If you’re one thing, can you be another thing too?
Jahson Marryshow is a great guy. He circulated between two communities in Eugene, Oregon. If he wasn’t playing Ultimate Frisbee he was immersed in his Orthodox Christian faith.
Jahson is considered to be a good teammate and is loved by his Orthodox Christian family.
That is why what I’m about to tell you shocked both communities.
It was a beautiful day for Ultimate Frisbee. Jahson was playing his second fall Sunday city league game with his new team, the Ruffians. After the game, he had plans to celebrate his best friend’s and fellow church member’s birthday.
Jahson opened up the game by launching a full field huck to a teammate for a score. The second point ended with Marryshow out jumping one of the best college players in town.
The opposing team decided to take a time out to regroup.
Jahson walked tiredly to the sideline to get a drink of water.
He heard it before he saw it.
“Get down on your knees and put your hands up!”
Jahson knew exactly what was happening. After years of living on the lam, the cops had finally found him.
This story, told by way of interviews with people involved from the Ultimate fields of Eugene, to Woodstock and back, is Ultimate Fugitive.
What follows is a transcript of the program, transcribed via a third-party transcription service so it may include errors. The audio of the piece is meant to the official record.
Taryn Jackson: It was a nice Sunday afternoon, late summer. We were late getting to our Ultimate Frisbee games that day.
Sgt. Dorman: I got a call from our dispatch, saying they got an anonymous call, that this guy was here in Eugene and playing Ultimate Frisbee.
Taryn Jackson: We were riding our bikes down through the bike path that goes to the park where the games are played.
Sgt. Dorman: The warrant had been to transfer over to the U.S. Marshall’s office from the agency that was handling it in New York. Our two agencies worked together to kind of figure out where he was going to be. When he was gonna be there.
Taryn Jackson: There were some city workers working on the bike path. And they were just kind of standing in the middle, so I had to ring my bike bell, so they’d let us by. They apologized and got out of the way.
Sgt. Dorman: Probably about 10-to-12 of us undercover. Uh, we had people set up faraway, close-in.
Taryn Jackson: But as we passed in the back of my mind I was thinking why would they be out doing work on a Sunday afternoon?
Sgt. Dorman: One of the things we liked about the Ultimate frisbee tournament if he’s out there playing, active on the field, uh, he’s gonna most likely wearing shorts and a t-shirt, very unlikely he’s going to be armed because he can’t run and jump and do all those things with a heavy gun.
Taryn Jackson: So, we rode up to the fields. We started warming up and throwing on the sideline to get ready. And there were two other men on the sideline just watching the games. They didn’t really seem to be with anyone there and we don’t typically get spectators, so that also seemed a little weird to me, and then a few points into the game, we looked over to the other fields and the game had stopped and someone was on the ground.
Sgt. Dorman: It was during a timeout where he’d come to the side.
Taryn Jackson: First, I assumed someone had gotten hurt.
Sgt. Dorman: He’d been out there running quite a bit already. And, ah, he presented, uh, close to people that we had hidden there.
Taryn Jackson: Then we realized someone was being handcuffed and those men we saw on the sideline and those city workers were undercover cops and they had come over and were arresting someone.
Sgt. Dorman: So, it made for a good easy opportunity, to do the take-down.
Taryn Jackson: And someone on the field said, “Oh my god, it’s Jahson.”
Ida Hardin: For four years Jahson Marryshow had been a regular at Ultimate frisbee fields in Eugene, Oregon.
He loved Ultimate. He'd arrive to each game on his bicycle with a positive attitude and played every point to its fullest. I saw this first hand, we played on the same team for a season. His work ethic was contagious.
I was shocked to find out Jahson was arrested. It took it a couple of minutes for it to register. The same smiley guy that would wave when he’d bike by my home. He was arrested on the Ultimate field. Not just by the local cops but by undercover U.S. Marshalls. Why did they need to sneak up on him? Was Jahson a fugitive? What was I missing?
Jahson first showed up to Eugene Ultimate in 2011, fit and ready to play. His short brown curly hair drifted down into sideburns. His skin matched his big brown eyes. He didn’t wear fancy athletic clothing, just generic cleats, shorts, and a tight-fitting tank top that would showcase his rippling muscles. He towered over most players at 6 foot 2. Jahson could out-sprint and out-jump nationally ranked college players. His kryptonite, throwing.
Thomas Hibdon: I’d told people, he’s like gonna throw and go.
Ida Hardin: Thomas Hibdon met Jahson a couple months after Jahson’s arrival. He was impressed and in awe of his athleticism.
Thomas Hibdon: He's gonna throw a short throw and then he’s gonna run as fast as he can and he’s really fast and he can jump really high so good luck.
Ida Hardin: Jahson was so good, he caught the eye of another seasoned Eugene veteran, Keith Butcher, a respected player known for his zest to dress wearing bright red shorts accented with yellow flowers. He tried to draw Jahson into playing on the local men’s team, Darkstar.
Keith Butcher: I’d be like, hey, you should come to Darkstar’s practice and he’d be like “where is it?” Well, we kind of change times around so what’s your email? He never had an email and I asked what his phone number was? “I sort of don’t have one right now,” and sometimes he did and sometimes he didn’t. So, I try to tell him whenever I saw him. So, that was like a little weird.
Ida Hardin: Not weird enough for anyone in Eugene to care. So Jahson didn’t play Darkstar but he was dedicated to playing pickup. His leadership and athleticism made college pickup the place to be.
Thomas Hibdon: There were a lot of players, that were students at the University of Oregon who were able to play a weekly game on campus specifically because Jahson wanted it to happen and everybody knew that, and he kind of just built a game around himself.
