- Crimes against a Wrecker Driver
On a Saturday night, October 19, 2002, Henry Lanning and Chad Van Dusen, each six foot tall and over two hundred thirty pounds, pulled into Don York's driveway in a borrowed GMC Jimmy. They had an iron pipe and a roll of duct tape and gloves. Lanning got out and approached the house while Van Dusen stayed in the vehicle. York had heard the neighbor's dog barking, so he opened the upstairs window and turned on the outside light. Lanning shouted up that he needed a jump for his vehicle, parked down the road. York, who is a trim man, five foot eight with shoulder-length white hair, did not know Lanning, but when he saw the guy was wearing brand-new gloves he felt something was wrong. He yelled down, "I'm in for the night," told Lanning to jump the car himself with the vehicle he was driving. His house alarm system was already set, but after he closed the window he loaded his shotgun anyway with four cartridges. That night and the next few nights he slept with the shotgun in his bedroom.
Chad Van Dusen was Don York's ex-wife's nephew, and Van Dusen had met Henry Lanning a few days earlier at the home of a mutual friend. Both men were absconders from their parole. In Van Dusen's words, they both needed to "hit a lick," which was to say they needed to make some money fast. However, the men gave up on York that night and went home, according to Van Dusen, who later pled guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robbery. According to the prosecution and key witnesses, Lanning returned alone three nights later with some rope and a busted-off tree branch the length and thickness of a baseball bat, hid in the trees outside York's house, and waited.
Don York was known to be a man who didn't like banks. Anyone who knew him knew he carried, in his pockets, rolls of cash, from which he could peel off as many twenties, fifties, hundreds as he needed. And he was rumored to keep his life savings in his house. Don York has always driven a tow truck, and for twenty-five years he has run his small junkyard just beyond the border of Comstock Township [End Page 288] where he grew up and almost graduated high school in 1967. At York's junkyard you can buy tires, engines, radiators, starters, and alternators for American cars and trucks for less money than you can get them anywhere else. Before he owned the salvage yard, he used to part out cars in his backyard.
On the following Tuesday night, October twenty-second, at about eight o'clock, York pulled in the driveway, shone his bright lights on his front door so he could see to unlock it, turned off his alarm, then went back out to his wrecker to get the pizza he'd picked up for dinner. The next thing he remembers is waking up in the hospital three weeks later.
John Weaver, York's cousin, also from Comstock, works at York's salvage yard, and he often pats his front pocket, checking the position of his pistol, a .357 Magnum with a smooth top that doesn't catch on his jeans; he's inclined to remind customers it's there. In winter, you can sometimes find Weaver sitting in front of the woodstove with his arms crossed, wearing a Kentucky Fried Chicken baseball cap or a Dale Earnhardt cap above his wire frame glasses, and if you come in, he asks you what the hell you want. If you want to buy a tire, he'll use his machine to take the old one off your rim for two bucks and put another one on for another two bucks, and he might call you a fool or some variation on that theme. He recently referred to Henry Lanning as "that doofus motherfucker." Weaver says he has to be tough to deal with the kind of people who come into the salvage shop. "Half...