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Powerful gay men. Vulnerable teen-age boys. Murder. For years, some prominent local men who led secret lives were rumored to be protected. Whispers surrounding another important man's death prompt the question: Is there really a conspiracy?


Why we wrote these stories

A conspiracy theory born in the late 1970s and early '80s had become a long-forgotten legend until last September, when the slaying of Assistant District Attorney Stephen M. Tauzer gave new life to speculation about "The Lords of Bakersfield."

We felt this legend and the crimes that spawned it warranted a closer look. We believed readers would find these stories relevant and compelling.

Californian columnist Robert Price and Assistant Managing Editor Lois Henry researched these stories for three months, interviewing more than 100 people and digesting thousands of pages of court transcripts, investigative reports and newspaper articles, resulting in this report.

This Special Report is large -- perhaps too large for some readers. Nonetheless, we believed it was important for us to be as detailed and complete as possible. And because The Californian was part of the story, we felt a particular responsibility to be thorough.

Mike Jenner
Executive editor



Alan Ferguson / The Californian

The legend of the Lords of Bakersfield
Posted: 01/20/03 03:40:00 PM
The Lords of Bakersfield. Until recently, it was a little remembered local legend, of interest mostly to conspiracy theorists. But in the aftermath of Stephen Tauzer's Sept. 13 murder and the subsequent arrest of his former colleague, Chris Hillis, the legend has resurfaced. Some of the facts of the Tauzer case appear similar to aspects of the Lords legend, which goes like this: For more than a generation, Bakersfield was run by a cadre of men who led double lives. To the public these men were members of the community's most visible institutions, its justice system and the media. But in truth, according to Lords lore, these men -- a sprinkling of county executives, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, even the newspaper's publisher -- were part of a loose-knit, secretive network.

Loving Lance: A battle that consumed three lives
Father fought to save him, but addict turned to others -- including assistant D.A., who always, always was there
Posted: 01/20/03 03:40:00 PM
Four years before 22-year-old Lance Hillis died on an El Dorado County highway, he was walking down a road in Tehachapi late one night with three friends. They'd been drinking and may have smoked a joint or two as well. A Kern County sheriff's patrol car drove past and the four teens took off running. According to the Sheriff's Department's incident report, the two deputies gave chase. A minute or so later they caught a glimpse of two of the teens behind a Mexican restaurant, beside a blue Dumpster. By the time the patrol car spun around, the two figures had vanished. They hadn't gone far. A deputy lifted the lid of the metal trash bin, and there they were -- a 17-year-old kid nicknamed Rocky and his 18-year-old friend, Lance Hillis. In detaining the two teens, the deputies wrote a deceptively innocuous prologue to a tragic and complex story.


Casey Christie / The Californian

Decency defined the Tauzer friends remember
But potential fireworks in accused killer's upcoming trial threaten to undo the sterling reputation the assistant D.A. spent decades building
Posted: 01/20/03 03:40:00 PM
Stephen M. Tauzer prosecuted many of Kern County's most dramatic cases during his three decades as a high-profile member of the District Attorney's Office. One irony in his death -- a brutal stabbing at his northwest Bakersfield home last September -- is that none of those cases ever generated the notoriety that Tauzer's own murder seems likely to provide when the case goes to trial later this year.


Felix Adamo / The Californian

Questions dog Jagels
Tough-on-crime D.A. faces concerns about whether his office is guilty of unequal justice after revelations that Tauzer pulled strings for a junkie
Posted: 01/20/03 03:40:00 PM
If it's true that Stephen Tauzer's relationship with a young drug addict led to his own brutal murder last September, uncomfortable questions could be asked of Kern County's district attorney. By all accounts, Tauzer went to bat in an unprecedented way for Lance Hillis, giving him money, cars and lodging, and writing letters to judges on Lance's behalf. Standing watch through it all was Tauzer's boss and longtime friend, Ed Jagels.


Californian file photo

The paper became part of the story
Editors found themselves in a ticklish position when, from the witness stand, a young hustler named his powerful lovers -- including the newspaper's publisher
Posted: 01/20/03 03:40:00 PM
When the name of The Californian's top newsroom executive surfaced during a murder investigation involving a 17-year-old male prostitute and a slain, gay government official, editors at the newspaper knew they had a unique dilemma on their hands. Their options: Protect the boss as best they could and risk accusations of a double standard, or lay it out there for readers in all its unsavory glory. They went somewhere down the middle.


Felix Adamo / The Californian

Lance had all the dad he needed at home, grieving father says
With the approach of the trial that will lay his life out for all to judge, one thing sustains Chris Hillis -- the conviction he did right by his boy
Posted: 01/20/03 03:40:00 PM
Breakfast arrives at 3:30 a.m. Two bologna sandwiches pop through the slot at 9:30 a.m. Dinner appears at 3:30 p.m. Those interruptions, along with a nightly phone call to his wife, occasional book-of-the-month-club deliveries and the constant, soft whir of the ventilation system, are the main features of Chris Hillis' life at the Lerdo Pre-Trial Facility north of Bakersfield. To a man who spends every day in cinder-block isolation, trying not to think about the dead son he had so desperately tried to save, they are welcome distractions. But Hillis, awaiting trial in the September 2002 murder of Assistant District Attorney Stephen M. Tauzer, can't always purge Lance from his mind.

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Homepage > News Home > Local > The Lords of Bakersfield

 The Lords of Bakersfield

   The legend of the Lords of Bakersfield

   Loving Lance: A battle that consumed three lives

   Decency defined the Tauzer friends remember

   Questions dog Jagels

   The paper becomes part of the story

   Lance had all the dad he needed at home, grieving father says


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