Ida Hardin: This popularity helped him start his own organized city league team called the Ruffians. Unlike Darkstar, city league has a consistent schedule. Jahson’s team was a collection of outstanding young players. Thomas Hibdon was on a different team and looked forward to playing against Jahson.
Thomas Hibdon: The last conversation I had with him was like sweet we’re going to play against each other and I’ll see you on Sunday.
Ida Hardin: Jahson was arrested that Sunday.
Thomas Hibdon: I found out pretty immediately because all the group’s meme’s I was in were blowing up.
Ida Hardin: It turns out, Thomas missed the game due to work but the drama wasn’t far away. Rumors spread quickly that an Ultimate player had turned in Jahson.
Thomas Hibdon: I remember right after the fact, people were like, well like, someone had to of said something, which was not a good feeling cause it was like what person in our community like treated that person as the other and not as one of us?
Ida Hardin: Players started formulating theories and pointing fingers. As various rumors were being vetted. Thomas and Keith found ways to support their teammate.
Thomas Hibdon: Right afterward, I remember he was in the local county jail and somebody in our community posted that if you want to send him anything, send him any kind of message, this is how you do it.
Keith Butcher: I wrote him a letter just saying that I don’t know what happened before you got here but you seem like a good guy to me and if there was that in your past you seemed to be making a break from it becoming a good person and so if you ever need someone to reach out too, I’m here.
Ida Hardin: I talked to a half-dozen other players that reached out to Jahson in jail too. Some even sent him money. All of these folks had a great time with Jahson on the field. But they didn’t share one experience off the field.
Thomas Hibdon: I played a lot with him but we never hung out. We’d always invite him to drinks. And it was always like thank you but you know I’m gonna do my own thing.
Keith Butcher: Yeah, he was definitely an enigma. We all knew he was an enigma because there is no email, phone number that changed frequently, and he’d always ride out into the night after frisbee.
Ida Hardin: I know from my own short experience playing with Jahson that he never attended team parties or joined group dinners. In the four years, he lived in Eugene, I only bumped into him once at a block party.
The Whiteaker Block Party is an annual gathering put on each summer by the Eugene Whiteaker neighborhood.
It was started by a group of outsiders; that took pride in anarchy, art, social disorder, and lite drug use. When I ran into Jahson there, I was surprised to see him volunteering with a church group.
Mikaela Jaquette: While he was there we had the Onion Dome.
Ida Hardin: The golden bulb on top of orthodox church buildings, is an architectural feature called an onion dome. At the Whiteaker Block Party, it was a food stall run by Jahson - and a bunch of teens from the neighborhood Orthodox church. Mikaela Jaquette was one of those teens.
Mikaela Jaquette: It would usually be my sister, him and I, and like some other people from the church.
Ida Hardin: Mikaela is now 25-years-old, she is tall and fit. Mikaela spent a lot of time hanging out with Jahson. Not just at the block party but going to dinner, swimming, and making church meals.
Mikaela Jaquette: We kind of like had a posse. There were four of us. We would usually eat together and hang out and we’d like to play foosball after church every single Sunday too.
Ida Hardin: Mikaela and Jahson had a special bond outside of the group.
Mikaela Jaquette: He was probably one of my best friends. It developed really fast, it was really cool.
Ida Hardin: Jahson was in his late-20s but Joanne, Mikela’s mom, trusted him to hang out with her then-teenage daughter.
Joanna Jaquette: He was just the Pied Piper but not in a bad way in a good way. We didn’t have a youth group. Our community was so small that they all had to play together and they all hung out.
Ida Hardin: So, this was where Jahson disappeared to after Ultimate games. I wanted to know more so I reached out to one of the church leaders. Deacon Stephen Dyer is one of the founders of the Eugene Orthodox Church.
Deacon Stephen Dyer: I met Jahson when he first came to the church.
Ida Hardin: He agreed to talk about Jahson. I showed up early to the salmon-colored church adorned with a blue onion dome with gold stars on it. I took some pictures and then waited on the sidewalk directly outside. The Deacon arrived ten minutes late dressed head to toe in black. We walked down the path under the church bells. He opened up the front door. I followed behind as he led me through the dark church hallway. Religious icons surrounded me. I felt like Harry Potter being led to the Chamber of Secrets.
We made our way to the back of the church to the daycare center. We sat directly across from each other in rigid chairs.
What was your first impression of Jahson?
Deacon Stephen Dyer: Pleasant to be around, friendly, but he didn’t say much, not to me.
Ida Hardin: He’s kind of used to this being a person of authority.
Deacon Stephen Dyer: Certain people tend to be very standoffish. They don’t want to be caught in something, in doing, or saying something wrong. So he was very careful around me.
Ida Hardin: But even to the deacon, Jahson seemed more standoffish than others.
Deacon Stephen Dyer: He just had a kind of official line. Talked about being a bartender in New York City, living in Spanish Harlem, in a little rented bed in a cutup house. He had a kind of official story of his background.
Ida Hardin: Did you sense that he had something to hide?
Deacon Stephen Dyer: No, no, I didn’t know. I didn’t find out.
Ida Hardin: Until Jahson’s arrest. When he went to see him in the jail.
Deacon Stephen Dyer: And he was very talkative, very ebullient, he was happy not to be on the lam anymore. And he talked very openly.
Deacon Stephen Dyer: Did anyone mention the Onion Dome?
Ida Hardin: Yes
Deacon Stephen Dyer: Ya, the kids loved working the Onion Dome. He was an inspiration.
