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Title: Vampire-hunting detective is Virginia Beach's expert on the weird

Source: The Virginian-Pilot, 2/5/96

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                            NEWS - Feb. 5, 1996

Vampire-hunting detective is Virginia Beach's expert on the weird

BY MIKE MATHER, The Virginian-Pilot
Photo by Martin Smith-Rodden
Copyright 1996, Landmark Communications Inc.

VIRGINIA BEACH -- If Jon C. Bush actually were a vampire -- as he has claimed to police and dozens of his teenage followers -- then Detective Don Rimer admits he would've been powerless against him.

After all, a REAL vampire could have thwarted police any number of mysterious ways, including ``disappearing into a mist when we came to get him,'' Rimer said. But Bush's vampiric arsenal of face paint and snap-on fangs was no match for Rimer's typewritten arrest warrant, so Bush is in jail and Rimer is busy gathering evidence for a growing case against him.

``That should be a lesson to all the kids who have an interest in the gothic side of things,'' Rimer said.

This isn't the first weird case the 25-year veteran has investigated. In fact, Rimer is the Virginia Beach Police Department's expert on vampires, grave robbers, the occult, black magic, Satanism and all things bizarre.

Sometimes that means figuring out if a neighborhood cat was mutilated as part of a ritualistic ceremony or out of simple cruelty. Or if cryptic markings drawn on someone's door are coded threats or simple graffiti. Or if a teenager's penchant for dark clothes and wild tattoos is dangerous or harmless.

And Rimer gets to write search warrants looking for ``any paraphernalia concerning vampirism, demonology, lycanthropy or witchcraft'' and ``costumes and any accessories related to the above topics.'' Lycanthropy is what makes someone a werewolf.

``I've always had an interest in studying the occult, mainly from the literary side,'' Rimer said. ``I watch for national patterns, because when something is happening nationally, it's only a matter of time before it comes here.''

The interest is a vast departure from his regular job, as a family-violence detective, and from his regular life, as a husband of 30 years, the coach of his 12-year-old daughter's softball team and a life member of the volunteer rescue squad.

Belying his easy manner and avuncular appearance, the 49-year-old mustachioed and bespectacled detective has earned a reputation here and nationally as a leading expert on the occult.

His extensive reference library contains such titles as ``Cults That Kill,'' ``The Devil's Web'' and ``The Satanic Bible.'' And although Rimer is among the top scholars, he also is a top skeptic.

``I personally do not believe it has any power at all,'' Rimer said. ``I think it would be a very frustrating experience for someone.''

Rimer said practitioners often participate in elaborate rituals to produce a desired outcome, but are always disappointed.

Even last year, when a ``card-carrying Satanist'' claimed credit for a series of mishaps that befell witnesses against him, he was convicted of murder anyway.

``Their excuse is that they didn't do something right,'' he said. ``Instead of relying on mere faith in their religion, they have to do all these rituals and ceremonies. They demand immediacy.''

And the more urgently a practitioner needs a result, ``the more hideous, frightening and dangerous the ceremony becomes,'' Rimer said.

Rimer's curiosity in the occult was spawned while he was a student at Oklahoma State University, in his home state.

In Oklahoma, he was a firefighter in Lawton, where he married and had a son, who is now a minister in Chesapeake. In 1971, Rimer, his wife and young son moved to Virginia Beach with a police academy slot awaiting him. He finished first in the class.

In 1986, he became a detective.

``I really wanted to get involved in the investigation of crimes, instead of just taking the reports,'' Rimer said.

In the late 1980s, when police saw a rise in grave robberies and animal mutilations, Rimer attended a conference on occult crimes. That led to other conferences and, eventually, he progressed from student to teacher and consultant.

His main aim is to educate children and parents, he said. Unchecked, an overzealous interest in the occult can lead a child to mutilate himself, break down mentally or commit suicide.

``Failure means death in many of the cases,'' he said.

As a kid, Rimer often dressed up as Roy Rogers with a six-gun slinging from his hip. He was playing a role then just as the vampire followers play a role now.

``But then, the good guy always won,'' Rimer said. ``Now, some of the role models are negative ones.''

A surge in books and films romanticizing vampires has fueled groups like Bush's followers, Rimer said. Modern vampires have become popular because they are deemed resistant to the threats that once doomed them. Like bugs that develop immunity to pesticides, most fictional vampires operate quite well around crucifixes and daylight.

Bush, who by day was a heating and air conditioning repairman, allegedly targeted 13- to 16-year-old girls to join his secret clan, where initiation rituals included sexual assaults, Rimer said.

That's the age group most influenced by occult undercurrents, when a mix of adolescent rebellion, turmoil and insecurity makes teens vulnerable.

Most of the 30 or so members of Bush's vampire family were typical of teens who become involved in such cults. They were smart, yet underachieving. They didn't feel like they belonged in more popular groups, and they had few other social contacts. Many came from fragmented families.

Most often, it is middle- and upper-income teens who delve into the occult, Rimer said, but Bush targeted children from all backgrounds.

``One of the girls, a 13-year-old girl, told me it gave her the chance to be and to have everything she didn't have in her life,'' Rimer said.

Bush assigned new members roles and duties, which made them acceptable and

And that was the attraction.

``When you have a child who lacks confidence in himself, and you give him a new personality, a role, with specific strengths and weaknesses, you make him a much better person than he is in life,'' Rimer said. ``These kids were given power, authority and other traits they didn't have before.''

But they also were raped and forced to perform oral sex, police say.

Since Bush's arrest, ``The family has fallen apart,'' Rimer said. ``Most of the kids have dropped out and given it up. They've seen now what happens.''

Rimer expects several of Bush's once-loyal female followers to testify against the 26-year-old in an upcoming sexual-assault trial, or trials.

The detective plans to present further evidence against Bush to a grand jury next month. Bush is being held without bail.
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