Hardcover photo by Bob Dick, design by Amy Ostwald, shows Tornow (aka Justin Madanifard) in the forest during the re-enactment videoed by Mark Woytowich in 2013. Small image shows the 3 Lathrop great-grandsons at the memorial dedication in 2013.


Author Bill Lindstrom signs a book for a customer

 If you enjoyed “John Tornow: Villain or Victim?” and would like one for the special  mom (s) in your life. Here’s a Mom’s Day deal for you.  I will pay tax and postage on hardbacks. Cost to you is $34, an $8 savings. Send email to I will return invoice with price and mailing address. You mail check and how you want the book personalized. I sign them all and mail to mom or you. Deadline is April 25 and I must have all checks by May 1. Paperbacks are $30, including tax and postage (no discounts).




Tue. 14 Montesano Chamber (noon)

Wed. 15 Lacey Lions (Hawks Prairie) 7 p.m.

Sat.   24  Raymond Library, 2-4 p.m.


Sat. 9  McCleary Library, 2-4




Bill Lindstrom Author "John Tornow: Villain or Victim?"

August 2014 

Murder. Incest. Sex. Intrigue. Implausible situations. Enigma. Unsolved mystery, a century later.  “Victim or Villain?” is the true story of events a century old. It sounds trite, but it’s true: you can’t make this stuff up.

John Tornow’s family follows the early American dream as they emigrate from Germany in the late 1800s and wend their way to the Olympic Peninsula’s Satsop Valley. Young John is fascinated with the deep virgin forest as we follow him through his youth and early adult years. He is a deadly shot and his skill with a knife is practically unmatched. John is big, strong, fit and increasingly reclusive. He is not someone to trifle with in town. In the Satsop Valley wilderness of 1910, John is either a peculiar loner or an apex predator. Or both.

My Godfather, Lem Nethery, was an early Grays Harbor homesteader, timber cruiser and close friend to my father, Malcolm. “Uncle Lem,” also was one of the folks detailed to bring out Tornow’s body after he was shot and killed in the upper Wynooche Valley. I heard the legend of John Tornow dozens of times as Uncle Lem told me the story every time we visited.  John Tornow grew up with me.

As is often the case with a legendary story, many memories are suspect. In John Tornow’s case a whole lot is suspect beginning with his own family. A botched abortion and subsequent trial in which no one seems capable of telling the truth, a questionable trip to an asylum, greed over assets left by deceased parents set the stage for John. He becomes more reclusive and seemingly unstable as his family self-destructs. The deep woods become his refuge from the family’s bizarre actions.

Then it all goes south. John’s beloved twin nephews, John and William Bauer, are shot, killed and buried. Circumstantial evidence clearly indicates John. He becomes the chief, no, the only, suspect and from that day forward is hunted by posses and bounty hunters. A novice crime writer could sniff out at least two or three legitimate additional suspects. Two deputies are later murdered and the manhunts intensify, yet John never is charged with a crime. Tornow, meanwhile, shadows the men looking for him and steals food and clothing from settlers and receives handouts from those who have known him as an odd, but decent, man.

John survives the next two years by being better at woodcraft than those paid to find him who, themselves, are very good. The odds, however, are not in his favor and he eventually is killed, taking two more deputies with him. Those two sentences cover an incredible story of survival of the fittest, woods skills by the best in the business, good luck, bad luck, and, in the end, tragedy that leads the reader to wonder, “Why? Why did all this have to happen to an unfortunate human being and the brave men who did what they were paid to do?”

Author, Bill Lindstrom, does a masterful job of leading us through the Tornow family’s life and times, the daily routines and tragedies that create the story that endures to this day. Bill spent a lifetime researching multiple versions of events. He found himself reading century-old court documents, transcriptions, contemporary news articles, interviews, all needed to produce the best account possible of our friend, John. Bill left no stone unturned to tell the story as best it can be told. He added dialogue so we can follow the family, the lawmen and a reporter, not just the tragic events. It is one of those books that, when you must put it down, makes you want more. When it is done, you want to go back and change it to make a better ending. Alas, we can’t do that and the ending is well known to all: John is gunned down in a brutal shootout in which two other decent men are killed, too. Bill does the job he must do to bring us the facts as best as they can be determined through diligent research, even if we don’t like them.

Bill Lindstrom’s thorough research cannot dispel the multiple riddles left behind. Who actually shot the twins? Did Tornow really shoot Deputies Elmer and McKenzie? Did Tornow stay in the upper Satsop and Wynooche drainages or did he venture to one or more of the places where people swear they saw him? Was John sent to an asylum? If so, was it done to access his wealth? Was John responsible for the never-explained disappearance of several folks who ventured into his country never to be seen again? John was a prudent investor, viewed with envy by family members. What happened to his substantial holdings, his bank accounts?

Lindstrom does his best to answer the questions. He can’t answer them all. We are left to form our own opinions of the man. I choose to believe Tornow murdered his nephews in a case of mistaken identity. Further, he likely murdered Deputies Elmer and McKenzie. But I don’t know that. Neither does anyone else and there are several plausible alternatives. Remember, Tornow was never charged with, much less convicted of a crime.

I also believe, had Tornow been left alone, he would have become one of those peculiar people at the fringe of society ─ and civilization in those days ─ who would have died of natural causes having caused no harm.  But, instead of being a footnote in history, John Tornow left a huge footprint and at least seven dead men. Bill Lindstrom tells a great story which I hope you enjoy as much as I did.

Malcolm R. Dick, Jr.

Shelton, Washington








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Samuel Johnson | Reply 15.05.2015 10.09

Where was the bicycle photo found of John and Edward ?

Samuel | Reply 15.05.2015 05.07

I love the book.I found out about John in a real wes magazine in the early sixties.

Bill Lindstrom | Reply 29.04.2015 12.23

Edward wasn't killed. He moved to South Bend, later to Longview. Some did believe he was involved in the killing of the views. He was involved in land dispute.

Samuel Johnson | Reply 28.04.2015 21.02

I know Edward dissapeared.Did John do the world a favor?

Rosalie Blue | Reply 21.01.2015 18.52

We have a very fine independently owned book store in Gig Harbor, WA. I encourage you having your book on their shelves.

Bill Lindstrom 22.01.2015 10.51

Hi Rosalie,
I would love to do that. I'll try to contact you through Google or you could send me your email and phone to

Susan | Reply 09.11.2014 12.47's readers list Victim or Villian a 5 star book.

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Latest comments

15.05 | 10:09

Where was the bicycle photo found of John and Edward ?

15.05 | 05:17

Does anyone have any photos of Mary Bauer ? Who where the 2 trappers that disapeared ?

15.05 | 05:07

I love the book.I found out about John in a real wes magazine in the early sixties.

01.05 | 11:35

Email me at I want to ask about the ammo

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