Ida Hardin: After speaking with church members, I felt comfortable that Jahson in that community was the same guy we knew from Ultimate. A friendly guy with a hard work ethic.
The Ultimate community watched in real-time as undercover cops arrested their teammate. I started to wonder how members of Jahson’s church group found out.
That Sunday he was arrested, Jahson was supposed to go over to Mikeala’s for dinner.
Mikaela Jaquette: He was supposed to come, he was coming after the game. He was going to ride his bike over and he’s like “I’m gonna get you a surprise too”
Ida Hardin: It was her 20th birthday party.
Joanna Jaquette: And so she was waiting for him
Mikaela Jaquette: I had texted him a couple of times. And he like, didn’t show.
Joanna Jaquette: And, he just never did. And then the next morning it was on the paper and I’m the one who got the paper. And, so I took the paper to her and I said this is why he didn’t come.
It was really hard, she just started crying. I mean we all started crying.
Ida Hardin: The Ultimate community wasn’t the only one left stunned.
Mikaela Jaquette: I didn’t think of him in that way at all. I wasn’t expecting that at all. I was very shocked.
Ida Hardin: Mikaele visited Jahson at the local jail.
Mikaela Jaquette: When I went to visit him the next week he was like, “Oh, one of the last things I thought about when I looked up and I saw the policeman coming towards me was like darn it! I was going to get Mikaela a Blueberry pie.”
Ida Hardin: That day, speaking to Joanna in the library. She explained how difficult the arrest was on her family. She anxiously flipped through her phone, deciding if she wanted to share something personal.
Joanna Jaquette: Can I play it?
Ida Hardin: Then, she pushed play on the song that helps her daughter deal with Jahson being in jail.
Joanna Jaquette: It’s just kinda who he was after because Mikaela would light up when he would call.
Ida Hardin: Jahson made friends, got a job, mentored youth, and was an Ultimate captain. I would expect this list of achievements on a college application, not a fugitive’s.
But Jahson was a fugitive.
Record Newswatch: Marryshow set fire to a barn on the outskirts of town of Woodstock, back in June 2010 as a way to create a diversion while he robbed a Bank of America branch in the center of town. Using a stolen car during the chorus of the events.
Ida Hardin: This is from a local affiliate in New York - Record Newswatch
Record Newswatch: Law enforcement recently got a tip that Marryshow was living in Eugene, Oregon.
Ida Hardin: When Jahson was arrested by the U.S. Marshalls and local police on the Ultimate field that day. The story was covered by national TV networks, and was peppered all over the internet with headlines playing up the frisbee field arrest like Good Catch! And WHAM-O!
I knew him here as a friendly Ultimate Frisbee player. There were no clues that the guy in Eugene had been a criminal or could have pulled off such a crime spree.
I needed answers. Jahson Marryshow was on the most wanted list in Woodstock, New York -- for car theft, arson, and armed robbery - stealing twenty k from a bank. He was living as a fugitive 3,000 miles away in Eugene, Oregon.
To unravel the mystery of the armed robber turned good guy. I looked in many places, I requested records from the Woodstock Police Department, trial transcripts - and the easiest…. typed in ‘Woodstock Ultimate’ into Google search.
I found a video.
It shows players running barefoot or in tennis shoes… some even wear jeans. Players are not organized, they’re loosely guarding each other with no offensive or defensive strategy. All signs point to hippy Ultimate - including the soundtrack - the classic Beatles happy song.
If Jahson played here, Eugene Ultimate might have been a shocker. Even though Eugene has a reputation as a hippy town, we play serious Ultimate with cleats, athletic gear, and cones. Don’t get me wrong. We still mess around. But I haven’t seen bare feet on an ultimate field in quite a while.
Suddenly the video shows a tall, shirtless, brown-skinned dude jogging by. Was that Jahson!? The guy had 20 pounds on the Jahson I knew from Eugene. I wasn’t sure so I sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I got a reply!
Mark Bernard: Hello.
Ida Hardin: Hi Mark, It’s Ida here.
Mark Bernard: Hi.
Ida Hardin: Mark Bernard, the current Woodstock Ultimate Coordinator has known Jahson for years.
Mark Bernard: Let's see, I'd say he came on the field in the early 2000s. It's not a very big game. Woodstock is a pretty teeny town.
Ida Hardin: Mark says everybody liked playing disc with Jahson. He’d bring his buddies to play and sometimes a girlfriend would come watch. Jahson attended parties. He drank. And there were times when his drinking got out of hand.
Five years of Woodstock Police records show cops had responded to a number of incidents when Jahson was in his early twenties, mostly revolving around drinking: noise violations, reckless behavior, public intoxication.
Mark Bernard: I mean, he definitely had a problem with alcohol. I remember being at a bar, um, called the Pine Crest. And the police car showed up and they let him out of the car like completely like staggering drunk, because they just thought he’d be safer at the bar than wherever they had found him.
Ida Hardin: In Eugene, Jahson never got into trouble. I learned from interviewing Eugene church members that Jahson did drink but it never got out of hand. This type of behavior in Woodstock was completely foreign. Why was Jahson’s behavior in Woodstock different from Eugene?
I needed to speak with more people from Jahson’s past and visit the place that helped cultivate this bank robber. I bought a plane ticket.
After a red-eye flight from Portland to New York, a three hour time change, and a two-hour drive up the Hudson River, listening to local radio, I finally arrived in Woodstock.
One person I knew I had to talk to was Laniya, Jahson’s mom. I knew from talking to the church folks that Jahson was close to her.
Laniya Solomon: Oh, Hi, Ida.
Ida Hardin: Oh, Hi. Nice to me you.
