Archive for Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Man suspected of sending fake anthrax threat letters caught

December 5, 2001

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— An escaped convict suspected of mailing hundreds of anthrax hoax letters to abortion clinics was captured Wednesday at a copy shop in this Cincinnati suburb.

Clayton Lee Waagner, one of the FBI's 10 most-wanted fugitives, was arrested after employees at a Kinko's store recognized him and called police, said Gary Richards, a chief deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service.

"My understanding is he was on a computer, but I am not for sure," Richards said.

Waagner, who once testified that God told him to kill abortion doctors, had been on the run since February, when he escaped from a jail in Clinton, Ill. He had been awaiting sentencing for federal weapons offenses and auto theft.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has called Waagner the primary suspect behind anthrax hoaxes committed against 280 clinics last month. The clinics received envelopes containing white powder and letters signed by the "Army of God." None of the powder was found to be anthrax.

Waagner, 45, claimed responsibility for the letters when he showed up with a gun at the Georgia home of an anti-abortion activist last week, according to authorities.

The FBI offered a reward of $50,000 for information leading to his arrest.

Vicki Saporta, the executive director of the National Abortion Federation in Washington, said she is relieved Waagner was apprehended.

"We've been very concerned that he remained at large for so long because he made some very specific threats," Saporta said. "He'll be going away for a very long time and we don't want any people who might have helped him to escape justice."

The attorney general noted the arrest during installation ceremonies for Ben Reyna as new head of the U.S. Marshals Service. Most-wanted posters were displayed at the ceremony, and Ashcroft said: "I'm pleased to say that, no sooner does Ben take over the U.S. Marshals Service ... we can write across the face of that poster, 'Apprehended!"'

Waagner also was sought for bank robberies in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, weapons offenses in Tennessee and carjacking in Mississippi.

Waagner had been arrested in 1999 after he entered Illinois with his wife and eight children in a stolen Winnebago with four stolen handguns under the driver's seat. During his trial, Waagner testified that he had watched abortion clinics for months, stocking up on weapons after God asked him to "be my warrior" and kill doctors who provide abortions.

In June, after his escape from jail, abortion clinics were warned to be on alert after someone purporting to be Waagner posted an Internet message vowing to kill employees of abortion providers.

Authorities say he robbed a bank outside Harrisburg, Pa., in May. And on Sept. 7, he allegedly abandoned a car on a highway in Memphis, Tenn., after colliding with a tractor-trailer. A pipe bomb was found in the car, along with anti-abortion literature and weapons.

Hours later, a man believed to be Waagner committed a carjacking in Tunica, Miss., authorities said.

The Rev. Donald Spitz, a Pentecostal minister who heads Pro-Life Virginia in Chesapeake, Va., said it was shame Waagner was caught.

"Clayton closed down a lot of abortion mills, and I supposed he had plans to close down a lot more. He won't be able to fulfill that mission," Spitz said.

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