THe Roach Haven
By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
Ross Michael Cochran, 17, a change boy in a pinball arcade on Daytona Beach's boardwalk was strapped to a table, and tortured for a day before being murdered by a group of young satan worshipers as a sacrifice.
May 3, 1973 Daytona Beach
Police charged six young beach transients who were members of a devil's coven with first degree murder. However there was more to this teenager's death than being the victim of ruthless satanists.
Cochran was a native of Fresno, California, and he ended up in Florida as a student at the Green Valley School in Orange City, Florida. This was a place where parents sent troubled youth.
The Green Valley School was founded by Rev. George Von Hilsheimer. The students were described as having emotional, social or mental behavior problems. Chandler Nowicki, was the academic dean.
This was how Ross Cochran ended up being a major state witness in a suit to close the private school as a "place of lewdness". This occurred in March 1973, two months before his death.
A 1 AM raid was conducted as a culmination of months of secret investigations, headed by the state attorney's chief investigator. The search warrant charged the school with "the felony offenses of false imprisonment, child abuse, lewd and lascivious behavior and the dispensing of illegal drugs" among other things.
The warrant covered 44 acres of the 164-acre Green Valley main campus, and an additional 20 acres of land owned by the school at its marina in Deland. At the Deland marina one privately owned home, and a 100-foot school-owned government surplus boat were searched.
What was found in the raid was described as a large quantity of unknown drugs. Three movie reels, one classified by the state attorney as a "color Danish sex film, a number of publications classified as sex or adult magazines, a water pipe and 10 slide projector carousels" were taken.
Torture devices removed from the school included one set of leg irons, sex electric dog collars, one pair of handcuffs and an old fishing light with a bulb missing that was said to be called by the students as “the bullshocker.”
Four arrests were made during the raid. Ron E. Nowicki the headmaster, was arrested on felony charges of unlawfully imprisoning a child, and three temporary staff members were charged with marijuana possession.
Cochran was removed from Green Valley School for his own safety on the night of the raid since he was one of the state's chief witnesses.
In July 1972, The Floridian wrote a piece about the school, describing that "Green Valley takes supposedly 'incorrigible problem youngsters' and treats them with unorthodox methods: strict punishments, massive vitamin doses and no psychotherapy. Criticism of the school is intense, but the outspoken director says his controversial treatment have a success rate of 86%."
The state attorney filed suit asking that its 78 pupils should be declared wards of the court.
There were allegations against the school which was said to condone sexual relations between students, required girls to take birth control pills, allowed boys and girls to swim together in the nude and placed pornographic literature in the school's library.
The school collected $1.3 million annually from its students in tuition. A legislative group investigated the facility in 1969, and it has been a source of controversy for several years.
It was established in 1964, and was operated by a religious society identified as Humanitas. It had taken over the site of the Augustinian Monastery of the Good Shepherd which came to Orange City, Florida in 1950.
None though expected what would be Ross Cochran's fate.
The police chief at the time said, "They must have hated this kid like hell because they really tortured him."
He described where Cochran was flogged with chains and stabbed with cut glass while tied to a black wooden table in the basement "altar room" of a ramshackle, crumbling, two-story brick rooming house called "Roach Haven" by beach kids. It was located at 27 N. Grandview Avenue, two blocks from the beach.
His mangled body, trussed with ropes was found in a remote wooded area 15 miles southwest of Daytona Beach. The police initially were uncertain if he was killed during the alleged sacrifice, or died where his body was found.
The six that were initially charged with murder were: Kenneth M. Francis 17, with an address of Pope Air Force Base, N.C.; Charles M. Paige, 21, and John Colbert, 18, who gave the rooming house as their only address; Deborah Ann Shook 22, from Washington, NJ; Cindy Black, 17, of Rexdale, Ontario, Canada, and Howard Waellus 19, of Detroit.
The police captain described the youths as transients.
According to police, Cochran had been "running his mouth" around the beach saying he was a narcotics agent and it was speculated this may have angered the satan worshippers.
