What was in the baron's house?
- Kara Hansen Murphey
- Lake Oswego Review - News
Home invasion victim has colorful history
The armed robbers who forced their way into a Lake Oswego home last week may have been targeting unusual loot: royal treasure.
Police responded Friday morning to a home on Indian Creek Way in the Bryant neighborhood, where two men dressed in dark clothing shouldered their way into a house after presenting what looked like official badges. Once inside, they tied up three people. At some point a shot was fired into a wall, and resident George von Bothmer was slammed in the face with the butt of a handgun. He was later treated at a local hospital for injuries suffered during the holdup.
Lake Oswego Police Lt. Darryl Wrisley identified the two other victims as Bothmer's 17-year-old daughter, who was not named because she is a minor, and her friend, William Laitta, 20.
He said the case is the police department's primary focus right now.
'We have a lot of tips we're following up on,' Wrisley said. 'Any help we can get would be great.'
Police are looking for two suspects described as white men, one about 5-foot-8, 160 pounds and in his early to mid-30s and the other about 6 feet tall, 180 pounds and in his late 50s or early 60s.
Authorities could not disclose how von Bothmer managed to free himself or how long the victims were tied up before he escaped and called 911 from a neighbor's house.
Police also wouldn't disclose what was taken from the home.
But some people have speculated the thieves may have targeted extragavent heirlooms inherited from German nobility.
Von Bothmer is better known in some circles as 'the Baron,' or Freiherr George von Bothmer zu Schwegerhoff. But he didn't always have that title.
In other circles, he's known more simply as George Criser Davis, a former teacher's aide at Marshall High School in Portland until he was adopted - at age 41 - by his aunt, Baroness Helene von Bothmer zu Schwegerhoff, who had married into aristocracy. When she died, George von Bothmer was her heir.
For a time during the 1990s, von Bothmer lived in an old house in Northwest Portland. A neighbor declined to go on the record for this article but noted that, along with von Bothmer's wife, Julie, the baron lived with his brother and another couple he described as 'servants.'
He often told stories about his ancestors and backed them up with photos he'd taken outside of European castles.
Other past friends and business colleagues described von Bothmer as charming, endearing, theatrical and flamboyant, as well as eccentric. Some said he has claimed to be the legitimate heir to the throne of Russia and believes he should be the constitutional monarchy of Hungary.
'You can't believe everything he tells you, but you can't prove he's lying either,' one person said. 'He definitely is not subtle. Anybody could have heard he has valuables in his home.'
He has also lived in Victoria, British Columbia, where in 2000 he was the target of protest, according to an article in The Globe and Mail newspaper. After renting a mansion from a church group for $1 a year, apparently to open a museum showcasing his family's antiques, he was sued by the Anglican Church Women of the Diocese of B.C., which accused him of brokering an unreasonably good deal, according to the newspaper.
The Lake Oswego baron was a Beaverton resident until recent years, when his 4,678-square-foot home on Telluride Court went into foreclosure, according to one of his former business partners.
William 'Bill' Sikkens, a computer programmer and consultant who lives in Nevada, said he was the co-signer on von Bothmer's lease for the 2,902-square-foot home on Indian Creek Way.
Sikkens acknowledged that von Bothmer recently filed for a restraining order against him. However, he contends the restraining order was a tool to keep him from proceeding with an embezzlement lawsuit.
He said von Bothmer wrongfully took thousands of dollars from his company, Business Class Technology.
The two met about six years ago at a Vancouver, Wash., street festival. Von Bothmer invited him to Beaverton for tea, and they became friends.
'I've always had a love of history,' Sikkens said. '(Von Bothmer) loved to show off his collection and talk about his family's ties to Europe and the ancient von Bothmer family. … Anybody who would meet him would find him very likeable, in my opinion.'
Sikkens said he agreed to bring von Bothmer into his company to help on the sales end of business. Their relationship crumbled with the financial disagreement in January.
On March 5, von Bothmer registered a new business called Order of the Black Tower, state records show. He's also listed as president of a nonprofit corporation created in December 2009 called Order of the Blue Cross of St. Stephen.
Sikkens said those are two orders von Bothmer has founded but that he's involved in others, and that he invited Sikkens into some of them.
'He even granted me a noble title, which isn't worth the paper it was printed on,' he said. 'He promised people titles and houses in Europe.'
Police said Sikkens has cooperated with investigators.
Efforts to reach von Bothmer have been unsuccessful, and he did not answer the door at his home Wednesday.