Blueprint For a Better Life

Life 101Life 101 by Bob Quast will take you on a journey within the book filled with interesting people, fascinating experiences, horrible tragedy, and valuable life lessons that any reader can use to improve his or her life immediately.

Bob shares the triumph of creating successful businesses, embracing a loving family, and the joy of sharing his time tested principals for success with others. He also shares his heartache caused by the tragic death of his sister at the hands of a savage murderer.

Bob's genuine passion for helping people and his relentless pursuit for personal and professional excellence has made Life 101 one of the top reads of 2012.

Book Type
  • Table of Contents

    (page 1)     PREFACE

    (page 5)     ACCT101 – Teaching the basics

    (page 11)     FAMILY101 – A perfect start in Wisconsin

    (page 21)     WORK101 – Hard work creates strong values, ethics

    (page 31)     GOALS101 – Decide, write, conquer

    (page 35)     BALANCE101 – A killer's good advice

    (page 41)     SAU101 – Free college, anyone?

    (page 47)     ENERGY101 – The key to prosperous American jobs

    (page 61)     PROSPER101 – Steady growth via hard work, saving

    (page 67)     LIMO101 – What happens in the limo…gets told here

    (page 91)     EVIL101 – Lynnette's Law

    (page 105)     GUNS101 – Shoot to kill

    (page 111)     FAITH101 – God, where are You?

    (page 119)     HUBRIS101 – Mr. Buffett's $¼ Billion Man

    (page 127)     ETHICS101 – My letters to Warren

    (page 139)     HELP101 – Betrayal after 50,000 hours

    (page 165)     GOVT101 – Seeking solutions from a broken system

    (page 183)     MATH101 – What our government never learned

    (page 191)     DEBT101 – America is bankrupt

    (page 199)     GIVE101 – Give a little, receive a lot

    (page 205)     LIVE101 – The true keys to happiness

    (page 211)     Appendix A – 1st Buffett letter

    (page 227)     Appendix B – 2nd Buffett letter

    (page 231)     Appendix C – CNBC/NY Times letter

    (page 235)     Appendix D – 3rd Buffett letter

    (page 241)     Appendix E – Letter to President Obama et al

    (page 249)     Appendix F – Letter to Speaker Boehner et al

    Move on to read Chapter 10 in its entirety

  • Chapter Ten

    Lynnette's Law

    The single worst moment of my life occurred around nine o'clock in the evening on July 1, 1999. It should have been a great day. Becky and I had just closed on our first home together the day before. Pursuant to our agreement with the sellers, we took possession on July 1. I had worked at MidAmerican that day, then drove to our new home. After heavy rains the night before, and in spite of being reassured by the sellers that there were no water issues, our new six-car garage was half flooded with several inches of water. I was ticked at the lie, but my life was about to get much worse. I was sweeping out the water when Becky called my cell phone, telling me I needed to drive to her house a few miles away. I don't think I even asked why, as I could tell from the serious tone of her voice that something very bad had just happened and I was about to get some very bad news. That was an understatement.

    When I walked in, Becky had an awful look on her face. She handed me the phone. My Mom was on the other end, and she broke the awful news: "Pieces of Lynnette were found in Michigan." I fell to the floor and wailed. I knew instantly that Lynnette's husband had killed her.

    Lynnette had known Tom since kindergarten. At age sixteen, the two of them began to date. They both attended college in Milwaukee – Lynnette at Alverno College's School of Nursing and Tom at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Tom graduated with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, but Lynnette was two courses shy of being able to graduate in four years, as she failed her handson nursing assessment; Lynnette just about fainted at the sight of blood. That probably would have been good to know prior to attending nursing college, but such is life. Lynnette had wanted to retake the final assessment to graduate, but Tom encouraged her not to. I believe Tom actually relished the fact that Lynnette would not be as employable without her four-year degree. This would help him control her, and enabled many years of horrible abuse.

    After graduating, Tom quickly accepted a job with James River Corporation in Ohio, where he oversaw plant operations in Ohio and Michigan. He and Lynnette moved to the very small village of Swanton, Ohio. Tom's abuse of Lynnette was verbal and sexual, but I only learned of the worst parts of the sexual abuse after Lynnette was murdered.

