Ashcroft: Waagner suspect in
The Derrick, 11/30/01 From staff and wire reports
A special thank you goes
out to The Derrick for allowing this article to be posted
THE U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL SAYS THE FBI HAS RECEIVED INFORMATION INDICATING THE
KENNERDELL RESIDENT HAD CLAIMED RESPONSIBILITY FOR SENDING MORE THAN 280 LETTERS
TO ABORTION CLINICS.
WASHINGTON - U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft confirmed
Thursday that local fugitive Clayton Lee Waagner is a suspect in a string of
anthrax hoax letters sent to abortion clinics, including several in western
Ashcroft said the FBI had obtained information over the
Thanksgiving holiday indicating Waagner had claimed responsibility for sending
more than 280 letters to clinics across the United States.
"The Department of Justice considers Waagner's
threats and all anthrax hoaxes to be serious violations of federal law,"
Ashcroft said at a press conference. "Perpetrators of anthrax hoaxes and
those who threaten abortion providers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent
of the law."
His announcement came in the wake of reports that Waagner
visited the home of Georgia anti-abortion activist Neal Horsley to take
responsibility for sending phony anthrax hoax letters to hundreds of abortion
clinics and unveil a plan to kill 42 selected abortion clinic workers.
Ashcroft's announcement also comes after U.S. Postal
Service inspectors, U.S. Marshals, the FBI and state police searched Waagner's
family home near Clintonville on Nov. 14, seeking information about his
whereabouts. Authorities at the time told the newspaper that Waagner, 44, was
suspected of using the mail service to commit crimes, but declined to confirm
that they were seeking to link Waagner to the hoax anthrax letters.
A Pittsburgh postal inspector on Thursday, however, told
The Derrick that the U.S. Postal Inspections Service has been investigating
Waagner in connection with the letters for several weeks.
"We've suspected him from the onset," said John
Wisniewski. "We knew Mr. Waagner's past and his attitude toward abortion.
"We couldn't comment until we came up with whether we
had sufficient probable cause to make an announcement.
"Over the last week, we've been able to uncover real
strong evidence," Wisniewski said.
"(Ashcroft) made the announcement nationwide. We feel
Mr. Waagner is a strong suspect."
Wisniewski declined to comment the nature of the evidence
against Waagner, noting that Waagner has not been charged in connection with the
mailings. He termed the search of Waagner's home two weeks ago
"beneficial," but declined to comment further citing the ongoing
investigation. Officials have repeatedly noted that Waagner's wife and children
who live in the Clintonville area home were not the target of that search.
Wisniewski said that officials have investigated Waagner's
alleged visit in Georgia. But he said the investigation had been focused
elsewhere, as well.
The Pittsburgh postal inspections office has devoted 10
inspectors, about a third of its workforce, to the case, he said.
The case has particularly urgency because of the fear and
costly disruption that such hoaxes cause both the public and postal workers,
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, the FBI said it
"received information" that Waagner "took credit" for
sending more than 280 of the threatening letters to abortion clinics on the East
Coast. The envelopes were marked "Time Sensitive" and "Urgent
Security Notice Enclosed" - with the return addresses of the U.S. Marshals
Service or the U.S. Secret Service, according to an FBI memo.
Earlier this month, a second wave of 270 threatening
letters was sent via private delivery service to abortion clinics.
Scores of family-planning clinics in at least 12 states
have received letters containing anthrax threats, according to officials of
feminist and abortion-rights organizations.
The Feminist Majority Foundation said more than 450
clinics and advocacy organizations received letters in envelopes carrying white
powder and letters signed by "the Army of God."
None of the powder sent to the clinics has tested positive
Waagner's name has been linked to the "Army of
God" term in the past. Following his escape from federal prison in June, a
letter purportedly written by him appeared on Virginia minister Donald Spitz's
"Army of God" Web site. The writer threatened to kill those who worked
for abortion providers.
Ranked among the FBI's 10 Most Wanted with terrorist
leader Osama bin Laden and suspected abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph,
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 other offenses and on warrants for burglary and
other charges filed by state police in Venango County.
Although listed on both the FBI and the U.S. Marshals
Service's most wanted lists 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. He released the driver after paying him $1,650 for his van, according to
the victim, Harold Wayne Baker. A casino there was evacuated after a tip that he
Waagner's years-long alleged crime spree began here in
1999 with the theft of a GMC Yukon from A. Crivelli Chevrolet in Reno.
Though his accomplice, former Kennerdell resident Jason M.
Miller, was captured after a robbery, Waagner escaped and stayed on the run for
four months during which time 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 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. He has not, however, taken any
direct action against them.
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 he could leap onto a passing train and avoid
Since then Waagner has been indicted for robbing a
Harrisburg bank in May and the FBI in Erie has indicated Waagner is likely to be
indicted for a bank robbery in August at the Millcreek Mall.
Waagner was born in North Dakota and uses numerous
aliases, including Jack Avery, Mike L. Buchanan and Allan Waagner. He sometimes
walks with a limp and may have limited use of his left hand from a frostbite
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.
(Staff reporter Lisa Thompson contributed to this