THREE FORKS, Mont. - We're digging deeper into Daniel Chafe, the Oregon man accused of faking his own death after being charged with 18 counts of sex crimes. NBC Montana spent the day combing through records, talking with Three Forks residents, even speaking to the woman Chafe lived with.
Here is what we've learned: Chafe, living under the name Zachery Taylor, built a respected computer business. He built a home in the Clarkston area under his assumed name with a woman who told NBC Montana she knew his true identity. Records show he even holds a Federal Communication License as an amateur radio operator.
For a fugitive on the run, Daniel Chafe certainly didn't act like a wanted man. As Zac Taylor, he was an active member of his community. Three Forks residents tell us he was a member of the Three Forks Chamber of Commerce and owned his own business, No Bull Computing.
We went to Three Forks City Hall where we found records of his company, listed as "A" Plus in the chamber phone book.
From there, we went to visit with Ann Cleveland, a close friend of Chafe and the woman he lived with. She says she met Chafe in New Mexico when he went by Stryder Styarfyr.
Cleveland describes Chafe as smart, creative, charismatic and says he helped a lot of people.
Cleveland explains the story of the Cobalt Clan, a reported plot to have a large number of children Chafe could rule over, was a twist on Chafe's dreams to create a business in Cobalt, Idaho.
We asked Cleveland about reports Chafe had faked his own death. She says Chafe told her he woke up on the side of a lake with a bump on his head. She says he feared for his life and that people had threatened to kill him, the same people who she says set up Chafe. Cleveland says Chafe took the boating accident as an opportunity to avoid returning to Oregon.
We learned Chafe had worked for Madison Valley Medical Center. We talked to the CEO, who told us Chafe was an independent contractor 6 years ago. Because he wasn't an employee, there were no reference or background checks.
We wanted to know how difficult it is to disappear, so we sat down with Undersheriff Dan Springer. He tells NBC Montana it's not easy to go off the grid. First off, one has to cut ties with old friends and family.
Springer explains it's helpful if the individual has enough skills to either run a private business or work odd jobs under the table. He says, if you have a driver's license or some form of state issued identification, it makes things a lot easier.
Springer adds sometimes it's easiest to hide in plain sight.
"If you go off into the woods and build a little cabin and you're hiding in there, you can kind of bring suspicion to yourself, but if you end up in a community that's kind of rural and you're able to hide amongst the group, not bringing attention to yourself, then certainly it gets simpler," explains Springer.
Cleveland tells us Chafe was in Spokane but now believes he could be on his way to Oregon.
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