By Amy Silverman
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Because the water tanks are surrounded by barbed wire to keep varmints and vandals away from the water supply, the property was characterized as an armed "survivalist compound" rigged with booby traps and barbed wire during the initial media feeding frenzy after Stant was first identified.
"Most people would consider the people who live on Larch Mountain to be survivalists," Stant admits. Because of its remote location and its backwoods population, houses out here are ripe for robbery, far from the police. It's the kind of place you might be shot for poking around. In fact, Stant tells a story: He and his uncle caught one such burglar and held him at gunpoint for 45 minutes, waiting for the state police to arrive.
And it didn't help Stant's public image that his grandma, Mae Loomis, confronted an invasion of television reporters with a shotgun, pumped a few warning rounds into the trees to send them scurrying back to their cars and shouted, "I'm a gun-toting grandma."
Stant has been characterized in written accounts as a bully and a loner with violent tendencies.
"They talked to people I went to sixth grade with," he says. They described how he became aggressive after taking steroids in high school, which Stant denies by saying he is so meticulous about his diet and health that he doesn't drink alcohol, and he doesn't even eat meat.
This chemical purity has been disputed, however, by Stant's estranged lawyer. Fred Merrill and his assistant, Robert Silvert, allege that Stant was a chronic user of anabolic steroids, had used them up to the day of the attack, and that Merrill had even considered a defense strategy blaming Stant's actions on steroid use.
But Stant doesn't have the manner of a thug. He seems more like a polite bouncer, full of "Yes, sir" and "No, sir." He's articulate and bright, if unpolished.
"I'm like the serial killer who everyone says was the nicest guy," he jokes.
Then he corrects himself. "I'm a good guy, not a nice guy," he says. "A nice guy walks by you and says, 'Hey, how you doing? Nice to meet you.' But when you drop your wallet, he slides it over with his foot and puts it in his pocket.
"A good guy might walk by and if you bump into him, he says, 'Hey, watch where you're going.' When you walk by, he says, 'Hey, asshole, you dropped your wallet.' He's not a nice guy--but he's a guy you can trust."
Even that description is suspect. One of his housemates in Chandler says, "Shane likes to project an image to people he doesn't know so that they're scared of him, so that they know they can't mess with him."
If Stant's physical presence is formidable, there are chinks in his psychological armor. He gives a faint suggestion of paranoia in his manner. He fixes a hard gaze on newcomers, as if trying to read their thoughts--though he never seemed to make eye contact when he talked about Nancy Kerrigan. He didn't eat or drink so much as a glass of water during seven hours of interviews with New Times, conducted over three days. He claims that U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno is investigating him--which seems unlikely, but cannot be confirmed--and that government agents came to his jail cell to tell him not to talk about his military record--which seems not to exist.
Stant claims that he's not bothered by what people think about him, but has called up reporters and editors to complain about stories he felt were untruthful. After he went to jail, he passed along to New Times word that he would be offended and betrayed if the newspaper wrote a negative article about him after the personable nature of the interviews.
He faithfully reads the Bible. He has a soft spot for stray dogs; last fall, he rescued a pair in downtown Chandler, locked them in his garage, then spent the evening on the telephone trying to locate their owners. He was delighted when he did, and was excited by hearing children cheering over the phone when he told them he'd found their lost dogs. When they moved from Oregon to Chandler last October, his fianc‚e, Leslie Thomas, says, "It took us so long to get here because every time we stopped for gas or stopped to eat, someone would need help with his car." And Stant would offer it.
His biggest worry is that Thomas won't wait for him to get out of jail; he calls her from prison several times daily. This compassion, however, coexists with a part of his soul that could justify hobbling a beautiful young woman whose only crime was being a superb athlete. "I did it for money," he says bluntly, "the root of all evil, but I didn't do it for greed. If I'd done it to get my rocks off, that's a far more dangerous person."
Like yin and yang, "good" only exists in contrast to "bad," but they are not separate concepts. One oozes into the other, and Shane Stant floats somewhere in those murky boundary waters. He could justify the bad act because it would pay bills, and thus make him a responsible breadwinner and, by extension, a good person.