    I had called Lynnette three days before her murder. It was a Friday night, June 25, 1999. We had just returned days before from the Virginia City Hill Climb event in Reno. Lynnette and I talked from around seven to nine in the evening, which was extremely rare since I never talk on the phone for two-hour conversations. The reason for the call was to discuss the details of my upcoming wedding, which was scheduled for September 5. When I started talking, Lynnette quickly stopped me to say that Tom was not allowing her to attend my wedding!

    I was shocked, as I hadn't yet grasped how extreme Tom's control had become over Lynnette. She started telling me horrible things Tom had done to her and said to her. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I told Lynnette that if this were all true, she had to leave Tom, immediately. Lynnette said that Tom had threatened to kill her if she ever tried to leave him. I offered to drive to Ohio to get Lynnette and her boys, as Tom would disable the spark plugs or other items on her car so it wouldn't start and she couldn't leave.

    Lynnette told me that Chris, her eight-year-old son, was visiting our parents in Whitewater. Lynnette had recently recovered from a life-threatening pregnancy and high-risk delivery of Brian, her seven-month-old baby. She said that neither I nor any other family member could come to help her, as Tom had threatened to murder anyone who might try to take her away, along with harming her and their boys. By this point I didn't know what to think, because Lynnette was in a serious panic. She had never sounded this desperate, this fearful.

  • Lynnette's claims of Tom's murderous threats seemed so outlandish that at first I thought she must have been exaggerating. It just seemed surreal. By the end of that phone call, I felt things were no longer at a crisis. Lynnette had calmed down; her marriage was definitely troubled, I concluded, but probably she was exaggerating some of what she had said at the beginning of our talk. I later came to regret this mistake. For the rest of my life I'll feel ashamed for not doing more to recognize Lynnette's predicament and help her escape.

    Near the end of our conversation I suggested to Lynnette that if Tom were serious about his threats, then this was all the more reason that she needed to ignore her priest's prohibition of her seeking a divorce; she simply had to physically separate from Tom for a trial period. Lynnette reluctantly agreed, but said she would have to wait until Monday, as Tom would be watching her closely all weekend. I suggested that while Tom was at work on Monday, she should drive straight to my parents' home in Wisconsin. She needed to find a safe refuge away from Tom. (Incidentally, the most dangerous time for an abused female is when her abuser knows she's ready to leave him; this is why abuse victims need to know where to go to find safety from their abuser.)

    As I was writing this book I learned from one of Lynnette's friends that Lynnette had confided in her on Saturday during an Al-Anon meeting (Tom was a heavy marijuana user, even growing his own pot). Lynnette asked the friend to call her home phone on Monday evening. "If I don't answer the phone," she remembers Lynnette telling her, "either I've escaped, or he's killed me." The friend did call, but the phone was never answered, nor did the answering machine come on.

    Lynnette spent Monday gathering everything that was important to her that would fit in her minivan. At some point in the late afternoon, she put her baby Brian in his car seat and started to drive away. But apparently Tom had not gone to work that day, suspecting Lynnette's escape. A neighbor witnessed him driving down their dead end court, cutting off Lynnette's minivan as she tried to leave their home. Tom and Lynnette, who was holding Brian, argued as Tom closed the garage door. That was the last time anyone ever saw Lynnette alive.

    From piecing together neighbors' accounts of events, police interviews and reports, and phone calls my parents had with Tom, I have concluded that Lynnette was beaten and stabbed that Monday evening, likely dying a short time later.

    My parents called Lynnette that Monday and received no answer. My parents called Tom Wednesday at work. Tom mentioned that he had taken Brian to the doctor on Tuesday. My Mom asked why Lynnette didn't take him, and Tom said she wanted to stay home. By this point, my parents knew something wasn't right. My Dad jumped in his car around nine o'clock that evening and drove six straight hours, arriving at Lynnette and Tom's home in Swanton very early Thursday morning. He had a key, so he let himself in. Dad entered their split level home and went downstairs to sleep on the sofa. He instantly noticed two things. First, all the curtains were pulled shut, even though they had always been left open. In addition, Tom and Lynnette had always left a strand of Christmas lights on around the perimeter of the downstairs, almost like a nightlight. Those lights were now unplugged. My Dad was exhausted, so he simply crashed on the couch.

    It was just before six o'clock on the morning of July 1 when my Dad sensed something and woke up, startling Tom, who was standing near him, crouched over.

    "Hi, Tom," said my Dad.

