River City, Iowa-Folks around here all agreed that Jacob Grotznik was a natural born salesman. That's what he was doing on the afternoon of April 12th, 2003. That day, while selling gift-wrap for a school fund raiser, twelve-year-old Jacob Grotznik and forty seven-year-old William Degrasse crossed paths. It was an encounter that would change both of their lives forever.
William was home alone when he answered the door in his tee-shirt and jeans that sunny, spring afternoon. Jacob Grotznik knew right away that the man was an easy mark. One who fit his idea of a father figure to a "T". It didn't take long for Jacob to ingratiate himself with the man to the point where William invited him into the parlor of his home to discuss gift-wrap and fund raising in general. That invitation proved to be William's undoing.
William turned away for a moment and young Jacob hit him over the head with the closest, heaviest object he could find, a brass candle stick. Jacob lead the man, now badly dazed and confused, back to the Grotznik residence a few blocks away.
The man Jacob was holding by the arm was bleeding profusely from cuts to his forehead and temple when the widowed Mrs. Grotznik first saw him. As Jacob lead the man inside and seated him at the kitchen table, Mrs. Grotznik got a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. She couldn't help but worry about what her son might have just done.
Too scared to call the police, Mrs. Grotznik, Madge,to her friends, cleansed the man's wounds and begged him to stay for dinner. Jacob helped with the cooking, as he always did, smiling to himself and stealing glances at his new trophy, William, A man he would soon be calling "dad".
After dinner Mrs. Grotznik had the man lie down. William quickly complied, saying he was feeling faint. He slept there that night and the following night, and the night after that. Days turned into weeks and then months. Although Mr. Degrasse was eventually reported missing, missing adults don't raise the same concerns that missing children do, and his case faded away. It had been placed in the dead case file along with countless others.
Mr Degrasse soon fell into a routine of driving young Jacob to school, picking him up afterward and taking him to various places at Jacob's discretion. He even found a job as a CFO at a mortgage company and started providing for both Jacob and Madge, who by this time had convinced him that he was her husband.
Although some neighbors have said the family was somewhat reclusive, others told this reporter that they were a typical family with a capable mom, a typical teenage son, and an affable, if somewhat befuddled, father.
"You'd see them together going to church or the movies.They'd wave and we'd wave back." was the usual reply to my inquiries. "You'd never know that something like this was going on. Makes you wonder. Doesn't it?"
In an incredibly ironic twist, the whole elaborate facade came crashing down this last weekend at a father-son picnic at Fireman's Park, on the edge of this river town. That's when Jacob and william got into a slap-fight after losing the three-legged race. Things escalated until real blows were exchanged and Jacob suddenly blurted out,"You're not my father!You can't make me!".