Colonia Dignidad Draws Attention of “Fired” Dallas News Reporter Character in The Plan – a Novel

Michael Townley, an American assassin

Reporter Sara Mercury (a character in The Plan) fired for “too much time spent on the JFK assassination,” turns her interest to American assassin, Michael Townley (shown here), and wonders what role he might have played in the strange 1999 death of  Des Moines, Iowa lawyer David W. Belin, an attorney for the Warren and Rockefeller Commissions. She also investigates Townley’s role at Colonia Dignidad, a torture community in Chile.

David W. Belin died of a freakish accident in a hotel room, after doing critical legal work for the Warren Commission and Rockefeller Commissions.

SEVERAL CHAPTERS in Part II of my historical-paranormal fiction book, THE PLAN, focus on Colonia Dignidad, a terrifying community that once existed in the South American country of Chile.  Character Sara Mercury, “fired from the Dallas Morning News for writing too many articles on the JFK assassination,” is an expat living in Cuenca, Ecuador. When she learns that a new friend (character Tara Means, the widow of a gay blackmurdered American civil rights lawyer) is dating a questionable stranger, who once worked at Dignidad, Sara’s antennas rise!

So what does Mr. Belin have to do with Colonia Dignidad? Maybe something, and maybe nothing. Either way, it’s all kind of interesting. …

To give you a better picture of what really took place at this historical torture colony, it helps to know more about its leader, a former German Nazi. Real-life news reporters only began writing about Paul Schäfer in earnest after he died. Until then, he’d been staying under the radar, except for occasional reports by aggressive international news and human rights organizations.

Benjamin Schneider of the Santiago Times writing for Merco Press, reported in 2010 that Paul Schäfer had died, after serving only five years of a 33-year prison term, which included 20 years for the abuse of 25 children. Schäfer had been accused of sexually abusing as many as 10,000 children over a period of 40 years at Colonia Dignidad.
(One former victim, Wolfgang Müller, responding to Schäfer’s death, told the newspaper La Tercera, “the biggest pederast in the world died today in Chile.”)
Schäfer, fleeing charges of child abuse in Germany arrived in Chile at the invitation of the pre-Pinochet government, in 1963, and founded the “Sociedad Benefactora y Educacional Dignidad”, (Dignity Charitable and Education Society) which later became the cult-like “Colonia Dignidad” (Dignity Colony), a group of German immigrants, some of whom had come with him from Germany, who settled a rural area about 225 miles south of Santiago, near the city of Parral.
He ruled the colony with an iron fist and called himself “The Permanent Uncle”, the Santiago reporter, Schneider, wrote in a lengthy article about this frightening despot:
“Television and telephones were banned. Men and women worked separately, children were separated from their parents, and sex was forbidden unless one had the unlikely permission of Schäfer. Citizens were encouraged to confess, both their own sins and the sins of others. Hard labour was said to bring one closer to God. The community was largely isolated from the outside world.”
A 2008 INVESTIGATIVE report by Bruce Falconer in The American Scholar noted that the colony’s population was mobilized by Schäfer to fight against an imaginary enemy. Many of the villagers had come from Germany and remembered the threat of Russia, so this was not hard to convince them of this enemy:
Schäfer  had done an excellent job of hiding the abuse., and even making good! For instance, located in a poor rural region, the community constructed a hospital that was open to many of the poorer neighbors; hence, the community received and exploited many tax exemption benefits as a non-profit charitable organization.

DURING AUGOSTO Pinochet’s 1973-1990 terrifying military dictatorship, Colonia Dignidad collaborated with the DINA, the government secret police, as holding center and torture site. 
They were aided by American assassin Michael V. Townley, the son of a Chilean Ford executive who also reportedly was a CIA agent in Chile and Venezuela. Townley later would plan the execution in Washington, D.C. of  Orlando Letelier, former Chilean ambassador to the United States. As a part of his plea bargain, Townley received immunity from further prosecution and escaped extradition to Argentina to stand trial for the assassination of Chilean general Carlos Prats and his wife.
Townley was also convicted in absentia, by an Italian court for carrying out the 1975 Rome murder attempt on Bernardo Leighton. Townley worked in producing chemical weapons for Chilean dictator General Pinochet‘s use against political opponents. He currently is in U.S. witness protection.


In my upcoming book, GRINGOLANDIA (second in the Civil Rights Mystery Sleuth series), Sara continues her hunt for information on Colonia Dignidad, and possible ties of Townley to the JFK assassination. 

Here’s why:

She believes this American assassin was working for the CIA, besides Chile’s DINA (secret police), and since he can be traced to working for David Atlee Phillips,  a Central Intelligence Agency officer for 25 years, and the CIA’s chief of all operations in the Western hemisphere, Sara is sure “there’s something about Townley that makes me think I’d better visit Chile.” 
Phillips is thought by some JFK conspiracy theorists to be the mastermind of the president’s assassination. The agent worked at the Mexico City CIA station, and was personally responsible for monitoring the Cuban and Russian embassies when the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald (or Oswald’s double) reportedly visited there a few weeks before the assassination. 

In fact, Townley may have assassinated numerous witnesses to the JFK crime, Sara tells her new friend, Irving Critchfield (main character in GringoLandia, TBR fall of 2015), perhaps including David William Belin, an attorney for the Warren Commission and the later Rockefeller Commission
As chief executive director of the Rockefeller Commission, only Belin held confidential information on the murder of Frank Olson, the designated “first” victim of MKULTRA, a secret CIA program to develop and test mind-altering drugs, among other weapons. 
So maybe Belin made it safely through his bullying-work on the Warren Commission, and then “bought it” right before he was scheduled to give an interview to a national author. Sara’s sure this lawwyer knew too much about the CIA’s secret operations, including Olson’s “suicide.”


Belen died in a freakish accident in 1999. Sara believes she can learn more about Belin and Olson, IF she can find Olson’s step-granddaughter (character) who, she learns, leads a drumming circle in Vilcabamba, Ecuador, a small pueblo five hours south of Cuenca! 
Sara hopes her new relationship with Critchfield will help!
DURING PINOCHET’S reign, a number of opponents of the government “disappeared” in the area. In 1985, Jewish-US citizen Boris Weisfeiler also disappeared while taking a vacation in the area, and in THE PLAN, Sara realizes this provides still another intriguing story to take on as a freelance investigative writer.
Once the Pinochet dictatorship ended in 1990, Schäfer fled to Argentina seven years later, after escaping numerous police raids on Colonia Dignidad by hiding in secret bunkers underground. He was tracked down in 2005 and brought back to face justice in Chile. At the time, the country’s Interior Ministry Undersecretary Belisario Velasco attributed some responsibility for the delay to “a network of people involved with Schäfer who did not want an investigation to ever occur, much less get to the courts”.
Sara wonders if the CIA might also have been reticent in releasing documents on Colonia Dignidad, as well as on Townley and Weisfeiler.
While much remains unknown about Schäfer’s activities, the last 20 years have brought a large amount of evidence to light. In 1995, more than three tons of weapons were found at Colonia Dignidad, including 85 submachine guns, 60 hand grenades, and rocket launchers.
Colonia Dignidad has continued under the name of Villa Baviera since 1990. But when Schäfer finally died AND WENT TO HELL, the community wanted nothing to do with this monster, and rejected a proposal to bury him on their grounds.