The father of a Neo-Nazi turned renegade internet spammer whose body was identified this week — years after it was found in a burnt-out vehicle — said news of his son’s death is not entirely unexpected.
Davis Wolfgang Hawke — who was born Andrew Britt Greenbaum and also went by the alias Jesse James — was found dead of a gunshot wound inside a burned pickup truck in 2017, but his body went unidentified until mid-October.
That’s when Hyman Greenbaum, Hawke’s father, said police knocked on his door in Medfield, Mass., and told him the news.
Greenbaum said he and his wife gave their DNA to cops some years ago in the event of just such a situation.
“He sometimes seemed to hang out with people who might not have been all that good people,” Greenbaum said.
The last time Greenbaum spoke with his son was about 15 years ago when he was being sued by AOL, he said.
“He didn’t want to settle the suit or anything, so he basically decided to leave and hide his assets and disappear.”
In 2005, AOL won a $12.8 million judgment against Hawke, but was unable to contact him to collect the money. The company accused Hawke of violating U.S. and Virginia anti-spam laws by sending unwanted emails to its subscribers.
Rather than collecting cash through conventional channels, AOL said it planned to dig up his family’s backyard because it believed he had buried gold and platinum there.
Greenbaum said the company didn’t follow through on that plan, but did gather depositions from him, his wife, and Hawke’s grandparents, who had receipts showing that he bought some gold.
At the height of Hawke’s internet activities, experts believed he and his partners earned more than $600,000 each month — much of it in cash — by sending unwanted sales pitches over the internet for loans, pornography, jewelry and prescription drugs.
The head of J.J. Teaparty Inc. of Boston, Miles Coggan, told AOL’s lawyers that Hawke bought $350,879.50 worth of gold from the company between August 2003 and March 2004, court papers said. The company representative told lawyers Hawke claimed to have earned the money “selling pills on the internet.”
Greenbaum said he believes his son had some gold.
“He told me he was going to bury it in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, which at the time I didn’t think much of,” he said.
“He told me he was going to convert his assets to gold and disappear.”
But Greenbaum only learned of his son’s fate when police got in touch earlier this month.
“We really didn’t know where he gone or what name he was using or anything. We tried to locate him from internet and things like that but not with any success,” he said.
“We thought maybe he’d gone to South America or Central America. As it turns out we found out he was in Canada, living under the name Jesse James.”
Greenbaum described his son as a “good kid” who was academically bright and a gifted chess player — but eventually became a Neo-Nazi in an effort to “gain power and influence.”
He tried to organize a march in Washington DC in the late ’90s, which the father described as a “total flop.” He said that failure marked the moment when his son gave up on Neo-Nazi activities, Greenbaum said.
“At that point he got more into this spamming activity, which is what got him sued by AOL,” he said.
Greenbaum is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone who can give information that can lead to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for his son’s death.
Greenbaum said that when he closes his eyes, he thinks about taking his son to chess tournaments or on climbing trips in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
He believes his son carried a bit of the mountain climbing passion with him, saying Hawke was well-known in Squamish as an avid climber.
He plans on visiting some of the places in Squamish where his son spent the last few years of his life, he said.
He is “in a way kind of glad” that Hawke’s mother died first, Greenbaum said. Peggy Greenbaum died in April last year.
“She passed still wondering what happened to him, and we both were hoping he might come back here one day.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 31, 2020.
—with files from The Associated Press.
Hina Alam, The Canadian Press