Rights offering detail :
The 1935 Kidnapping of 9 year old George Weyerhaeuser --Film/TV
Oct. 21, 2020
Author:
Bryan Johnston
Category:
Non-fiction: True crime
Description:
The biggest manhunt in Northwest history was the result of the kidnapping of nine year old George Weyerhaeuser, heir to America’s mightiest timber industry. To this day, his great grandfather, Frederick Weyerhaeuser, is still considered the 8th richest man in American history. THIS was a crime even the FBI considered fantastic and absurd.
In 1935, MARGARET WALEY (19) was a newly married Mormon raised in Utah within a deeply religious family. Everything in her background taught her to obey her husband in all matters of the world, while maintaining a safe place from that world inside the home. With the Depression still gripping the nation, she was thrilled when her husband HARMON WALEY (24) brought home a guest for dinner he described as an “old friend.” WILLIAM MAHAN (30) was in fact a few years older than Harmon and only knew him because they both served time in the same prison.

Margaret knew of her husband’s past, but believed he had turned over a new leaf behind bars, as he claimed. Except for the frustrations of poverty, they were happily married. What she didn’t know and wouldn’t find out until it was far too late, the two old prison mates had hatched a daring plan to kidnap young GEORGE WEYERHAEUSER from the family home in Seattle, Washington. As a kidnap victim his worth would be huge due to his families wealth and status.

For several weeks, Harmon and his “buddy” William pretended to be looking for work for Harmon, a job such as William claimed to have, as a traveling salesman with a fictitious stove company. The men kept her in the dark while they maneuvered and planned their way through the elaborate setup, and maintained their silence even after they snatched the boy on his way home from school and put him in a small pit dug in his family’s own timberland. It was only during this time, with the boy stuffed into the trunk of their car, that Margaret got a glimpse of what the men were doing, when George cried out to be released from that small space.

Margaret’s family were all back in Utah, and if they knew what she was involved in, they would likely have considered her a failure as a wife and a Mormon. This was too much for her to contemplate.
While she didn’t help the men pull off the crime, she did participate by making sure young George was given enough food and water. She didn’t have to work for long, since the family paid the $200,000 ransom and she, her husband, and William Mahan went on the run.

The FBI went to extreme measures to register the serial numbers of all the ransom bills and compile the numbers into a list which was spread across the land. In less than a week, “hot” bills began showing up. When Margaret tried to pass a five dollar ransom bill to purchase a ten-cent cigarette case for her father at a Woolworth’s department store, the FBI swooped in. Harmon was apprehended hours later after he burned several thousand dollars of the money in a potbellied stove. His reason was merely another aspect of the clusterf*ckery at play, since he could have just as easily buried that money with the rest of the ransom loot stashed in the mountains. After the Waleys were busted, William Mahan managed to evade the law. He remained on the lam for another year, while in the meantime, the Waleys went to court. Harmon pled guilty and was sentenced to 45 years at Alcatraz and charged twenty bucks for the cost of the prosecution. Utterly despondent, Margaret tried to also plead guilty in solidarity with her husband, even though she knew nothing of the crime until too late. The judge knew she was a pawn in the game and insisted that she go to trial and not merely give up and cop a plea.

The defense portrayed her as a being too stupid to resist the two men’s persuasions. The tactic didn’t work for her. Since she did not run to the police as soon as she learned George was in their car, she was sentenced to 20 years on a Michigan work farm. On the day she was sentenced she vowed she would count the days, the hours, the minutes before she and her beloved Harmon would be reunited. A loyal Mormon wife to the end. Or so it seemed. Despite her dedication to Harmon during the arrest and trial phase, the accumulation of her experiences during the trial and then behind bars with the other inmates, caused her to declare herself, not long after going inside, “through with marriage, and all men, forever.”

A year after the kidnapping, Bill Mahan’s luck finally ran out. He was captured in San Francisco, sitting on the running board of his car, sunning himself. He pled guilty and was sentenced to 60 years in Alcatraz. Twenty-eight years after going to prison, Harmon Waley was released. But Margaret had already been paroled and one of the first things she did was divorce Harmon Waley. By then, George Weyerhaeuser was a grown man, and one of the top brass in the Weyerhaeuser organization, just three years shy of becoming president of the company. Waley, now 52-years old, called his former kidnap victim and had the gall to ask George for a job. George Weyerhaeuser, in a breathtaking display of grace and compassion, gave him one. “I think he appreciated it,” said George. Margaret asked for nothing and received the same. But once she was out, eight years after her incarceration, she reversed her stance on men and marriage. She eventually did remarry and lived for another fifty years.
Rights available:
Film/TV
Rights sold:
Publication 2021 Post Hill Press-World English
Other Information:
Bryan Johnston is an eleven-time Emmy award winning video writer and producer during his 25 years in local network television. After leaving broadcast, he became the Creative Director for a Seattle area creative agency, developing concepts and writing scripts for international companies like Microsoft, Starbucks, T-Mobile, and Amazon. He was also a movie reviewer on television and radio for over ten years. His years on camera and as a professional public speaker have helped him hone the necessary skill set for promoting this book. His years in television and radio have also helped him cultivate a network of media friends and contacts that will prove useful when marketing the book. He has written for numerous magazine and websites, among them ESPN.com, The Seattle Times, Jr. Baseball, The Writer’s Journal, Seattle Bride, Seattle’s Child, Media Inc., The Imperfect Parent, Trailer Life, Your Teen, WeeklyWriter.com, 425 magazine, and 425 Business magazine.

As a born and bred Seattleite, he has a deep and abiding love for the Pacific Northwest. The Weyerhaeuser kidnapping story continues this trend. His roots and connections in the area have given him a decided edge in uncovering information about the Weyerhaeuser case, which took place less than 50 miles from his home.
Contact:
SHARLENE MARTIN
Martin Literary & Media Management
Sharlene@MartinLit.com
phone: 206-466-1773
Offering #:
16552
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