Unfinished business, the strange saga of Orson William Black

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Orson William Black is taken into custody. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) Orson William Black is taken into custody. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)
Orson William Black (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) Orson William Black (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)

I could see the fear in his eyes. After tracking him for hundreds of miles, suddenly, there he was.

Orson William Black.

I admit, I was pretty surprised by the odd encounter. I could see he was scared.

We were deep inside Mexico, in a town called Buenaventura.

I was with my dear friend and long time colleague, Mike Hernandez.

We were looking for Black and he knew it.

The fact is, I had been on his trail for more than a year, ever since the state of Arizona filed child sex crime charges against Black for allegedly taking two underage sisters (ages 11 and 12) as plural brides and promptly impregnating the girls.

We had some good info from a reliable source as to where Black may be hiding out in Mexico, but after several hours of cruising around the dusty little town, we’d struck out.

We needed to get our source in the U.S on the phone. We needed more intel.

But the phone service was a nightmare.

We realized the only way to make the much-needed call was to buy a prepaid phone card, but in this small town we also didn’t want to draw any attention to ourselves.

Word of an American TV crew kicking around would probably travel fast.

We had been surveilling several locations from our car for hours, but we were starting to doubt if our directions were right.

We needed to make that call.

Hernandez pulled our rented SUV up to a small market on the side of a quiet street.

I jumped out and went inside to buy a phone card and it was on my way out the door that it happened.

I literally bumped into Orson William Black.

It was like a scene from a movie.

As I was exiting the tiny shop, I brushed by a guy who was walking in from off the street.

He was wearing a big hat. I was in a hurry.

We bumped shoulders. He looked up from under the hat.

For a moment, we were eyeball to eyeball. He recognized me. I recognized him.

The panic on his face was palpable.

And he was off.

Orson William Black bolted straight ahead, sprinting through the tiny market and leaping out of a back door that was hanging wide open.

I spun around and was right on Black’s heels when suddenly I realized I needed to alert Hernandez who, I thought, was still out on the street in the car.

We needed to get Black on camera.

I ran back to the front of the store yelling that, "Black was getting away!"

Hernandez, who was always a step ahead, had seen some of the interaction in the doorway and was already in motion, gunning the car down the dusty street and around to the back of the little store.

A year or so earlier, cameraman Jimmy Cox and I were up in Hildale late one night when a swat team from the Washington County Sheriff's Office surrounded Black's home on the outskirts of town. The cops decided to back off when they realized there lots of kids in the home.

Black got away that night and he was about to do it again.

There have been a number of times in my life when I would love to take a Mulligan. A do-over.

That moment is certainly one of them. Maybe I should have tackled William right there in the little store, beaten the crap out of him and called it a day.


Instead, Hernandez and I gave chase.

With Hernandez racing around to the back of the store in the car, I sprinted out the back door that Black had just disappeared through.

It opened into a large debris covered vacant lot. Black had already made it to the far side of the lot and he was scaling a wall.

Hernandez pulled out his camera just as Black dropped out of sight on the other side of the wall.

Hernandez and I jumped in the car. He gunned it.

We sped around the perimeter of the wall looking for our now thoroughly panicked prey.

For the next several hours we prowled around the Mexican town hoping that lightning would strike twice.

It didn't. He got away again.

That was many years ago and I had come to believe that Black would probably never face justice.

That is until Black was recently taken into custody in Mexico after three of his sons were brutally murdered on a remote property owned by Black in a cartel control area of the state of Chihuahua.

"He got the cartel upset at him," said Pennie Petersen.

The two underage girls at the center of the charges against Orson William Black are Petersen's sisters. The three teenage boys who were murdered are Petersen's nephews.

"They were there looking for him and they waited for three days for him to show up," Petersen said. "He didn't show up, so they killed his three sons."

Petersen told me her family has been devastated by the brutal murder of the three teens.

"My sister lost her only boy," Petersen said. "She hasn't eaten--she just sits and shakes."

Following the murders in early September, Mexican authorities, assisted by U.S. law officers, raided several properties owned by Black.

Among the things seized during the raids were dozens of exotic animal body parts.

According to officials, Black appears to have been running some sort of illegal taxidermy business in Mexico.

Last week about two dozen members of Black's family, including four "wives" and lots of children were kicked out of Mexico.

According to Petersen they are now with extended family along the Utah/Arizona border.

But for his part, Black was handcuffed and shackled and turned over to U.S. Customs agents.

He is now being held in El Paso, Texas.

But once again, Black may escape justice.

Turns out, earlier this year, investigators with the office of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich decided to drop the child sex crime charges against Black that have been on the books for years.

Unless those charges are reinstated in the next few days, Petersen fears Black will walk.

"We're tore up," Petersen said. "We're scared. He has threatened to kill me, kill my family."

"This family is in big trouble if he gets out," she said.

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