SMITHFIELD, Va. - One of Virginia's most infamous crime stories is now going to be made into a documentary film series thanks to a book by Smithfield author Ron Peterson Jr.
The book is based on the life of Wally Thrasher from Bland County.
I talked with Thrasher's son, Montana Thrasher, who was just 6 years old when his dad was allegedly killed in a plane crash in South America.
“My dad was an international drug smuggler from the early 70s til about 1984," he said.
Montana now lives in Georgia and ironically is a police officer. Peterson consulted with Montana and many others, including Montana's mother Olga, while writing the book "Chasing the Squirrel," which came out late in 2020.
I talked to Peterson from his Smithfield home about the notorious Virginia drug smuggler.
“He made millions of dollars flying plane loads of marijuana into Virginia, just what a daredevil he was. In fact, his nickname was 'The Squirrel.'”
Peterson interviewed dozens of law officers as well as Wally Thrasher's friends and family.
“They knew he was in the drug business and they had the problem of actually catching him in the act," according to Montana.
But Thrasher wasn't hiding. In fact, the outgoing, charming pilot and his wife were very social, living a lavish lifestyle, according to family and friends.
“Everyone treated him like a celebrity; that’s one thing I’ll never forget. He would walk into a room, it was him; he was the room.”
But this larger-than-life character's time was running out. In the fall of 1984, two weeks before he disappeared, one of Thrasher's planes piloted by a friend crashed in Fancy Gap, Virginia, with $1 million worth of marijuana on board. The feds were now on to him, and The Squirrel was on the run.
"The federal authorities were on his tail and had an indictment to arrest him, and he’s believed to have faked his own death in a plane crash in Belize," Peterson tells me.
The plane Thrasher was piloting crashed on the runway and allegedly burned to ashes, according to Belize officials. But one thing did survive, and that has some wondering if he survived.
“I would like some hard facts. I would like more than this ring right here. And that was found in the crash; that was returned to my mother," Montana tells me.
“A lot of federal law enforcement have told me there's a chance he could still be alive. He’d be 80 now, on a beach living the good life," says Peterson.
"Chasing the Squirrel" is currently being made into a docuseries. In the meantime, you can find the book on Amazon and through other retailers like Target and Walmart.