  • "Uh, hi, Allen. I didn't realize you were down here. Lynnette never came home last night, but I just cut myself here." Tom showed my Dad a large, fresh cut to his index finger. "Do you think I need stitches?"

    "Yes, Tom, I'd go get that stitched up right away!" Shortly thereafter, Tom left to go to the doctor for stitches. While he was gone my Dad snooped around the house to see if there was any sign of Lynnette or clues of where she might be. No such luck.

    So my Dad went to the Swanton Police Department, where he filled out a missing persons report. He also described Tom's suspicious behavior and his cut finger. While Dad was at the police station, Lynnette and Tom's next door neighbor called the police. This same neighbor hailed down my Dad just before he left for the police station, saying she had heard Tom tell Lynnette on Sunday he was going to kill her. She told the police to search their in-ground pool for Lynnette's body.

    Hours later, some of Lynnette's body parts were recovered across the state line in Michigan, in two separate garbage dumpsters off the interstate. After police shut down all garbage pickups and combed a landfill, another part of Lynnette was recovered. The police charged Tom with murder that evening at his home, shortly after he returned from work.

    You might expect this to be an open-and-shut case, and that Tom would have been convicted of first-degree murder for this grisly, premeditated crime – and maybe even sentenced to death. But this isn't so. Tom is out of prison today, walking the streets of Ohio freely, without even a GPS ankle-bracelet to monitor him. How can this be?

    Several newspapers reporting on the crime stated incorrectly that Lynnette's torso was among the recovered body parts. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Since Lynnette's torso was not recovered, the chief medical examiner concluded the immediate cause of death was "undeterminable." Without an official cause of death, the State of Ohio had to drop the first-degree murder charge against Tom.

    As the weeks and months went by, we learned Tom's version of events. His first story was that he had dismembered Lynnette in order to save his boys from learning of their mother's alleged suicide. His attorneys claimed that Tom found Lynnette dead from a single self-inflicted stab wound to the heart – a story that conveniently ignores the fact that Lynnette sustained several facial stab wounds, and that the bruising on her face indicates that her heart was still pumping blood when Tom beat and stabbed her.

    My family first learned about this critical forensic evidence at the April 2000 mini-trial where the judge accepted Tom's plea deal (with my parents' prior consent). Unfortunately, it was the very evidence that would have made us reject the plea if we had known about it sooner. My parents were talked into accepting a plea bargain under the premise that the lack of full body recovery, and thus a necessary cause of death, could lead to Tom's acquittal on the basis of reasonable doubt. If that happened, Tom would not only walk free, but he would also raise their two boys! A full trial would also have meant that Lynnette's eight-year-old son, Chris, would have been forced to testify. Weeks before Lynnette's murder, Chris had walked in on his dad watching a video of a person being dismembered. When my Mom had to break the horrible news of Lynnette's death, Chris asked his grandmother, "Did they find my mom's feet?" We felt we could not further torment Chris by having him testify against his own father, of whom he was terrified. For years after Tom went to prison, Chris repeated his fear that his dad would get out of prison and do to him and his brother what he had done to his mom.

  • In the end, Tom took what's known as an Alford plea. Under the terms of an Alford plea, Tom wasn't admitting his guilt; rather, he was admitting that a jury was likely to find him guilty due to the overwhelming evidence against him. And he was accepting a guilty verdict to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. The judge made sure Tom was aware of this; Tom replied sheepishly, "Yes, your honor."

    The plea deal was supposed to give us the security of knowing that Tom would be safely behind bars for twelve years. Tom received ten years for voluntary manslaughter, one year for gross abuse of a corpse, and one year for criminal use of tools. The second and key part of the plea agreement was that Tom would be required by the court to serve a subsequent five years of probation in the State of Ohio. This would mean that Lynnette's seven-month-old baby, Brian, would be almost eighteen years old before there was any chance of Tom trying to make contact with him.

    In the end, none of this worked out as promised by the prosecutor's office, the court system, or the victim's advocate. Tom spent the next five years appealing his conviction and his receipt of the maximum twelve-year sentence as completely unfair. He fired his original team of lawyers and claimed through his new attorneys that he had been given ineffective legal counsel. (Thankfully the appellate court didn't believe him.) During one of his final appeals, Tom tried to retract his Alford plea and instead plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

    It wasn't long after his conviction that Tom started calling my Mom collect and demanding to speak to his boys, a form of torture he kept up for nearly ten years. When I learned about this, I asked my Mom why she had been answering the phone, much less allowing the boys to talk to Tom – surely this was an emotional abuse they didn't need. My Mom's response was simple: she believed that if she didn't do what Tom wanted, he would be angry and might kill her when he got out of prison! Tom also wrote literally hundreds of letters. Again, my Mom gave them to the boys for fear of angering Tom had she not done so.