Laniya Solomon: Nice to meet you. Come in, come in. We don't wear shoes in the house.
Ida Hardin: I don't wear shoes in my house.
Laniya Solomon: Okay, good. So how do you do?
Ida Hardin: Jahson’s parent’s home is a converted 1805 Dutch barn. It has vaulted ceilings and a wide-open floor plan. Family photos, a large dining room table, and a cozy couch fill the main room.
You can see from the window looking into the backyard a large grass field sloping down into a pond big enough for a dock. The same pond that was searched by the local sheriff’s department looking for the over 20 thousand stolen. But right now in the hot sun the pond looks inviting.
Ida Hardin: Can you swim in that pond?
Laniya Solomon: Well, the kids used to.
Ida Hardin: Yeah.
Laniya Solomon: Just for a little while until the snapping turtles got big.
Ida Hardin: She held her hands two feet apart.
Ida Hardin: Wow! Big snapping turtles!
Laniya Solomon: Yeah, big, big snapping turtles, and then they got scared.
Ida Hardin: Laniya and I go outside to sit out on the back porch. It’s a nice summer day. Sunny, but not too humid.
Laniya Solomon: If it gets too hot we can go back inside. Just let me know.
Ida Hardin: Oh, okay, thank you, very nice of you.
So, where did you guys live before this place?
Laniya Solomon: Before Woodstock, we lived in Manhattan on the Lower East Side.
Ida Hardin: Laniya and her first husband Michael were part of the reggae scene in New York City. Michael played with a couple of different bands including this one called the Liberation Possie. Laniya and Michael met at CBGBs, an iconic New York City bar.
Laniya Solomon: I lived in Jersey, met Michael, and moved into Brooklyn and lived there for about eight months. Then I moved to the Lower East Side with Michael.
Ida Hardin: They got married, had two sons soon after. Jahson was their first. Family life was good for a while.
Laniya Solomon: But, then, you know, we had a very rough time. He got involved in crack.
Ida Hardin: By the time Jahson was a toddler, his father was dealing with a bad addiction problem and Laniya said Michael started hitting her. One day things got out of hand.
Laniya Solomon: You see at one point he almost did kill me. He had his arm around my neck, and he was choking me, and I was like please let go. And everything went gray. And when that happened, I just said to myself, so this is my death. And then he let go.
Ida Hardin: Laniya showed me a picture from the early 2000s of herself. She had wild brown curly hair and bright blue eyes that twinkled. Those bright eyes seemed to have faded over time. Her long brown hair is now dreaded, it sits piled on top of her head. She says Jahson was young at the time and he may not have witnessed all the abuse but the abuse was too frequent to be avoided.
Laniya Solomon: He saw stuff, and you know he heard stuff. I’m sure he was devastated by the split.
Ida Hardin: Laniya ended up leaving Michael. She met someone new and moved to Woodstock. She got remarried. They started having children immediately.
Laniya Solomon: We had three kids in three and a half years, so there was tension, as time went on.
Ida Hardin: Laniya had a bustling household. Her attention was spread thin. Jahson and his little brother had to compete with three younger half-siblings. On top of that Jahson didn’t get to see his real dad. Laniya felt bad at first, she said it was too dangerous for Jahson to be around his drug-addicted dad. By the time Michael was clean, distance and Laniya’s anger kept the two separated. Jahson lost contact with his father. Jahson was young and one of the few black kids in his grade school.
Laniya Solomon: He was initially bullied and I think, I think, his race definitely had something to do with stuff.
Ida Hardin: Laniya says that Jahson started acting out due to being bullied by other predominantly white classmates. In 3rd or 4th-grade things started to get out of hand.
Laniya Solomon: And, he brought in a knife, but it wasn't a little, it was a big knife. I didn't believe he was going to use it. And from there, that's when it really started happening, like stuff started happening.
Ida Hardin: Just a couple of weeks before that knife incident. Jahson’s elementary school went through an academic assessment. He was ranked gifted. After the incident they re-assessed him.
Laniya Solomon: Then they took him from gifted to genius and put him emotionally disturbed.
Just things just kinda started snowballing.
Ida Hardin: During Jahson’s junior year of high school he brought a homemade smoke bomb to school and threw it into a crowded cafeteria.
Laniya said the smoke bomb wasn’t meant to hurt anyone. It was designed to get the kids to leave that cafeteria for a water balloon fight outside.
Nonetheless, the principal expelled Jahson.
Soon after being expelled. Jahson got caught for breaking and entering.
Laniya Solomon: Yeah, he broke into the, ah, Youth Center.
Ida Hardin: Laniya said he stole 300 dollars. The Youth Center had the money saved for a dance.
The Jahson I know from Eugene mentored teens at the church. I couldn’t imagine that guy stealing money from a Youth Center. But I’m beginning to see a person accused of robbing a bank.
By this time, 17-year old Jahson was struggling with drinking to the point of blacking out. Jahson was already on probation. Laniya tried to convince the probation office to let Jahson go to rehab.
The probation officer insisted on seeing Jahson in person, first.
Laniya, stepdad, and Jahson loaded up into the car and headed to the town of Kingston, 20 miles away to meet the probation officer.
Laniya Solomon: I was sitting there waiting while he visited the probation officer.
Ida Hardin: The probation officer took Jahson to the back office.
Laniya Solomon: It's getting long and we're like where is he?
Ida Hardin: Jahson didn’t come back.
Laniya Solomon: They took him, they took him to you know, to jail.
Ida Hardin: The probation officer had a different plan.
Laniya Solomon: This is not about rehabilitation. Right now, it's about punishment.
