Secrets Of The Hells Angels: The Turncoat Who Slaughtered His Family

In the 1960s, it was all fun and games. In the 1970s, the HA became gangsters. People started getting murdered or disappearing; bombs started going off everywhere, especially in Cleveland...

First, by way of explaining my nearly nine-month absence: I'd been biding my time, keeping my powder dry, enjoying my unannounced semiretirement from this blog, when one evening, I suddenly found myself scribbling on the backs of cocktail napkins. Next thing I knew, goddammit, I seemed to be getting back into the swing without even realizing it. 

Butch Crouch smiles for the camera.

Operating this blog the right way is like having a poorly paying full-time job on top of the full-time job that pays the bills—and buys the vino. An admittedly lazy man, I find having two full-time jobs rough because you basically work all the time. And that ain't no kind of fun after a while. Looking back, the most remarkable thing is probably that my stint here lasted as long as it did.  

But then, while recently listening to the inimitable Rob Zombie, I was suddenly "inspired" to return, though not with something Cosa Nostra related. As for the mob stuff, I find myself with little to nothing I feel like saying these days. Besides, there has been too much talking about the so-called secret society the past couple of years. A firehose of information is out there—and how much of it is pure bullshit is anybody’s guess. (I'm, of course, not referring to the work of guys like Mikie Scars, Dom Cicale, and John Alite, etc.) I’ve always preferred reading to watching, listening, etc., and I’m dubious of information freely spouted in a pressure-less forum. Which is probably why I despise that whiny little bitch Trump so much. (If you can’t do the time, don’t do your criming—in front of the whole fcking world no less). Maybe I'll wait until the nuclear blast, then resurface.... 

Anyway, I've decided not to embark on the podcast route, I've declined multiple invitations to appear in films and television shows, even after one producer assured me that they could blur my face and disguise my voice—which made me chuckle. (Don't get the wrong idea: I do lend a helping hand whenever I canmainly because I'm a nice guy. In fact, if I was in the mob, my nickname would probably be "Nice Guy Eddie," and yes, I did steal that from Reservoir Dogs.) It's not nihilism, it's that my full-time job, the paying one, prevents me from reaching for that "next" level. Besides, I love the freedom of being anonymous, unrecognized. Ok, you got me: I care most about money, less about power, and as for fame, notoriety, whatever you call it, I care about that less than zero.

Consider this an attempt to get a bad taste out of my mouth.

While writing I'm listening to—what else?—hardcore death metal—The Triumph of King Freak and, perhaps more appropriately given this blog entry, The Ballad of Sleazy Rider.

Still, despite the mostly lacking mob connection, I sense that some might find the following of some interest—especially those of you who have been watching Secrets of the Hells Angels, a highly revelatory documentary series now playing Sunday nights on A&E. Or those of you who would be watching it if you knew about it, and, well, now you can't say you don't know.

The Turncoat In Question
Something about the outlaw MCs has been piquing my interest of late: the story of Clarence (Butch) Crouch in particular. Also, the story of Margo Compton—but I’m unable to write that one —and probably won't ever be able to write about what happened on August 7, 1977, to that poor, beautiful, hopelessly na├»ve woman, her six-year-old twin daughters Sylvia and Sandra, and Gary Seslar, the 19-year-old son of her boyfriend, courtesy of the heinous, and thankfully now deceased, Hells Angels pimp/drug dealer Odis (Buck) Garrett and prospect Bug-Eyed Bob McClure.

Many years after the fact, Garrett finally faced the music for the most vile of dirty deeds. He was such a lowlife, an Aryan Brotherhood leader actually contacted law enforcement to say he'd testify about what happened to the Comptons, he was so disgusted with Buck and Bug-Eyed Bob. The AB member, Michael (Iron Mike) Thompson, knew all about the heinous crimes because Garrett himself had told him all about it while Garrett was in prison. (Many HA join the AB when they’re in the can.)

According to Iron Mike, when he learned about retaliatory death threats against his wife and family, he dialed up Sonny Barger to tell him of his plans to testify. He claimed Barger assured him his wife and family would be safe and that Buck had "gone off the reservation" when he went at the Comptons. But that smells like BS considering that when Garrett died in prison in 2017, he was still an HA in good standing with the MC. Here endeth that story.

Margo Compton gazes heavenward while cradling her babies.

Who was Butch Crouch? He was "a very serious Hells Angel" who was the brutal, driving force behind the Cleveland chapter of the MC in the 1970s. He had an eye for spotting talent and quickly expanded the wayward Cleveland crew, eventually transforming it into something other than a gang of young bikers with a yen for violence. Law enforcement would term the Cleveland chapter a "murder cult." Crouch, as Vice President, took the chapter to war against rivals, including the Breed and the Outlaws, and made it known that they'd do contract hits. (What Murder Incorporated was to Cosa Nostra, the Cleveland chapter became to the rest of the HA courtesy of Butch Crouch.)

