging a 2011 decision by the Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision deferring his release. At that time, the Board “determined that petitioner suffered from a present severe emotional disturbance so as to constitute a danger to the health and safety of the community.”
At some point, perhaps as part of the 2011 review, Mark’s uncle Gordon (noted as president of the American Capital Insulation Company in Florida) wrote a letter to the Department of Parole on behalf of his nephew.
“Mark Templeton is my nephew and I have known him since birth. His father (my brother) had a history of mental illness as Mark was growing up and therefore was not the roll (sic) model he needed during this critical time.
“His Mother was making and selling drugs at the time of her death so you can see he was not getting the right feedback here either. A person selling and manufacturing drugs in this manner is at a high risk of violence if what I see on T.V. newscast (sic) are accurate, so I feel there is credibility to Marks (sic) contention that he was not in the state when these violent crimes took place and he may very well be innocent of what he is incarcerated for.”
Clearly, the letter didn’t have any impact with the Board, as Mark remains in custody. His earliest date of release as July 15, 2021.
Uncle Gordon’s lifestyle also landed him in jail. In 2014, at the age of 81, he was arrested and charged in Manatee, Florida with two counts of “lewd or lascivious molestation” of a victim under the age of 12. Now 87-years-old, he will be 101 if he lives to serve out his 20-year sentence – his posted release date is December 6, 2034.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE FEANYS?
Little is known about the lives of Patrick and Marion Feany in the years after Dean’s murder (or even before they all met). In 1981, under the pseudonym Pyro Atomic Bomb, Marion filed a copyright for the detailed autobiographical book “From Asininity to Assassination – a biography about a peripatetic presidential candidate” about Dean’s life and candidacy. It is unknown how many copies were printed, but it is listed with the Library of Congress.
In the summer of 2000, Marion carried on a brief pen pal relationship with an inmate at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Facility where Mark Templeton was incarcerated and her address was noted in Prineville on the same road (although different house number) than the one on reports filed during Dean’s campaign with the FEC. It isn’t known who she was corresponding with, as the recipient’s name (and inmate ID number) on the letter, obtained through FOIA from Kittitas County Sheriff’s Department, is blacked out.
It appears the inmate was the first to initiate contact, as Marion references his letter postmarked 12 May 2000 in her response. Apparently, the inmate had questions about “From Asininity to Assassination” to which Marion noted “the author of FROM ASININITY to ASSASSINATION murdered the English language” (an odd statement about herself). She went on to say “While you’re waiting to locate a copy of FROM ASININITY to ASSASSINATION I suggest you review your Latin conjugates. An advanced study of body languages would be very helpful, also.”
Another more detailed letter dated Saturday 24 June 2000 addressed “Dear Rick” was also obtained through FOIA which is full of obscure and intricate words and sentence structures, reminiscent of those in Dean’s biography – reinforcing that notion that Marion was the writer of both. Unfortunately, it isn’t known who “Rick” is and no follow up letter appears to have been sent.
Patrick Feany passed away on November 15, 2009. Marion, at age 88, is still alive and living in the Prineville area. Given that Dean’s murder remains an open investigation, attempts were not made to reach out to Marion for comment on this article. Additionally, since the only living family members – Mark and Gordon Templeton – remain imprisoned for their respective crimes, communication with them was also not initiated. The Kittitas County Sheriff’s Department provided a wealth of documents through FOIA, but have not yet replied to follow up questions although all copies of newspaper articles found during this investigation have been shared with them.
Templeton Family Timeline
- Ralph Templeton died August 4, 1970
- Olive Templeton died on December 29, 1972
- Dean Templeton died on January 25, 1975
- Charlene (Templeton) Florian (and her husband, George Florian) were murdered on May 11, 1989 (Mark Templeton was charged with George’s death and with conspiracy in the death of his mother, committed by his friend, David Allen Barrett)
- Myrtle Groesbeck Templeton died on October 27, 1998
- Doris (Templeton) Pena died May 2, 2009 (was married 4 times, had 2 children)
- Patrick Feany died November 15, 2009
- Delores M. (Templeton) Dodge died in 2014 (was married to Peter Dodge, had 5 children)
- Delbert Gordon Templeton is incarcerated in Manatee, Florida as a sexual predator
- Marion Feany is still alive, at age 88, and living in Oregon
- Mark Templeton is incarcerated in Oregon on murder charges, his earliest possible release date is July 15, 2021
- Kraig Templeton is alive and was known to be living in Kentucky
Thank you…to the following organizations (not already identified above) for their assistance in researching this article:
- Central Oregon Community College, Bend
- Ellensburg Public Library, Ellensburg
- Genesee District Library, Flint
- Lapeer Township Offices
- Marguerite deAngeli Library, Lapeer