by Travis Mateer
On Friday I randomly spoke with some young people who knew Joey Thompson after striking up a conversation outside City Hall. It’s good to know my BIG MOUTH can be an asset sometimes instead of a liability.
What did I learn from this conversation? And did the things I was told confirm what I had already been hearing about what MAY have happened to Joey Thompson? I’ll answer those questions in this post, but first, the official confirmation of identity from the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office:
What happened in the early morning hours of April 11th before Joey went missing? If I was a Detective, the two young men I’d be looking at are Kasen Konop and Dylan Seat, both apparently hanging out with Joey at a bonfire in the woods on the night he disappeared, or was left behind by his “friends”.
Kasen, according to multiple sources, shaved his head and took off to Superior, Montana, after Joey went missing. He also deleted social media posts. Does that sound suspicious?
The other young man, Dylan Seat, is someone the grapevine seems to be very interested in. I’m interested as well, considering his mother, April, works at the Hope Rescue Mission and is a big part of the church scene I’ve been investigating.
Speaking generally, a handful of churches in Missoula feature leadership and congregational enablers who have exhibited a dangerous lack of discernment when it comes to very difficult populations to work with, like ex-cons (rebranded as “returning citizens”) and victims of sexual assault. One red flag that you may be dealing with a local church that has the WRONG priorities is association with a national chain called the Dream Center, based in Los Angeles.
In February, 2022, I wrote about this national chain and connection to a local church, River of Life, and a “non-profit”, the LifeGuard Group. Since then I’ve continued to look into this world as an outsider and former homeless service provider with the help of a very knowledgeable insider, and the picture forming is incredibly alarming.
To begin understanding what’s going on with these religious dynamics, you have to try and see groups of marginalized people as a sort of physical terrain where spiritual turf-wars can break out between God’s fractured and very confused foot soldiers trying desperately to save souls.
I’m not intending to disparage the well-meaning people who can, and do, accomplish good work with miraculous outcomes. That said, when you start adding certain things into the mix, like money and politics, shit can go south quickly, even after starting with the best of intentions.
One of the things I’ve been hearing from the people I’ve talked to about this case–people CLOSE to this case–is the lack of communication from authorities and the frustration that lack of communication creates. I can confirm this phenomenon exists, considering it’s now been TEN DAYS since I called and left a message with the Detective from the Sheriff’s Office assigned to this case.
Maybe the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t want to hear what I have to say about the church dynamics involved in this situation because they, themselves, are COMPROMISED by those same dynamics, thanks to their Chaplain, Lowell Hochhalter, and the board president and pastor of Engaging Heaven Church, Derek Talley.
Do you see the kind, loving power of Jesus Christ flickering like the hopeful light of salvation behind Derek Talley’s eyes? Is that light powerful enough to SAVE wayward souls, like “returning citizens”, or other men with a history of violence, but DIVINELY sanctioned by national brands, like the Dream Center?
As a fallible human myself, I don’t feel well-positioned to answer that question. But, as a Gonzo-led independent journalist, I absolutely DO feel well-positioned to examine the fruits of the men claiming divine appointment from GOD in their local efforts to allegedly help people, like those who go missing, and those who might be involved in the dark practice of human trafficking.
Let’s take a moment to examine the WORD of God, as translated by Engaging Heaven’s religious leadership on their website (linked above). From the link (emphasis mine):
If the screenshot is too difficult to read, let me highlight some of the things I’d like the leadership of Engaging Heaven to consider when it comes to MY calling.
Pastor Derek and Jen believe that God is going to awaken the hearts of His children. They believe that God wants to see Missoula saved, set free and delivered. He wants to transform lives. They want to see people realize God’s spirit lives inside of them and therefore we carry the power to do all He has called us to do.
Yes, I have a similar belief, and to confirm my belief I can reference both synchronistic insights, which I strongly feel are divinely guided, and the sacrifices I’ve made in order to follow what I’ve learned from those insights.
The Holy Spirit gives us power to be His witnesses to our families, communities, and to the ends of the Earth.
We will not just be hearers of His Word but also doers. We love the communities we live in and reach out to them to love them like Christ loves us. We are servant-minded and look for opportunities to help those who cannot help themselves. We care for the poor and broken-hearted and strive to share the love of Jesus with them. We believe in signs, wonders, and miracles. The gifts of the Spirit were not just for a specific time or specific believers – they are for every believer, every day.
Yes, I ALSO have beliefs similar to these, so when I find institutional deviation from what’s being claimed, it puts fire to the feet of my own calling because ultimately I don’t think Jesus is very happy with a good portion of his followers here in Missoula.
It’s like I told Lowell Hochhalter’s son, Carson, after knocking on the door of the LifeGuard Group’s office in the Florence Building: there’s still time for people to do the RIGHT thing with what they know instead of the MONEY thing, which too often seems to be placed on a higher pedestal than other principles, like TRUTH and JUSTICE.
On Sunday I took another drive to the area Joey Thompson went missing, specifically the wooded area where his red hoodie and phone were found (but not together, apparently). The more details like this that I check out, the less it makes sense that Joey would somehow end up in the river, much less 40 miles down stream.
If Joey Thompson truly was alone in this remote part of Missoula when he went into the river, then it will never be known exactly how that occurred because the only person with that knowledge is now deceased. I do not think that is the case, though, so I’ll keep doing what I can to find answers.
To help my efforts, there’s Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF), and the donation button at my about page.
Thanks for reading!