    When people tell me the United States has the greatest legal system in the world, I disagree emphatically. We have the greatest system for the bad guys – the evildoers. If someone commits murder and is found not guilty on a technicality, he can then admit the next day he outsmarted everyone for his perfect crime. Double jeopardy allows him to walk free and avoid any and all punishment. Should a dozen jurors unanimously find a criminal guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt, there's always the appeal process. Should the first appeal fail, then the criminal can appeal to an even higher (supreme) court. Let's assume the criminal is finally held accountable by the courts to serve his time. Because of overcrowded jails and state governments with broken budgets, virtually every criminal gets released early, often times serving only a fraction of his sentence for the crime(s). We should rename it our system of injustice, properly showing the victims' point of view.

    I define an evil person as someone who commits a heinous crime, then refuses to admit the reality of what he's done, and finally shows no remorse to the victim or to the victim's family. Tom Craft fits this definition, even in spite of my family trying to offer him forgiveness. My entire family believes in compassion and redemption, but prerequisites must include contrition and the desire to be forgiven.

    When Tom was sentenced, the judge characterized him as "a very intelligent sociopath." When people think of killers, they often think of obviously psychopathic individuals. But a sociopath is someone with all the pathological failings of a psychopath, but who has "socialized" himself. Society has accepted this person as "normal." A sociopath may be just a little bit odd, oftentimes a tad quiet or out of place with others, but overall he is just an average coworker or the guy next door, slipping under the radar while he plans his next murder or rape.

  • Sociopaths are not the Charles Mansons of the world, but the Dennis Raders. Rader is the serial killer better known as the BTK strangler, after his modus operandi of Bind, Torture, Kill. Between 1974 and 1991, he killed ten people in Kansas, while terrorizing every citizen who lived in the area. Rader was never suspected by anyone, as he was completely socialized into his community. He was married for 34 years and the father of two. He was a U.S. Air Force veteran, president of his church council, and a Cub Scout leader. He also worked for Park City, Kansas, as a dog catcher and supervisor, where he enforced certain areas of the law. The only reason Rader was arrested and convicted for his crimes was his own frustration with law enforcement not catching him. In 2004 he began taunting the press and police with anonymous letters that gradually led to his arrest.

    When Tom's coworkers were questioned by law enforcement and the press, none of them suspected or really believed Tom was capable of murder, much less the dismemberment of his wife. Had Lynnette's dismembered body not been found on July 1, 1999, no one outside our family would have suspected Tom of any crime.

    If a police record had existed for Tom, things might have turned out differently. If Lynnette had called 911 during just one of his rages, if a neighbor had reported that final disturbance, if I hadn't downplayed Lynnette's desperation and failed to take action…Juries are prone to expect murderers to have prior run-ins with the law, which is one reason why sociopaths so often walk free. If you or anyone you know is ever the victim of any form of domestic abuse, report it to the police immediately! This is one of the most important life lessons I could impart to anyone, and one that I hope all my readers will spread to everyone they know. It can make a difference – and it might prevent a tragedy in the life of someone you know or love.

    My parents cleaned out Lynnette and Tom's home after Tom's sentencing in the spring of 2000. Tom's parents, Ed and Janet, were there too, going through what items of Tom's they wanted to keep. As Ed sat down in a recliner in the living room, my Dad noticed something fall out of Ed's pocket. It was a white piece of paper, and when Ed and Janet got up and left the house a little while later, my Dad picked it up.

    The piece of paper was a "treasure map" in Tom's handwriting. Tom had drawn out and given his father a crude map of where he had hidden Lynnette's diamond wedding ring in the basement ceiling tiles, above the laundry room. My parents were dumbfounded. Not knowing if this was indeed what it appeared to be, my parents walked downstairs and followed the instructions. They removed the ceiling tile and, voila, there was Lynnette's diamond ring, still covered in her blood. My parents were in shock. My Mom was scared as she washed the blood off the ring. When my Mom got home to Whitewater, she put Lynnette's ring in her lock box. On this piece of paper, Tom had written, presumably to his parents, "We can get out of this."