The police believed Cochran was lured to the rooming house, overpowered, tied up in a second floor room and beaten for nearly five hours. Later it was determined that Cochran had nowhere to go and had spent the night at the Roach Haven. When the others awoke they were angered to find him there, especially Kenneth Francis who had also attended Green Valley and blamed him for the temporary closure of the school.
The police chief described, "They went to the altar room about 3 pm and put him on the table as a sacrifice. They tortured him some more. He pleaded for his life." The altar was an old work table painted black and lined with black painted bottles and candles. Motorcycle chains and symbols in red paint adorned the walls of the room.
Nickolas Frazee from Ohio said that initiates to the coven were asked "to denounce God and everything he stands for."
He said that he and Deborah Shook slashed their stomachs in their wedding ceremony in the basement altar room. He displayed a jagged scar to a newsman. His wife was known in the coven as "Ledorra", and a satanic priest was the one who presided over the ceremony.
Frazee said anyone who wanted to join the coven signed their name to a register in blood and were asked to denounce god and everything he stood for. He had heard someone was being held captive in the basement but knew nothing about the murder.
In October, 1973, it was reported that Deborah Ann Shook, who turned state's evidence, said she was the priestess of a satanic cult, and that Cochran was sacrificed to "appease the master, satan." She wiped up the blood after Cochran was taken away. She said David O. Hester told her that they had blessed the satanic knife to slit Cochran’s throat.
Even though he was working at the arcade, Cochran it seemed had nowhere to stay, and on the morning of his murder he had gone to Roach Haven and spent the night there. When the others woke up, they found him there and he was tied up and tortured that same day.
The police were tipped off after a youth was arrested on an auto break in and told the police about the murder.
It was determined that Cochran was killed by a blow from a club. He was heaved into a car trunk and taken to the woods near Satsuma. It wasn't known then if he was dead when he was transported. His body was found 100 yards off State Road 415 S. He was still tied up, and a pine log was found by his head, possibly used to kill him. He died from massive skull fractures.
The murder was carried out close to May 1st known in pagan groups as Beltane, and an important date to satanists.
In October, 1973, David O. Hester, the self proclaimed "high priest" of the satan worshipping group was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Hester who was 17 had pled innocent to the charges. Five other members of the "The Devil's Children" were charged. He was the first to be convicted.
The others agreed to produce evidence for the state and pled guilty to lesser charges.
Hester, who was pronounced sane by a psychiatrist said he only pretended to club Cochran with a pine log but that another cult member, Kenneth Michael Francis actually hit the youth over the head 4 or 5 times.
In May 1973, George Von Hilsheimer a controversial protestant lay minister who founded Green Valley School held a press conference to explain that he believed it doubtful that Francis had any connection with the cult.
He said, "It is our belief that this boy could have had only the most casual acquaintance with such people. For nearly two months before this tragedy, Kenneth Francis had been in New Mexico on a Green Valley field trip." Supposedly Francis had returned a few days before the murder and was officially listed as a Green Valley runaway.
Kenneth Francis died in prison in 2003, while serving his sentence.
George von Hilsheimer was no stranger to controversy.
In 1963, he was tied to another location about an hour’s drive from Asheville, North Carolina. It was a remote place called Camp Summerlane.
A cub reporter for a North Carolina newspaper, went out there in 1963, on a tip that something was going to take place. He interviewed some neighbors who said that at first the camp seemed rustic and rather ordinary, but as time went on the less ordinary things appeared. It seemed that reports of nudity, free love and open sexuality became rampant and the citizens of Rosman the nearby town, didn’t want any of it. They asked police to escort the staff and about 50 students out of the place. Hundreds of locals amassed to witness the exit.
A police captain described the place as filthy. The campers established their own type of recreation and did what they wanted to do. He said the people there were dirty as well.
Someone who was there in 1963, in an interview about 45 years later said, "Those people were a nudist camp; they went swimming naked and all that stuff right on the side of the road where one of the camp's lakes was located." This was the reason the mountain town wanted them out of there. Summerlane after moving to New Jersey lost most of its campers. After this is when von Hilsheimer founded the Green Valley School in 1965 in Orange City, Florida. The school closed in 1973.
Von Hilsheimer died in 2013.
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Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer