Investigators visit Waagner's home
The Derrick, 11/6/01 By LISA THOMPSON

A special thank you goes out to The Derrick for allowing this article to be posted


The nationwide manhunt for self-proclaimed abortion clinic stalker Clayton Lee Waagner set its sites on the fugitive's home territory Wednesday as about a dozen state and federal authorities, including postal inspectors, converged on Waagner's rural Venango County homestead.

FBI special agent Bob Rudge and Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Cathy Jones confirmed that the U.S. Marshals Service, FBI agents, U.S. Postal inspectors, and the state police were at the Waagner family property on Route 308 seeking information regarding his whereabouts. Rudge said officials arrived about 8:30 a.m. and stayed for about 51/2 hours.

He and Jones declined comment on whether a search warrant was executed or if any items were removed from the home. No such search warrant was obtained in local district courts, nor have any sealed search warrants been obtained in the Venango County Court of Common Pleas in recent days. It is not known if a federal search warrant was obtained. A call to the U.S. Attorney's office in Erie was not immediately returned.

Rudge said no specific information brought the probe to Waagner's family home on Route 308.

"It was just kind of a coordinated effort by all involved to make sure that we have all the available information," he said. Authorities have no information indicating that Waagner is in this area, he said.

"We have nothing to indicate where he is right now. We are hoping someone who knows where he is will call," Rudge said. Jones said a reward of more than $75,000 is being offered for information leading to Waagner's arrest.

"Anyone with information regarding his whereabouts should call the U.S. Marshals Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation or their local law enforcement," she said.

Ranked among the FBI's 10 Most Wanted with terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and abortion clinic bomber Eric Roberts, Waagner faces a host of charges ranging from escape to robbery to weapons violations in several states. The U.S. Marshals Service has been leading the search for Waagner, but he is also wanted by the FBI in connection with a Harrisburg bank robbery and on warrants for burglary and other charges filed by state police in Venango County.

Why U.S. Postal inspectors took part in Wednesday's search was not immediately clear.

Last week, it was reported that 200 abortion clinics, including three in western Pennsylvania, had received Federal Express packages containing threatening letters and a white powder the sender claimed was anthrax. It was the second time in two months that clinics had received such anthrax threats.

The threats were signed by "The Army of God, Virginia Dare Cell," which, according to published reports, is a frequent cover name for anti-abortion extremists.

The "Army of God" name has been linked with Waagner in the past. A letter threatening those who work at abortion clinics purportedly written by Waagner was posted on the Rev. Donald Spitz's "Army of God" Web site following Waagner's escape from prison.

Rudge declined to comment on whether the postal inspectors' involvement in the Waagner investigation Wednesday was related to the anthrax threats mailed last week. A call to the postal inspections office in Pittsburgh late Wednesday was not immediately returned.

The rustic wooden home near Clintonville that authorities visited Wednesday is now occupied by Waagner's wife and children. Rudge said members of the family were home while officials were there. He declined to comment further. He said nothing that indicated that they were the target of Wednesday's activity.

Listed as among the most wanted by both the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service and repeatedly profiled on the television show America's Most Wanted, Waagner has eluded capture since his escape from federal prison in February.

He last surfaced in September after he allegedly abandoned a wrecked car containing a pipe bomb and anti-abortion literature on the side of a Memphis, Tenn., freeway.

Hours later, a man believed to be Waagner committed a carjacking in Tunica, Miss., some 40 miles southwest of Memphis, authorities said. The victim of the carjacking was set free unharmed.

Days later a Tennessee grand jury indicted Waagner on weapons charges stemming from the roadside incident.

The incident was only the latest in a series of alleged criminal acts committed by Waagner since his escape.

The 44-year-old man is also being sought for a Harrisburg bank robbery committed in May. And on Wednesday Rudge indicated that Waagner would likely be indicted in connection with an August hold-up at a bank in the Erie Millcreek Mall. He said authorities found an Erie newspaper from the date of the robbery inside the abandoned car in Tennessee.

Waagner's years-long alleged crime spree began here in 1999 with the theft of a GMC Yukon from A. Crivelli Chevrolet in Reno.

Waagner's alleged accomplice, Jason Matthew Miller, then of Kennerdell, was caught by police after Waagner held up a convenience store in Kentucky, but Waagner escaped and stayed on the run for four months during which he said he committed robberies and stole weapons and vehicles while stalking abortion clinics.

He was captured in September 1999 on the side of an Illinois highway when a stolen Winnebago carrying him, his wife and their eight children broke down.

At trial in December 2000 in Urbana, Ill., on weapons and theft charges, Waagner testified that he had been watching abortion clinics for months and was stocking up on weapons to kill doctors who provided abortions because God had asked him to be his warrior.

Two months later he used a comb to open a door and escape through the ventilation system in a new DeWitt County, Ill., jail. Authorities believe he timed his escape so that he could leap onto a passing train and avoid detection.

In June, abortion clinics were warned after someone purporting to be Waagner posted an Internet message threatening to kill employees of abortion providers. He has not, however, taken any direct action against them.

Rudge said all the agencies involved in the search for Waagner remained committed to the task.

He said despite the events of Sept. 11, the FBI still has two agents assigned to Waagner's case. Jones said that the U.S. Marshals Service is "dedicating a large number of resources from the Western District of Pennsylvania and also agents from across the nation."

Rudge said Waagner is apparently funding his travel by committing robberies and possibly other crimes. He said no local burglaries or car thefts or other crimes that have been linked to Waagner.

Waagner, a former computer shop operator, Rudge said, seems to be constantly on the move. "He pops in, he pops out and only seems to be in one place for a very short period of time," he said.

"Where he's staying, who he's staying with, how he's moving around, we just don't know," he said.

Rudge said the key to the elusive fugitive's eventual capture might lie with the public.

"He's not underground and hiding in a cave somewhere. We believe he is out in the public. We just need somebody to recognize him," he said.

"Some alert citizen is going to recognize his face and pick up the phone and call us. That's how this case is going to be solved."