Ida Hardin: The State of New York sent 17-year-old Jahson to an adult correctional facility five hours from Woodstock. For stealing 300 dollars from a Youth Center.
Laniya Solomon: And it wasn't even a violent crime. I mean, he was terrified. I went up there. It was horrible
Ida Hardin: Jahson stayed in the grown-up prison for a couple of months.
Then his lawyer got him accepted into a special boot camp program for youthful non-violent offenders.
After successfully completing the program, six months later, Jahson left with a high school diploma in hand. He was free except for probation. Life started to improve. After completing probation, Jahson decided to move to New York City. He lived there for a couple of years. He worked as a nightclub bouncer and did odd jobs. Then he moved back to Woodstock.
Laniya Solomon: Then he came back up. I’m not really sure why he came back up?
Ida Hardin: The 25-year-old Jahson moved into an apartment with a friend in downtown Woodstock. The apartment is by shops selling tie-dyed clothing and peace signs.
But things weren’t as smooth as right after boot camp. Jahson started partying again. So did his new roommate.
Jahson’s new roommate Drew moved his stuff into the apartment and then took off for a party that night. But he never came home. Drew got a ride with a friend that had been drinking. The driver drove the vehicle into a tree, ejecting Drew. He was killed.
Jahson reacted by bringing the party home.
Laniya Solomon: So, Jahson opened up that apartment. He just said anybody wants to come over anytime you want to drink hang out here, you can sleep here, you don't have to leave. Just stay here and it became the center of just like partying in Woodstock.
Ida Hardin: Neighbors called police for noise violations four times over the summer. The apartment - nicknamed the Zoo - became a watering hole for Jahson’s friends. The summer ended with several businesses in the area being vandalized by a group, including Jahson.
For the next two years, police continued to respond to fights, drinking, and noise complaints. Until 2010 when drugs almost ended Jahson’s life.
Laniya Solomon: He actually flatlined, he died.
Ida Hardin: Jahson was hanging out with a friend and overdosed.
Laniya Solomon: The guy he was with he heard that Jamie was at somebody's house, Jahson's brother.
Ida Hardin: His friend panicked.
Laniya Solomon: And, so, the guy brought Jahson there, banged on the front door, put him on the lawn. And like drove away, you know? Jamie found him. Called ,and you know, 911 and they came in revived, Narcaned him.
Ida Hardin: Narcan is used to reverse an opioid overdose.
Laniya Solomon: Cause he was already you know, dead.
Ida Hardin: Mark Bernard, who played Ultimate with Jahson for years says that as drinking picked up, Ultimate became less of a priority.
Mark Bernard: The times when he seemed like he was getting intoxicated more he would come less.
Ida Hardin: And, when he did show up it was in poor form.
Mark Bernard: He played drunk several times.
Ida Hardin: Jahson’s behavior around town was getting worse. He was abusing drugs and not showing up sober to Ultimate.
The Woodstock Police had seen him drunk, unconscious, and arrested him for vandalism and fighting. Could they see a bank robber in him?
Officer Kevin Lane: My name is Kevin Lane, I’m a police officer at the Woodstock Police Department and I’ve been here for about 20 years.
Ida Hardin: And he knew Jahson, professionally and personally, pretty much that whole time.
Officer Kevin Lane: I actually live close to him. Um, so I’ve known him for a long time, good kid. We’ve spoken and have a good relationship.
Ida Hardin: A month before the robbery, Officer Lane responded to a 911 call. Friends had called when Jahson was unconscious from drinking too much.
Officer Lane couldn’t recall the details of this incident. And, he didn’t want to say anything more without getting permission from the Chief of Police.
Records indicated that the Chief of Police was the cop most familiar with Jahson’s rap sheet. I’d been trying to get a hold of Chief Keefe for over a month. And was familiar enough with his voicemail to know it was usually full.
Officer Lane indicated that Monday afternoon would be a good time to catch Chief Keefe at the station.
I took his advice.
So, I’m going off to try to talk with Chief Keefe again. I’m about to enter the Woodstock Police Station. The Woodstock police station is a quaint, white brick building on main street. A metal weather vane sits atop the building.
I’m in a tiny reception area - A large wooden police seal hangs on the wall. It’s black with white trim. A gold crown incircles four symbols representing the arts.
I was just wondering, is Chief Keefe here?
Clerk: Ah, he is not.
Ida Hardin: A thick bulletproof glass stands between myself and the clerk.
Ida Hardin: Um, I’ve been just trying to get a hold of him, um.
Clerk: Today is Monday and I don’t think he’s been in for a couple of days.
Ida Hardin: Try back tomorrow, maybe? I flew back to Oregon on Wednesday. So, I was really hoping Tuesday would work out.
Clerk: You can try. If you want to give us a call first and uh, he’s usually here on Wednesday evenings because of court, so. But, it’s not guaranteed because he usually stops by on Monday evenings too, sorry.
Ida Hardin: Okay.
Ida Hardin: I never got a chance to speak with Chief Keefe. It was clear from speaking with people around town, authorities, and reading news reports that no one outside his family expected much different from a black man who’d been in trouble since he was a kid.
Laniya Solomon: They knew him as a prankster. You know because there was all those years where nothing happened. And, so, then, you know, they knew him as a prankster, not as a gangster.
Ida Hardin: Prankster nor gangster fit Eugene Jahson. I’d only seen a small glimpse of Eugene Jahson in Woodstock. He was close to his loving mom. He was friendly with the cops. He was a valued member of the Ultimate community.
Were there other clues? Right now, I was seeing an individual that was struggling to stay sober and out of trouble. The complete opposite of the Jahson that lived in Eugene.
