Court Rejects Appeal Of Former Cult Leader

LINCOLN, Neb. — An appeal by one-time cult leader Michael Ryan in a 1985 torture-slaying on a farm near Rulo was rejected Friday by a federal appeals court.

In doing so, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld and earlier ruling by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Ryan claimed that Richardson County District Judge Robert Finn, who presided over his trial, was prejudiced against him. The judge met privately with victim James Thimm’s family before sentencing.

Thimm was a member of the cult that lived on a farm near Rulo in southeastern Nebraska. Thimm was tortured over a three-day period and died.

The Nebraska high court said Finn’s actions showed a lack of professionalism but did not deprive Ryan of his right to due process.

The appeals court also rejected claims that Ryan was mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Ryan’s son, Dennis, and cult member Timothy Haverkamp also were convicted in Thimm’s death.

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