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Craig Cobb’s new town watchful, open-minded: Former Leith resident, Nazi in Sherwood

FNS Photo by Kathleen J. Bryan No trespassing signs posted at the property owned by Craig Cobb in Sherwood on Friday.

SHERWOOD — Near the end of U.S. Highway 28, past fields of wheat, soybeans and lemon-yellow canola lies a sleepy town where residents are friendly, but a man who recently arrived in town has some not feeling so welcoming.

Craig Cobb, the white supremacist convicted of terrorizing and menacing residents in the small North Dakota town of Leith, walked into the Renville County Courthouse on June 30 and paid $1,084.90 to cover two years of outstanding taxes on a rundown house on 3rd Avenue East in Sherwood, a town of about 240 people about 65 miles northwest of Minot, near the Canadian border.

“I was kind of frightened,” said Nettie Daeley, owner of Nettie’s Diner on Main Street. “I was concerned because of all the things I read about him, the way he thinks. We live in a family community. We don’t think he way he does. We’re a much more loving community than that.”

Cobb, 62, was sentenced April 30 to four years of supervised probation after pleading guilty to one charge of felony terrorizing and five counts of misdemeanor menacing stemming from November incidents in Leith, southwest of Bismarck.

Cobb tried unsuccessfully to turn Leith into an all­-white enclave during a nine­-month period last year. An armed patrol of the town led to the terrorizing charges.

After his request to serve his probation in Missouri was denied, Cobb set his sights on buying property elsewhere in North Dakota.

When Cobb arrived in Sherwood some residents panicked, others said they weren’t concerned — like Mark and Susie Knox, who live in a 100-year-old Victorian house off Main Street and spend part of the year in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“I’m not nervous, not concerned. We live in Arizona, we have lot of issues in Arizona,” Susie said.

Chief of Police Ross Carter, the town’s lone officer, said Cobb got a haircut and cleaned up quite a bit, and stays “pretty much to himself.”

“He doesn’t go anywhere without somebody knowing. Somebody’s always watching. I’ve talked to him. He’s talking about his water, power, sewer — getting it all turned on. I haven’t had any trouble, I haven’t really been anticipating any unless somebody wants to start trouble,” said Carter.

Cobb has long been active in the white supremacist movement, and was arrested on a hate-crime charge in Canada. He fled to the United States to avoid prosecution. The United States would not extradite Cobb because no similar law exists in this country.

While Canada is just two miles away, his past there would discourage him from jumping the border.

“He said ‘I can’t go to Canada because I’m wanted there,’” Carter said.

Cobb’s gray-shingled two-story house sits on a corner lot in the shadow of the town’s Catholic church. A no trespassing sign is staked on the front lawn along with one in a first-floor window. 

Bob Steeves, who with wife Karen lives across the street, said it “wasn’t good” when he learned Cobb purchased the house. 

“Everybody’s kind of keeping their eye open. … He said he wants to be left alone. I find that hard to believe,” Steeves said.

Sherwood’s Main Street is typical of small towns across the state: a bank, post office, bar, hardware store and several other businesses are flanked by a towering grain elevator. The library and city hall share the building formerly occupied by the grocery store.

It’s here where Cobb is often seen connecting to the WiFi on his laptop. Librarian Marian Lozensky said he’s “pretty quiet and very polite,” however, she takes opportunities to introduce him to other patrons. After greeting them, she said he says “Have a nice day.”

“He’s just going to be low key. He doesn’t want to get into any trouble or start any trouble,” she said.

Cobb was not available to be interviewed Friday.

Cissy Fitzpatrick and her husband stopped by Cobb’s house to introduce themselves. She said they talked about a “little bit of everything” through an open window. She was quick to tell him that “my child is gay.”

“I stand behind her. I love her and I support her,” she told him, to which he replied “as you should.”

She said she’s had three or four conversations, that he’s a nice, soft-spoken man.

“The town is in an uproar. … I understand he’s done things in the past. I think he’s past that now. Everybody has a right to change.”