Maybe somewhere on the crime spree, the good guy from Eugene would materialize. And would help me understand?
He was indicted on three charges; car theft, arson, and armed robbery.
I used the trial transcripts as my road map.
First stop, car theft. I park in front of a small single-story home. The driveway pulls right up to the front door of the house. Court records say a green Honda was stolen from this location. Keys were left in the ignition where the owner always left them. This matches Eugene Jahson - nice guy on the Ultimate field. Stealing a car in a way that would cause minimal damage.
Next stop: barn fire. I turned left onto a weaving country road. I maneuvered around a series of tight S turns up a hill. Just as the record stated, a dilapidated barn stands close to the right side of the road at the top of the hill.
The trial records say the barn was run down even before the fire and the fire was more like a barn smoldering. There were no animals in it. Jahson chose a low impact target that inflicted minimal damage.
I think I see more clues to the Jahson I know.
First, no people or animals were hurt. Second, he seemed to use the same strategic thinking he used on the Ultimate field and lots of people in both Eugene and Woodstock told me he played serious chess. If the barn fire was a diversion - it worked perfectly. The few cops on duty responded to the fire -- away from the bank.
My last stop: bank holdup.
The bank is located back in Woodstock about 10 miles away. The Bank of America Jahson robbed isn’t there anymore. It’s been turned into an upscale bar. According to witnesses at the trial. A masked man entered the bank. He had a large gun, he yelled at the clerk to open the bottom drawer. He threatened to take hostages if they refused to go along. That drawer had large bills in it, around 40,000 dollars. Only half that amount made it into Jahson’s bag. The manager dropped large bills on the floor where Jahson couldn’t see.
Before he left, the robber yelled a series of cuss words topped off with a “Have a Nice Day.” The entire robbery took one minute. I never heard Jahson yell, besides “hello” from his bike.
The stolen green Honda was abandoned about two hundred yards behind Jahson’s parents' house on the side of a paved road. It’s quiet and secluded. If Jahson did run to his parent’s house from where the car was dumped it would have taken the same time as running up then down an Ultimate field.
Mark Bernard: I don’t think we saw him on the field after the robbery.
Ida Hardin: Mark, his old Ultimate friend, remembers.
Mark Bernard: He disappeared soon after.
Ida Hardin: But after a couple months, he came back. The authorities were eager to speak with Jahson. He was a person of interest for the robbery. Laniya said that when Jahson returned he surrendered his phone and spoke with the authorities.
Trial records confirm that conversation happened but not what anybody said about the robbery. All we know is the police didn’t arrest him then. But Mark remembers Jahson kept drinking and fighting.
Mark Bernard: Apparently, he had a drunken scuffle with somebody, somebody got really drunk and was taunting him and so he really hurt the guy.
Ida Hardin: Police got a warrant to arrest the 27-year-old Jahson for the assault. A week later, Jahson played Ultimate. He left with a friend. They hadn’t gone far when the cops pulled him over. It was right by the Youth Center that he’d broken into ten years ago when he was just 17, that landed him in prison.
Mark Bernard: He bailed and ran. And they couldn't catch up with him. They said their equipment kept them from keeping up with him. But no one’s gonna beat Jahson in a run.
Ida Hardin: Mark heard Jahson’s version of that day, 4 years later, when he visited Jahson while he was awaiting trial in jail. The police chased Jahson in cars, with dogs and a helicopter with infrared vision through a densely wooded area.
Mark Bernard: They were looking for him out in the suburbs, well, yeah, the suburbs of Woodstock. And Jahson said he was, he was sliding up against houses so that his signature would kind of look like maybe he was in the house.
Ida Hardin: Jahson took off to New Orleans where his biological father Michael lived. One night he called his mom and said he was moving on.
Laniya Solomon: The night when he said he was going to leave Michael’s. He said, I probably won't be talking to you for a while on the phone. And I said okay, I didn't know that it was going to be five years.
From that point. He didn't call again. You know, so yeah, there was plenty of nights just like crying in bed wondering what the heck happened with him.
Ida Hardin: The cops were looking for Jahson. It would only be a matter of time before they came knocking on his father's door. He had to get out of New Orleans. Where could he hide?
Jahson knew a monk that lived in a monastery. Jahson’s parents had briefly been part of the Orthodox Christian faith in Woodstock. The monk was an old family friend.
So, Jahson bought a bus ticket to northern California, where the remote mountain monastery resides.
The St. Herman of Alaska monastery website makes the place look like a rustic Christian summer camp. Charming photos show group buildings for eating and praying with big wide open rooms full of daylight. The surrounding buildings for sleeping are basic with wooden bunk beds. A fireplace is the only source of heat in these rustic quarters. Russian icons are painted on wood and adorn the building walls. You can see the onion domes, large golden bulbs, peeking out from behind the treetops.
Jahson traveled over three-thousand miles to get here, expecting to find Father Andrew, the old family friend and now monk. But when he arrived at the California monastery, called St. Herman of Alaska, the monk was nowhere to be found. To his great surprise, Jahson learned that Father Andrew was in a different monastery though with a similar name: St. Herman’s in Alaska.
Another thousand miles away.
But, Jahson didn’t go on to Alaska. The monks in California welcomed him. One of the monastery monks, Father Gerasim, explains in this online video that the place is intended for people in search of forgiveness.
Father Gerasim: People come to the monastery often with serious burdens. And after a few days of prayer, of living, of attending all of the church services, of being isolated: they begin to look more deeply inside themselves. They see there are some deep things in there that they’d never addressed before.
