Oregon Teen Nearly Joined Company

The Capital Times, March 26, 1999
By Chris Murphy

Shaun Taylor's parents were suspicious of the magazine company that wanted to take him across the country selling subscriptions door-to-door, and that may be why the Oregon youth is alive today.

Taylor, 19, was close to joining Yes, the company whose van rolled over on Interstate 90 early Thursday morning near Janesville, killing six young people and critically injuring six more. Two of the dead and two of the injured were from the Madison area.

``God, that's awful,'' Taylor's mother, Johnalee, said about the accident Thursday. ``I can't imagine how those parents must feel.''

Taylor recently responded to an ad from the company in a local newspaper promising ``ABSOLUTE FUN!'' and good money at the same time.

Taylor said in a telephone interview that he was taken with the enthusiasm and salesmanship of a woman named Melissa, who interviewed him, and a man named Jeremy, who came to his home Monday with final paperwork.

``I wanted to go, but I was kind of in agreement with my parents,'' Taylor said.

His mother said Thursday that she was put off by a lack of health benefits. And Taylor said he understood that any medical expenses he incurred would come out of earnings that were kept on workers' ``books.'' The Jeremy who went to Taylor's home was most likely Jeremy Holmes, 20, of Clinton, Iowa, the driver of the van that rolled over.

Holmes was treated and released Thursday from St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, Ill., but police are recommending that he be charged with six counts of negligent vehicular homicide and another six counts of causing great bodily harm.

Police said the accident occurred after a police car switched on its headlights and Holmes -- whose Wisconsin driving privileges had been suspended twice last year for failing to pay traffic fines -- tried to change places with another person in the speeding van.

A clerk at the Econo Lodge in Madison, 4726 E. Washington Ave., said Thursday that Holmes stayed there March 15-18 to interview people for the sales crew. Another company representative said Robert Jenkins of Pineville, La., stayed at the motel Monday.

The victims, all between 15 and 25, had been heading to a Janesville motel that had been their home base for two weeks for sales trips, said Rock County Sheriff's Cmdr. Thomas Gehl.

Another van carrying about 13 other members of the sales group safely arrived at the Janesville motel Wednesday after selling magazines in La Crosse, said a member of the group.

A motel clerk named Jennifer, who declined to give her last name, said many of the applicants she saw were between 16 and 18 years old and looked like they had a rebellious attitude.

The classified ad they were responding to appealed to people looking for a change of pace and good money.

It ran in The Capital Times and Wisconsin State Journal March 14-16 and March 21-23 and asked for ``sharp and enthusiastic guys & gals. If you are money motivated and tired of fast food or minimum wage, we offer 2 week paid training. All expenses paid, no experience necessary.'' Applicants were directed to call the Econo Lodge number and to ask for ``Mr. Holmes.''

The company named in the ad is Yes, but the phone number given on the classified ad bill is for Subscriptions Plus, a company based in Bethany, Okla. Order forms from Subscriptions Plus were strewn around the accident scene Thursday.

A customer service representative for the company told the Associated Press that Yes sells magazines and Subscriptions Plus processes the orders. But there is more to the company than that.

Subscription Plus's World Wide Web site includes a section advertising ``Traveling Job Opportunities,'' touting ``luxury hotel and motel living.''

Taylor said the job sounded exciting when he talked to Melissa about it.

He most recently worked at a Denny's restaurant, but left the job after a month and was looking for a new career-oriented job when he saw the ``ABSOLUTE FUN!'' advertisement.

Taylor did not sound shaken on the phone Thursday, but he was happy with his decision to stay in Oregon.

He heard about the accident from his mother and said when he looked at her ``I was like, I bet you're glad dad talked me out of it.''

He told his mother that she would have really missed him had he been with the sales crew and ``she just kind of gave that weird look.''

Associated Press

Co-workers of some of the victims of a van crash embrace outside a Janesville motel Thursday. Six young people were killed and eight injured -- six critically -- when a magazine sales company van rolled over along Interstate 90 early Thursday morning.

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