    Tom's dad, Ed, will be the first to tell you they have "millions." The Crafts like everyone to know they're rich. Money has always defined who they are.

    Given all their money, I was pleasantly surprised when my parents called me a few months after Lynnette's funeral saying that Ed and Janet wanted our family to meet them at their bank for the purpose, we assumed, of setting up college trust funds for both boys. I was very happy since my parents were going to be using a portion of their limited retirement savings just to raise the boys. Since neither Tom nor his parents paid any of the substantial costs of raising Chris and Brian, college funds from Tom's rich parents were going to be a wonderful start.

    I drove from Iowa to meet at the Crafts' bank in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. My parents met me there, along with Ed and Janet. I expected to meet with a sixth person, the Crafts' banker. Instead, Ed and Janet had had their attorney draw up a contract that was presented to my family.

  • I negotiated billions of dollars in contracts for MidAmerican, so I'm quite good at reading the fine print. This fine print was quite astounding, as it had nothing to do with a trust for the boys. Rather, it effectively said that no one in the Quast family would ever write a book, nor sign any movie deal, that outlined any of the facts or circumstances surrounding Lynnette's death. I asked, "What the hell is this?" Janet replied that it was just to ensure no one did anything that might hurt the boys. I was completely outraged. I explained how I thought I had driven six hours round-trip from Iowa to set up a college fund, to which Ed responded, "Oh, don't worry, we have millions and that's all taken care of." I tore up the contract and left the bank. (And no college trust fund was ever set up by the Crafts for Chris or Brian.)

    For years, that meeting at the Crafts' bank made no sense to me. Then I learned that Tom spent his incarceration writing a book that presents his side of the story. When I began writing the book you're now reading, I wasn't sure I would ever try to publish it. But after a lot of thought and prayer, I eventually came to the conclusion that I could stay silent no longer.

    I can't remain silent, and I also can't remain inactive. Today my family and I are pushing for the creation of a Lynnette's Law that might prevent future suffering by other victims and their families. We know it can't be applied retroactively, but we don't ever want to see another family go through what we have.

    Lynnette's Law is very much a work in progress at this point. I've sought input from everyone I speak with – family, friends, neighbors, members of my church, politicians, and anyone else who cares. The solution will hopefully be improved over time, and I am actively seeking feedback from every American via our website, www.LynnettesLaw.com, which is being developed concurrently with this book. My current draft concept is as follows:

    Proposed Federal Lynnette's Law:
    • Crossing state lines to conceal a murder shall be an explicit Federal crime punishable by the Federal Government, even when a state may have primary responsibility for prosecuting said crime(s).
    • Using the internet to plan and commit premeditated murder shall be an explicit Federal crime punishable by the Federal Government, even when a state may have primary responsibility for prosecuting said crime(s).

    Proposed Lynnette's Law in Ohio:
    • No felon convicted of a heinous crime such as murder, dismemberment, or rape may be released early from prison (i.e., prior to serving his full prison sentence, including any action such as a governor's pardon of a felon) without first receiving an approval of the conditions of parole and release from the victim and victim's family, provided, however, that said approval shall not be unreasonably withheld.

    This provision of Lynnette's Law would protect victims' families from acts like Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour's 2012 pardon of several convicted murderers. Second chances for violent criminals should be granted by society, not by politicians with political motives. Through pardons like these, governors act above the law. I'll discuss this further in Chapter 13.

  • • No felon convicted of a heinous crime such as murder or dismemberment may regain custody of his minor children without first receiving and passing a psychological exam that shows fitness to raise said minor children. Said minor children also must consent to their desire for parental custody to be granted to the convicted felon, even when age of consent has not yet been reached.

    • No felon convicted of a heinous crime such as murder or dismemberment may profit from said crimes.

    • The maximum sentence for dismemberment (i.e., gross abuse of a corpse) committed in the State of Ohio shall be increased from one year to ten years by raising the Felony from Class 5 to Class 1.

    Once the State of Ohio passes Lynnette's Law, I'd then like to see the other 49 states support and pass similar laws that protect minor children, victims, and their families so that no other family has to go through the horrors my family has endured. Our story is not unique, unfortunately.

    Thank you for reading.