Prosecutors lay out soldiers’ militia plot
Originally published August 28, 2012 at 10:35 a.m., updated August 28, 2012 at 12:04 p.m.
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Local gun purchases alert relative, Wenatchee police
WENATCHEE — Local authorities first became aware of Isaac Aguigui in September 2011.
That’s when one of his relatives called a Wenatchee police officer to say that she was concerned that Aguigui, who was home on leave from the military, had purchased 15 firearms from High Mountain Hunting Supply in Wenatchee.
Sgt. John Kruse said several of the firearms were semi-automatic rifles.
The relative also said that Aguigui’s wife, Deirdre, had died July 17, 2011, and that her death was suspicious. She also said that Aguigui had received an insurance settlement after his wife’s death. Kruse said he did not know how Deirdre Aguigui died.
“We decided, because we had no idea if he was being investigated about the death of his wife, and a relative thought he was up to something, that we would call the criminal investigation division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and we also contacted the FBI office in Spokane, and let them know of the situation,” Kruse said.
“We found out later that he was interviewed by the FBI and returned to Fort Stewart in Georgia after his leave was done.”
Kruse said his office also alerted local law enforcement officers about the firearms purchases in case officers had any contact with Aguigui.
No Wenatchee officers initiated contact with Aguigui because the firearms were legally purchased and no crime had been committed locally, Kruse said.
Kruse said today his criminal data base shows no arrests for Aguigui locally.
At High Mountain Hunting Supply, owner Kelsey Hilderbrand said “we are assisting” with the investigation but he declined to say how.
In The Wenatchee World, Aguigui made news for government affairs, for sports and for his military service over the past several years. It was reported:
• On Aug. 25, 2010, that Army Pvt. Isaac Aguigui recently graduated from basic training at Fort Jackson, Columbia, S.C. Aguigui is a 2009 home-school graduate from Cashmere.
• On Jan. 23, 2009, that Aguigui was a member of a winning 200 medley relay in swimming, representing Eastmont High School. On Oct. 16, 2008, that Isaac Aguigui of Cashmere participated in a gathering of 21 Republicans in Wenatchee during the third and final presidential debate. “When Obama outlined his health-care plan,” the story said, “17-year-old Isaac Aguigui of Cashmere said, ‘That makes absolutely no sense.’ ”
• On Aug. 6, 2008, that he “recently represented Washington state in the American Legion Boys Nation 2008 session held July 18-26 in Washington, D.C. The American Legion Boys Nation is a weeklong citizenship and government program in the nation’s capital that is designed to instill in each participant a deep loyalty to America while providing practical insight into the operation of the federal government.”
Dee Riggs: 664-7147
LUDOWICI, Ga. — Four Army soldiers based in southeast Georgia killed a former comrade and his girlfriend to protect an anarchist militia group they formed that stockpiled assault weapons and plotted a range of anti-government attacks, prosecutors told a judge Monday.
Those attacks included damaging a dam in Washington state, an act aimed at destabilizing the government; and poisoning the apple industry in Washington state, which was aimed at creating financial chaos, Long County, Ga., prosecutor Isabel Pauley told a Superior Court judge Monday.
Isaac Aguigui, a home-schooled Cashmere native, is alleged to be the founder and leader of the anarchist militia group.
Prosecutors in rural Long County, near the sprawling Army post Fort Stewart, said the militia group, composed of active duty and former U.S. military members, spent at least $87,000 buying guns and bomb components and was serious enough to kill two people — former soldier Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York — by shooting them in the woods last December in order to keep its plans secret.
“This domestic terrorist organization did not simply plan and talk,” Pauley told a Superior Court judge. “Prior to the murders in this case, the group took action. Evidence shows the group possessed the knowledge, means and motive to carry out their plans.”
One of the Fort Stewart soldiers charged in the case, Army Pfc. Michael Burnett, also gave testimony that backed up many of the assertions made by prosecutors. The 26-year-old soldier pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter, illegal gang activity and other charges. He made a deal to cooperate with prosecutors in their case against the three other soldiers.
Prosecutors said the group called itself F.E.A.R., short for Forever Enduring Always Ready. Pauley said authorities don’t know how many members the militia had.
Burnett, 26, said he knew the group’s leaders from serving with them at Fort Stewart. He agreed to testify against fellow soldiers Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, a Cashmere native identified by prosecutors as the militia’s founder and leader, Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon.
All are charged by state authorities with malice murder, felony murder, criminal gang activity, aggravated assault and using a firearm with committing a felony. A hearing for the three soldiers was scheduled Thursday.