An ATF internal summary of the Cleveland Hells Angels noted the severe "loss of human life" attributed to the HA during that time. "Investigations reveal the Angels to be responsible for at least 20 separate murders, several who were innocent victims having no connection to HAMC at all."

Crouch was the worst of the worst. Over his decade-plus in Cleveland, he was investigated for rape, narcotics, assault to kill, assaulting a police officer, and about a dozen other felonies. That decade also was among the the bloodiest in Cleveland history: The HA's violence extended beyond its wars with the Breed and the Outlaws; there was also Danny Greene, and a mob war (that involved both sides contracting the Hells Angels to plant and denotate bombs).

Crouch was the kind of guy who would—and did—shoot a dog if its bark woke him. And if his old lady complained about him killing her pet—which she did—he'd put her in her place by jamming a knife through her foot into the floor—which he did. Crouch was a mean sonofabitch who gave meaning to the term "Filthy Few."

He lived the life completely—but he also had a personal code. He'd gut you with a knife without blinking twice, pull a Kristi Noem on Fido, stab a lady friend in the foot, etc., but there were certain red lines he'd never cross. And when the HA did, he decided he'd had enough.

Butch Crouch ran Cleveland for the HA in the 1970s.

Clarence Addie Crouch was born to an unwed, deaf, mute mother named Verline Williams in Shreveport, La., in 1940.  Crouch spent his first 10 years on earth dwelling at Boys Town and other homes. From an early age, he "was rowdier than most and constantly in trouble with the law. He ran away at 14, only occasionally dropping back into Louisiana to see his mother over the years."

Around 1959, Crouch was nailed for theft, burglary, and assault, and was dealt a five-year sentence in the Texas state penitentiary in Huntsville.

Following his release, Crouch fell in love with motorcycles and began to ride. He helped form a Texas chapter of the Grim Reapers MC. Eventually, "Crouch patched over as one of the early members of the notorious Bandidos—'one of the First seven,' he wrote to an acquaintance—which were born in 1966 in Texas."

"But since I like to travel on my Hog, I went to Shreveport, Little Rock, San Antonio, Lake Charles, Galveston and a couple of other towns, sought others like us and convinced them to start chapters," Crouch wrote. (This dude left behind copious notes, letters, even audio recordings.)

Eventually, time came for Crouch to make another move. As he would write: "While Don [Chambers, founder of the Bandidos] stayed in Houston and put a patch on anyone who could come pay him dues each week, me along with about 30 others quit and sent word to Oakland and Sonny [Barger] to come check us out for a chapter."

Ralph Hubert (Sonny) Barger Jr., who died in 2022, was a founding member of the Oakland, California chapter of the Hells Angels and longtime chapter president. The Oakland Chapter is the dominant chapter; Sonny Barger was the de facto boss of the Hells Angels during his lifetime.

Sonny Barger, the man, who died in 2022 at age 83.

Crouch eventually made his way to Oakland to meet Barger and other HAs.

"Walked into Sonny's house and he blew my mind," Crouch wrote, "because he had a big filing cabinet, pulled out a file and called my real name and mother's address."

Barger wanted to reorganize and expand the Cleveland chapter and also knock out all rivals and assume total control of the meth trade. So he sent the 28-year-old Crouch to Ohio.

Crouch was among the HAs who masterminded the slaughter at the 1971 custom cycle show at the Polish Women's Hall in Cleveland (an amusing name for the place, all things considered). The brawl has been called the most brutal, violent MC clash in American history.

The HA were going to attend—and the Breed planned to ambush them at the show. Only the wily HA were more than prepared to meet the challenge, and the would-be ambushers found themselves mercilessly ambushed. Some HAs were Vietnam vets with expertise in explosives and weaponry and surprise attack; they visited the hall the night before and stashed weapons (mostly blades) everywhere. The unsuspecting Breed members arrived the next day for the show, not realizing that, on the way in, they had passed an army of HAs not wearing their colors from other chapters across the country, including New York.

"Freddie [Radatz, then president] made sure we didn't bring guns with us," Crouch wrote later in life. "We went there and stood up as Men." (Though the deck had been stacked somewhat in their favor, of course.)

Following the melee, 85 were arrested; 31 members of the Breed and 14 from the Hells Angels were indicted. The scoreboard was 21 wounded, five dead, all of them Breed; only one Angel was sent to meet his maker. Crouch, among the wounded, stabbed multiple times, including in the chest and back, was indicted for first-degree murder. He got only two years probation and time served. (Crouch later claimed that Cuyahoga County Judge Frank Gorman had been bribed, and that bribing judges, along with rape, kidnapping, torture, drug dealing, and murder, were all part of daily life for the HA.)

