Jailed on threats, man heads for release

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 18, 2000

Austin native Loren F.

Saturday, November 18, 2000

Austin native Loren F. Bellrichard has been released from a federal prison in Illinois to a halfway house program in Minnesota.

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Bellrichard, 53, was convicted in 1991 of sending threatening correspondence to public officials.

While in prison on the original charges, he sent more threatening letters to other public officials and seven years were added to his sentence.

Among his victims were now-retired District Judge William J. Nierengarten of Austin and District Judge James L. Mork, then a Mower County district judge and now an Olmsted County district judge.

He was acquitted of charges that he was responsible for the bombings of Mork’s home in Blooming Prairie in 1989 and Nierengarten’s home in Austin in 1988, but convicted of the letter threats.

Since his release from the Pekin, Ill., federal prison Oct. 18, he has been staying at a halfway house program facility operated by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons at the Nicollet County Jail in St. Peter.

Bellrichard, a former Pacelli High School valedictorian and a decorated veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces during the Vietnam War, returned to his home town, where over a period of time he became best known for his eccentricities, living on the streets and beneath freeway overpasses at times and strange behavior in public.

At a screening of the movie "Platoon," at the Sterling 3 Theater and before the letter threats, Bellrichard, in what was an atypical incident, according to Austin Police Department records, was arrested after disorderly behavior, including making a speech during the showing of the movie.

The site of the long-haired, whiskered-face man, wearing a Mexican-style shawl, several shirts, dirty pants and feet wrapped in rags was common in Austin.

If Bellrichard successfully completes the halfway house program, he will be free to move anywhere in Minnesota and officials are taking pains to both help the man acclimate to society and allay any fears of the public about his freedom.

Garold Ray, chief probation officer for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in Minnesota, wants residents to feel safe.

"We want to assure the citizens of Austin that we are not just going to let him walk out of prison and back into the community," Ray said Friday afternoon.

"There will be a federal probation officer involved every step of the way as this process continues and steps will be taken to ensure he makes a successful reintegration into the community," Ray said.

Bellrichard successfully served a four-year sentence after his conviction in federal court in 1991. However, while in a federal prison at Indiana, he earned an additional seven years sentence after writing more threatening letters to the U.S. District Court judge who handed down the original sentence, and the federal prosecutor who won the conviction. Now, that prison sentence also has been served at the Illinois federal prison.

According to Ray, the halfway house program is designed to help federal inmates reintegrate into a community. If Bellrichard successfully completes the program, he would be assigned a federal probation officer and specific restrictions of his supervised released would be enforced.

"If he violates any of the conditions of his supervised release, he could be returned to prison," Ray said.

He emphasized every effort is made to assist the inmate, during the halfway house program experience "to be successful while they are on probation in order to make the re-entry into community life."

Ray said he anticipates Bellrichard will be eligible for release from the halfway house program at St. Peter in February.

"I can’t stress enough that we make every effort to ensure a successful outcome for the offender, while at the same time protecting the public’s safety," he said.