Ida Hardin: The remoteness of the monastery acted as a great hiding place. Jahson started going to church services and contributing to the community by cooking meals and doing other chores. Life began to calm down and feel safe. After a couple of months of living there, he decided to be baptized.
The Eugene Orthodox community taught me that being baptized means ‘starting anew’. Letting the old die and the new arise. When I learned this, I wondered what kind of effect this message had on Jahson.
Michael Ness met Jahson, at the remote monastery, shortly after he was baptized.
Michael Ness (Paisos): I meet him by way of the kitchen. He was cooking up a really, really big meal for the monks.
Ida Hardin: Michael is an orthodox Christian who makes a pilgrimage from Eugene to the monastery every year and prefers to go by his baptized name, Paisos. He took to Jahson.
Michael Ness (Paisos): Ah, he was very friendly. He was very talkative with all the monks. He felt like he had his place there and he was just really enjoying their company and everybody was enjoying his company.
Ida Hardin: Jahson was a good guest at the monastery, but only monks were allowed to stay there long term. After six months, it was time for Jahson to start his new life. Now a man absolved of all spiritual sins but still very much wanted by the law.
The abbot suggested Jahson join St. John the Wonderworker Orthodox Church in Eugene, Oregon. The monastery and St. John’s have close ties. So Jahson got on another bus - this time headed north.
When Jahson arrived at the small orthodox church in Eugene, Paisios was there to greet him.
Michael Ness (Paisos): It was cool when Jahson showed up. I got to be the one to introduce him to everything. And, then eventually, he moved into the apostle Peter Paul house.
Ida Hardin: The apostle Peter Paul house is owned by the church. It’s a low-cost place for male church members that need refuge to stay. The house sits directly behind the church.
Jahson started his new life in Eugene. He found a job trimming trees. He became a dedicated member of the orthodox community. And he started playing Ultimate again. Years went by. Life started to feel settled. Then one day out of the blue, one of his best friends from New York showed up. Mikaela, Jahson’s close church friend remembers how strange it was.
Mikaela Jaquette: I can’t remember what he was out here for? But the guy came out to visit Eugene for something and he was driving down the road and he saw Jahson on his bike and like freaked out cause he hadn’t seen him in like years.
Ida Hardin: As Mikaela remembers it, Jahson was happy to see his old friend. But one thing is for sure. Someone who knew Jahson was wanted for bank robbery in New York, now knew Jahson’s secret - he was hiding in Eugene.
This wasn’t his only close call. Another church member, Laura Dyer, says Eugene police routinely pulled him over. A brown-skinned man stood out in Eugene, a town with a mostly white population.
Laura Dyer: One time a police officer pulled him over and was like you match a description, he was like we’re after you, you did something to your sister and he was like my sister is on the east coast what are you talking about? He’d get scooped because he was tall and black and muscular.
Ida Hardin: The Police didn’t run his ID, if they had they would have found out he was wanted. Jahson never changed his name. And used his real passport
But, Jahson’s luck was about to run out. The police were on to him.
Sgt. Dorman: I got a call from our dispatch, saying they got an anonymous call, that this guy was here in Eugene and playing Ultimate frisbee.
Ida Hardin: Ultimate player Eric Rosenfeld remembers Jahson’s arrest like it was yesterday. Jahson was having a spectacular game, Eric remembers.
Eric Rosenfeld: So, it was back to back points. He just runs deep and we have one of the best players in the city on him, this dude Toefer. So Jahson just skies him and we take a time-out because Jahson was ruining us.
Ida Hardin: Jahson made his way to the sideline for a sip of water. Then he heard it, “police you’re under arrest”. The past came rushing forward into Jahson’s present.
Jahson stayed in the local jail for a week before being transported on con-air, the airline that transfers prisoners. Six weeks later after several stops, he was taken into custody back in New York.
In Woodstock, Jahson had an issue with drugs and alcohol and had been in trouble with the law on-and-off since he was a minor.
And, I could now see someone that would rob a bank.
But how could Jahson live as a fugitive, undetected, for so many years in Eugene?
Here’s what I found out. Jahson managed to live on the lam for four years in large part due to the insulation of two Eugene communities. These communities unintentionally and intentionally kept Jahson from the authorities.
The unintentional secret-keeping was systemic of the two countercultures. The church for example had an open door policy at the apostle Peter, Paul house. It was there for wonderers, men trying to find themselves. Deacon Stephen Dyer, one of the founders of the church, says that there were no leases for tenants or other securities set in place.
Deacon Stephen Dyer: No, there was no background check. But it was an effort to help people. Effort to, here was Jahson, he was a rootless young man, gave him a place to stay, a church to attend, a social group.
Ida Hardin: But Jahson wasn’t the only person at the church that had something to hide. This is a clip from KEZI News.
KEZI News: They couldn’t prove that Mackay knew she was only 17 so instead he was convicted on three counts of misdemeanor prostitution.
Ida Hardin: Daniel Mackay was the priest in charge during the time Jahson was a member.
Ida Hardin: Mackay was found guilty just three years after Jahson’s arrest in 2014.
Do you think maybe Daniel MacKay knew about Jahson?
Deacon Stephen Dyer: I doubt it, but, but, I can’t say because MacKay had his own secrets to hide.
Ida Hardin: Jahson lived as a fugitive without sounding any alarms, perhaps in part because the man who gave him shelter also had something to hide, perhaps because the church accepted-on-faith people like him who needed shelter.
And Jahson’s other community, Ultimate frisbee, had its unintentional way of letting Jahson hide.
I asked Taryn Jackson, a long-time Ultimate player how she would describe Ultimate culture?
