Dateline NBC takes an interest in Craig for upcoming special |

Dateline NBC takes an interest in Craig for upcoming special

Ben McCanna

Freelance photographer Carl Filoreto, of Golden, shoots footage Tuesday in the old jailhouse near the Moffat County Courthouse. Filoreto is in Craig on assignment for an upcoming Dateline NBC special. The special, tentatively titled "Heaven's Rain," recounts the story of two fugitives who were apprehended north of town in 1979.
Ben McCanna

Freelance photographer Carl Filoreto frames a shot within a holding cell where Steven Hatch and Glen Ake were held. The Dateline NBC special about the fugitives' case could air early next year.

Adam Wald, an associate producer for Dateline NBC, is a long way from home.

"I do a lot of traveling in the states, following stories where we find them," said Wald, who typically works at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.

Wald said Dateline NBC has found a story in Craig, albeit one that took place more than 30 years ago.

At 10 a.m. Nov. 21, 1979, 10 Moffat County Sheriff's Office deputies raided a ranch 30 miles north of Craig near the Wyoming border.

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Holed up inside the ranch were two fugitives, Steven Hatch and Glen Ake, who were wanted for murders in Texas and Oklahoma.

The two were quickly apprehended.

Ake was sentenced to life in prison. Hatch was executed.

Wald said the story is newsworthy for two reasons.

"We just passed a 30-year anniversary of the killings," he said. "Also, there is a feature film coming out about it called 'Heaven's Rain.'"

Wald is in Craig this week to research Craig Daily Press archives about the arrest of the fugitives, and to film locations for a future two-hour Dateline NBC special about Hatch and Ake's murder spree, their arrest and the lasting impact on the survivors.

One of the survivors, Brooks Douglass, later became an Oklahoma state senator, Wald said.

He is also the screenwriter and an actor in the upcoming movie.

"We had a great story to tell that took us through Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Wyoming," Wald said of the Dateline special. "On top of that, there's this great senator who took something terrible in his life and turned it into something positive for himself, his family and families to come who may unfortunately have to deal with similar circumstances."

At 16, Douglass and his family were victims of a home invasion perpetrated by Hatch and Ake. Douglass' parents were shot and killed. Douglass and his sister, Leslie, were also shot, but survived.

"He, as a senator, got a lot of new laws on the books for victims' rights," Wald said.

Wald said the story is a good fit for Dateline NBC.

"At Dateline, we do a lot of true crime stories," he said. "That's our bread and butter. What people want to hear is not necessarily about the crime that was committed, but rather the relationships that happened between the killer and the victim, or between victims, or between killers.

"I think that's what makes a great story."

The story of Hatch and Ake's arrest is also compelling, Wald said.

"The apprehension took place at a ranch owned by Mike Pondella," Wald said. "The previous night, Hatch and Ake went into his home, pointed a shotgun at him to rob him and most likely kill him, because that was their track record.

"But, (Pondella) was able to buddy up to (Hatch and Ake) a little bit. They shared a few beers, and Hatch and Ake ended up passing out in the house.

"While (Hatch and Ake) were in a drunken stupor, (Pondella) bolted down to the sheriff's office."

Pondella was met by then-investigator Jeff Corriveau.

Corriveau, who is now retired, said he and deputies already knew Hatch and Ake were in the area.

"We had Mr. Pondella look at some mug shots, and sure enough it was Hatch and Ake," Corriveau said.

Corriveau said he rounded up some men and drove to the ranch.

"Basically, our only option was to drive down the road leading into the place because it was out in the middle of nowhere," he said.

Luckily, the fugitives attempted to flee, Corriveau said.

"They had no plan whatsoever," Corriveau said of Hatch and Ake. "It still amazes me that they both ran from the house when they had every reason to stay there. They had food, they had firearms, they had ammunition.

"We all believed we were going into a gun battle, all the cops. To this day, I can tell you we are all still astounded."

Corriveau met with Wald on Tuesday night to be interviewed for the story.

"Dateline being in Craig doesn't mean a hill of beans to me," Corriveau said.

However, Corriveau said Douglass deserves the recognition.

"I think it's great that he has turned his life into a positive thing," Corriveau said. "I think it's great that he's made the movie. It doesn't make a darned bit of difference if Dateline is here, but it's great for Brooks because they're highlighting a tremendous survivor of a senseless crime."

Wald said the story will air on NBC early next year.

"Airdates fluctuate, but it will be early next year, within January, February or March," he said.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story contained an error. That error has been corrected.