Man charged with threatening to take over ranch

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) — A man who lost his western Montana ranch in a 1979 divorce and spent more than 20 years in prison for intimidating judges, attorneys and others involved in the case is now charged with threatening to kidnap the current owners and showing up at the property to "take back the ranch," Ravalli County court records said.

John Fesler Lance II, 73, was arrested Sept. 15 after deputies arrived to find him on the ground with ranch owners Lee and Lucinda Hayne each pointing a gun at him.

He remained jailed Tuesday on $200,000 bail on charges of intimidation, stalking, trespassing and violating a protective order, according to jail records. He has not entered a plea. Lance's public defender, Tom Schoenleben, was out of town and unavailable for comment Tuesday.

County Attorney Bill Fulbright said Lance lost his Florence-area ranch in a default judgment for failing to answer his wife's petition seeking a divorce. Fulbright said Lance was convicted of threatening the judge who made the ruling, an attorney who prosecuted the intimidation charge and others he perceived as being involved in his loss of the ranch.

Lance served more than 20 years in the state prison so he could be released without being on parole, Fulbright said. Soon after his March 31 release, he was spotted loitering outside Lucinda Hayne's place of work in Hamilton.

He was arrested and sat in jail until his July trial where he was convicted of violating a permanent restraining order and sentenced to time served, Fulbright said.

Over the past several months, the Haynes or their attorney received correspondence from Lance threatening to use any force necessary to "take the ranch back," including kidnapping the Haynes and holding them for ransom, court records said.

Earlier this month, the Montana Supreme Court rejected Lance's attempt to overturn a permanent order of protection the Haynes were granted against him.

On Sept. 15, Schoenleben reported that Lance called him from Missoula, distraught, and said he was going back to his ranch. The attorney contacted authorities.

The Haynes said that while they waited for deputies to arrive, Lance rambled on about the ranch, told them they were trespassing and he had the right to use force to evict them.

The couple told officers they were forced to drastically change their lives after Lance was released from prison, including always having someone stay on the property and not having visitors, charging documents said.