Taryn Jackson: The Ultimate frisbee community is pretty laid back. You don’t necessarily know where people come from or what their background is; a lot of people go by nicknames you might not even know what their real name is.
Ida Hardin: Most Ultimate players knew Jahson’s first name but only learned his last after he was arrested, printed in bold black letters across the local newspaper ‘Marryshow’ with a picture of Jahson in an orange prison jumpsuit.
Most of the Ultimate and church community unknowingly participated in sheltering a fugitive.
But, I was surprised to learn that others knew that Jahson was a fugitive and struggled with what to do. They were dealing with the same question: was Jahson a good guy or a bad guy?
I spoke with Thomas Hibdon, an Ultimate player about this internal struggle.
Thomas Hibdon: I knew after the fact, I knew that people knew about it. People at the U of O that I played with that knew about it. And I think they struggled with it. What do you do in this situation? A lot of conversations I had with people directly afterwards was like well, at what point does what someone has done in the past, necessitate you confronting it in the moment? What point are you obligated to be like this person has been awesome and gentle but at what point is it your job to confront that if you know, what you know? The conversation I had there wasn’t an easy answer and I don’t know, I don’t know.
Ida Hardin: The orthodox community also had its own secret keepers, people that knew.
Laura Dyer, the daughter-inlaw of the deacon, discovered Jahson secret easily by just typing in his name into the Google search bar. She was curious about the new church member so she looked up the then 29-year-old.
Laura Dyer: I called him up and was like what’s the deal here? What’s going on? So he sat down with me and told me.
Ida Hardin: Were you scared? What were your feelings?
Laura Dyer: I was scared for him. I’ve never been scared of him.
Ida Hardin: Was he scared you were going to turn him in?
Laura Dyer: We actually never talked about that. I was kind of wondering if I was supposed to turn him in? At one point I was like: is it like my duty? I’m not harboring a fugitive, you know, he’s just like my friend. You know, and I want the best for him and I think the best for him would be like, not being thrown into prison [laughter]. Is that the best for anybody?
Ida Hardin: It turns out, another church member had googled Jahson too. His close friend Mikaela’s mother, Joanna Jaquette.
Joanna Jaquette: I kinda wanted to vet him. Jahson was really very close with Mikaela. But I did it more like right before he was arrested. So it wasn’t anything like I knew for years and years and years. I didn’t do anything, I didn’t act on it. I kind of just watched him a little bit more. And actually, I just thought this is not the person, this isn’t the same person. This is a totally responsible person here. This a person who’s very honorable.
It’s kinda like one of those, pack that secret away.
Ida Hardin: Joanna kept the secret from everyone, even Jahson.
These secret-keepers gave Jahson time to thrive in Eugene. Both groups he found, the church and the Ultimate communities, are a little counter-culture, a little isolated. They have their own way of judging people. It seems their insulation gave Jahson a chance to change.
Joanna Jaquette: I feel like he finally got a chance to live outside of whatever shadow he had back there. He was given an opportunity and I hope he can have that opportunity once he’s out again.
Ida Hardin: Jahson waited for over a year before his trial, he was found guilty of all three crimes; car theft, arson, and armed robbery.
During Jahson’s court sentencing Judge Donald Williams asked the same question I've been wondering the entire time. Is Jahson Marryshow a druggie with a proclivity toward criminal behavior or a beloved mentor and team leader?
This question that’s been driving me: was Jahson a good guy or a bad guy? In his sentencing hearing, the judge asked that. He put it a different way. I’m reading from the transcripts because there was no audio record.
“Why do you deserve mercy?” The judge asked Jahson.
Jahson answered, “for the past five years I have really tried to be a positive contributor.”
He means the years he was in Eugene, mentoring church kids, and playing Ultimate.
“Were you a contributing member of the community in 1999 when you were charged with a false bomb threat?” the Judge asked.
He’s talking about the smoke bomb Jahson threw into the high school cafeteria.
“No, your Honor, I was not,” Jahson answered.
The judge lists more crimes Jahson committed in the past: burglary, defacing public property and the illegal sale of a firearm.
“The five years that you were hiding from the authorities you were a contributing member?” he asked.
Jahson responded: “I was doing my best, your Honor, to make up for a lot of negative actions in my life.”
The Judge didn’t buy it. “You take this Court as a fool?” he said, “enjoy the next 15 years of your life.”
Jahnson is now serving a 15-year sentence at Eastern Correctional Facility. He couldn’t escape the past, even if he seemed to have changed along the way.
The prison is about an hour’s drive from his mother’s home. She goes to visit him twice a month. I went to visit Jahson too.
Ida Hardin: You can see the guards up in the towers.
Google: In 1,000 feet turn left on Institutional Rd.
Ida Hardin: I’m pulling up to the front of the, it looks like a castle, big old red bricks, looks like there should be a drawbridge in front of it. Visitors it says straight ahead.
Once inside, around twenty round tables fill the white brick-walled room. Girlfriends and wives snuggle up close to their loved ones and whisper to each other. A group of visiting daughters play cards with their dad.
Jahson seemed glad to see somebody from Eugene. He told me he was struggling with his faith - he seemed depressed. The fast lean Ultimate player I used to know now had thick and meaty muscles. From weightlifting, one exercise that’s easily available in prison. Jahson talked about slowly being institutionalized and the day-to-day work of being a prisoner.
Jahson didn’t want to go on tape. He was scared that it might hurt his chances at an appeal.
We hugged goodbye.
I have no idea which Jahson will come out of the prison, good or bad, or something else? And, if I’ll ever see him on an Ultimate field again.