A Carter Lake man who died this week after suffering a heart attack while roofing a house was the survivor of an 18-month abduction by a stranger in the 1970s.
Walter “Todd” Bequette, 52, told his siblings that he finally felt free of his accused captor, Terry Roy Holman, two years ago after telling his story to the Kansas Prisoner Review Board.
Holman, who never stood trial on charges of kidnapping and molesting Bequette, was up for parole. He was serving 30 years to life in Kansas for shooting a police officer in 1987.
“My brother went to Wichita with me and my sister to talk to the board about the things (Holman) had done to him,” said Tiger Bequette of Tulsa, Okla. “Todd got really emotional, and you could see all of the people on the parole board were crying, too.
“You could tell (the testimony) really helped him finally get closure,'' she said. “He had done everything he could to keep him behind bars.”
Holman, 68, was not granted parole and won't be eligible again until Dec. 1, 2018.
Todd Bequette told his story several times over the years, including a memorable appearance on Oprah Winfrey's television show in 2007.
Bequette was abducted at age 13 in 1974 after getting off a bus in the Old Market.
He said Holman approached him, offering a free minibike if Bequette would help him move some things. Bequette balked at the offer, but he finally got in the car when Holman said they would go check with his parents to see if it was OK.
Bequette said he suffered mental, sexual and physical abuse at the hands of Holman for 18 months until being found by Omaha private investigator Dennis Whelan. Bequette's parents, Gerald and Beverly, hired Whelan, who tracked their son to Washington state, where he was living with Holman in a cabin.
Police told Bequette's family that the teen was in “a robotic state” when they rescued him. Bequette later said he had given up hope of being rescued and followed Holman's instructions to avoid beatings and to stay alive.
“Todd was Denny's first case because he was a friend of our family,” Tiger Bequette said. “For the rest of his life, Todd looked up to Denny, and we all thought of Denny as family.” Whelan died in 2006.
Instead of being brought back to Nebraska, Holman was taken to Oklahoma, where he was sentenced to eight years in prison for the molestations of two other boys. He also had charges pending in Texas and Oregon.
Douglas County prosecutors decided to spare Bequette from having to testify and did not file charges against Holman when he got out of the Oklahoma prison in 1982. Tiger Bequette, however, said her brother always wanted to face his abductor in court.
Nebraska cannot prosecute Holman now because of the statute of limitations.
Bequette followed other child abduction cases with great interest and was always willing to be interviewed about the mind-set of victims. He was working on a book about his ordeal at the time of his death.
“Todd would become so upset with people who say 'Well, why don't these kids just call 911 or run away?' ” his sister said. “Basically he wanted people to know that the children, like he was, are told all kinds of horrible things by these abductors. A lot of times they tell the kids that their family will be killed if they don't do exactly as they are told.”
Todd Bequette was pronounced dead Tuesday at Lakeside Hospital, shortly after being found unresponsive on the roof of a home in southwest Omaha.
He was one of 10 children in a blended family. He graduated from Council Bluffs' Thomas Jefferson High School and served in the Navy.
After leaving the service he worked as a machinist and had four children with his wife, Laura, with whom he remained close even after divorce.
“Todd was a good guy who loved to joke and laugh and was just so much fun to be around,” his sister said. “He loved (tap) dancing and playing pool.”
A celebration of Bequette's life will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Cutler O'Neill Chapel, 545 Willow Ave., in Council Bluffs.
Bequette is survived by sons David and Kevin; daughter Angela Townsend; former wife and good friend Laura; brothers Gary, Tom, Mickey, Dennis, Rod and Mike; sisters, Nellie and Tiger; and eight grandchildren.