What happened at the Polish Women's Hall "changed everything," Crouch would write. "New Roll Bones Rule [translation: the rule for killing someone to earn a patch], the TCB fund [Taking Care of Business Fund, which funded wars with rivals] and the focus became how to kill Breed. Biker magazines on the clubhouse coffee table were replaced with how to build bombs and booby traps. And selling dope to finance the war became big."

In 1981, after years of murder and mayhem helping turn the Hells Angels into the fearsome entity it is still known as today—supposedly after some Cleveland HAs bombed the wrong house, killing an innocent woman and her toddler—something inside Butch broke. He disappeared while on a cross-country run and secretly met with his mentor/hero, Sonny Barger, in Tennessee to discuss his concerns.

It sounds like it was a brutally honest discussion.

Do what you gotta do, Barger said, telling Crouch: There is no brotherhood; it's every man for himself. 

"One day this whole thing is gonna collapse," Barger said, and only the guys with money are going to avoid dying in the can.

Butch decided to flip, and he surrendered to the ATF.

Hells Angels cut.

He was the first HA to flip; he spilled the MC's deepest, darkest secrets and gave law enforcement its first roadmap into the world of the outlaw MCs. 

In 1983, he also testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, during which he talked about the HAs having an "open contract" on members of the Rolling Stones, noting there had been two failed attempts on the life of Mick Jagger, part of the fallout from Altamont Speedway. 

The media-loving Barger denied Crouch's claims in a press conference, and later, in 1992, told the Phoenix New Times: "I personally don't like the guy (meaning our man Mick, like the coolest fcking cat in the universe), but that doesn't mean I want him dead. There are seven [Hells Angels] chapters in England and he comes over here a lot. If there was a contract out on him, then he'd be dead. It's that simple, he wouldn't still be singing." It’s called plausible deniability.

Crouch went in when he didn't have to. The Feds had nothing on him when he approached with his hands up (figuratively speaking). Kind of like what happened with ex-Luchese wiseguy John Pennisi.

Butch served prison time until 1990, then disappeared into the witness protection program. He was no hero, of course, and tragically, on July 8, 2013, in East Texas, at the age of 73, Crouch was found sitting in the front seat of his blue Jaguar covered in blood. Butch—then known by his witness protection name, Paul Dome—had shot to death both his second wife, Vivian, 85, and her son, Willard Landry. Then he set the house on fire, got into his car, and lived long enough to have a conversation with someone while watching the house burn. By the time local police arrived on the scene, Butch had put a bullet in his head. 

Supposedly, the second wife—along with everyone in the neighborhood, who all loved the Dome family—had no clue who Paul Dome really was.

"You don't always know people," a neighbor said.

When the HA learned about Crouch's double-murder-suicide, they threw a party.

UPDATE: We've continued to research this story and have found a ton of additional information. Rather than attempt to revise and expand this story, we're working on a new one.

Among the revelations we've learned: Butch Crouch, his wife, and stepson were all suffering from extensive medical problems, which casts a somewhat different light on Butch's final actions.

Crouch had arthritis and neuropathy, a group of conditions that result from damage to the nerve structures outside the brain and spinal cord, according to his daughter. "He had arthritis his whole life. His toes were curled by the time he was 30. He was in an unbelievable amount of pain by the end."

He wasn't receiving Medicare and could only rarely afford pain pills. (His only income in his later years was derived from his abilities as a woodworker: He pocketed $50 here and there cobbling together tables, etc., for neighbors and friends.)

As for his wife, Vivian, she was losing her eyesight and had tumors along her spine. Willard Landry, her son, had come to live with the couple while he suffered from terminal brain cancer. By the end, Landry was down to 100 pounds and was unable to even go to the bathroom on his own.

Crouch was an old warrior who, in his final years, still suffered from ancient battle wounds.

He discussed the situation in an email he sent to a friend a couple of months before he died. It was the last correspondence the friend ever received from Crouch:

"Health? Like I said, been in bed a lot lately. Getting old and all these damn bullet holes and stab wounds," he wrote. "Then on top of all that, my stepson is 66 and is laying up on a hospital bed in my front room dying. Hospice comes two or three times a week, but those assholes don't do anything but write in clipboards and leave all the bathing to my wife and I. Last year he was strong and sharp as they come, but now it's like taking care of a stepped-on tomato. Bless his heart and hers. TV, we watch a lot of it these days. I'm 73 now. I've been fighting with SS for three years to get some kind of Medicare. Well, it's 1:30 a.m. and I gotta take him to Walmart in the morning. What a trip that's gonna be! Last time, and why she won't go tomorrow, she found him eating grapes with both hands."

This story was gently fine-tuned after it was posted.