Prosecutors say Roark, 19, served with the four defendants in the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division and became involved with the militia. Pauley said the group believed it had been betrayed by Roark, who left the Army two days before he was killed, and decided the ex-soldier and his girlfriend needed to be silenced.
Burnett testified that on the night of Dec. 4, he and the three other soldiers lured Roark and York to some woods a short distance from the Army post under the guise that they were going target shooting. He said Peden shot Roark’s girlfriend in the head while she was trying to get out of her car. Salmon, he said, made Roark get on his knees and shot him twice in the head. Burnett said Aguigui ordered the killings.
“A loose end is the way Isaac put it,” Burnett said.
Aguigui’s attorney, Daveniya Fisher, did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press. Attorneys for Peden and Salmon both declined to comment Monday.
Also charged in the killings is Salmon’s wife, Heather Salmon. Her attorney, Charles Nester, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Pauley said Aguigui funded the militia using $500,000 in insurance and benefit payments from the death of his pregnant wife a year ago. Aguigui was not charged in his wife’s death, but Pauley told the judge her death was “highly suspicious.”
She said Aguigui used the money to buy $87,000 worth of semiautomatic assault rifles, other guns and bomb components that were recovered from the accused soldiers’ homes and from a storage locker. He also used the insurance payments to buy land for his militia group in Washington state, Pauley said.
In a videotaped interview with military investigators, Pauley said, Aguigui called himself “the nicest cold-blooded murderer you will ever meet.” He used the Army to recruit militia members, who wore distinctive tattoos that resemble an anarchy symbol, she said. Prosecutors say they have no idea how many members belong to the group.
“All members of the group were on active-duty or were former members of the military,” Pauley said. “He targeted soldiers who were in trouble or disillusioned.”
The prosecutor said the militia group had big plans. It plotted to take over Fort Stewart by seizing its ammunition control point and talked of bombing the Forsyth Park fountain in nearby Savannah, she said. In Washington state, she added, the group plotted to bomb a dam and poison the state’s apple crop. Ultimately, prosecutors said, the militia’s goal was to overthrow the government and assassinate the president.
Aguigui’s father, Ed Aguigui told Hatewatch, a publication of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors radical right-wing groups, that he had “no clue” as to the location of the land in Washington State that reportedly was purchased by his son and members of his militia group. A check of real estate records in North Central Washington and Ferry, Adams and Lincoln counties showed no land purchases under Isaac Aguigui’s name.
“I served my country for 20 years and I honor that, take pride in that,” Ed Aguigui told Hatewatch when asked about his son’s alleged antigovernment activities. “I don’t know what my son’s views are, and where they came from.”
“The only thing I can say right now is this case is moving from the military to the state courts in Georgia,” Ed Aguigui said. “I don’t think it would be right to say much more at this point.”
The suspect’s grandmother, Gloria Aguigui, of East Wenatchee, said her large family is from Guam. Annette Aguigui, the suspect’s mother, homeschooled Isaac and his five brothers and sister while their father spent a career as a U.S. Army combat engineer. “When they were little kids, they weren’t even allowed to have guns,” Gloria Aguigui told Hatewatch. “Isaac never got into trouble, and was always helping out. I have no idea what happened.”
The Army brought charges against the four accused soldiers in connection with the slayings of Roark and York in March, but has yet to act on them. Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said he could not comment immediately on the militia accusations that emerged in civilian court Monday.
District Attorney Tom Durden said his office has been sharing information with federal authorities, but no charges have been filed in federal court. Jim Durham, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, would not comment on whether a case is pending.
Durden said Tuesday that he did not know which dam the group planned to target in Washington state, or how they planned to poison the state's apple crop.
Joseph Harrington, spokesman for Eastern District U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby, said the office had no comment. A spokesman for the U.S. Army contacted regarding Aguigui’s West Point prep school tenure referred calls to the Fort Stewart public affairs office. Andrew Muñoz, spokesman for Washington’s office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, referred comment to the Georgia prosecutors.
Seattle FBI spokeswoman Ayn Sandalo Dietrich said Monday the bureau is aware of the reports from Georgia, but would not give further information. She would not comment on allegations of planned attacks on Washington orchard land. According to obituary information, Aguigui’s wife, Deirdre Wetzker Aguigui, was a U.S. Army linguist and St. Louis native who died in July 2011 at Fort Stewart. The two met while attending the U.S. Military Academy Prep School, the obituary said. A blog post written by a relative at the time said Deirdre Aguigui, 24, died of a blood clot in her lung. She was pregnant with the couple’s son, to be named Kalvin James, who also died.
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