The three Georgia-based Army soldiers accused of killing a young couple and plotting to assassinate President Obama are getting the book thrown at them. In Long Country Superior Court Thursday, District Attorney Tom Durden vowed to seek the death penalty for F.E.A.R. militia members Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon, reports the Associated Press. Meanwhile, grieving relatives of the victims tell the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the F.E.A.R. members should be put to death. Though there is much left to uncover about the mysterious milita group, which shocked the public Monday with its alleged terrorist plots, family members of the soldiers and their alleged victims are speaking out about their suspicions and views of the militia group.
The two primary victims in the case are former U.S. soldier Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend Tiffany York who were murdered in December. According to prosecutors, the militia 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." Today in court, a relative of York's rushed the defense table when Peden took the stand, after which "at least four deputies and officers wrestled the family member to the floor and handcuffed him," reported the AP. Though the relative wasn't identified, there's certainly a lot of anger to go around.
Tracking back to the night York and Roark were killed, the Journal-Constitution's Katie Leslie and Bill Rankin spoke with Tiffany's father.
Tim York said his daughter and Roark were out driving around. She told him Roark wanted to buy some synthetic marijuana, but couldn’t find any for sale. She reported that Roark was on another phone, talking to friends, promising that he would have some when he met up with them later. York believes those were the people who lured his daughter and her boyfriend to their deaths.
Reflecting on his pain, York told the paper he has long ties with the military and couldn't bear the thought of soldiers, tasked with protecting the country, plotting to strike against it. “They stood up and swore to protect this country, and now they were talking about blowing up innocent people,” he said. “I think they should be put to death.” Today, York's son, Marine Sgt. Timothy York Jr., expressed similar shock. “It’s a big hit in the heart,” he said. “These people served their country, and they’re killing their own, especially my sister." Making matters worse, according to York's grandmother Joyce Cardwell, Tiffany was only days away from leaving Georgia for California where she was raised. “She had a plane ticket,” Cardwell said. Her father said he had warned her about hanging a round Roark. "Several things about the young man troubled him," writes AJC. "Tiffany had sent him a photo of the couple at a shooting range, with what the father described as a pile of about 15 rifles and handguns stacked on a table."
For the prosecution, the death penalty rationale stems from F.E.A.R.'s classification as a "domestic terrorist" group, reports the AP. "The death penalty enhancement is filed under a Georgia law passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks," writes the news agency. "It allows juries to consider the death penalty against someone found to commit or conspire to commit an act of domestic terrorism." But that's not the only issue prosecutors are dealing with. There's also the investigation into the death of Aguigui's pregnant wife. After she passed in July 2011, Aguigui collected $500,000 in life insurance benefits, which prosecutors say was used to acquire $87,000 in ammunition and bomb components. According to Reuters' Jonathan Kaminsky and David Beasley, Aguigui, who's accused of being F.E.A.R.'s ringleader "was a suspect in the death of his wife months before prosecutors say he and three fellow soldiers murdered two people to keep their clandestine group secret, authorities said." The investigation started after Sergeant John Kruse of the Wenatchee police department received a tip:
A member of Aguigui's family approached the police sergeant with concerns she had about her relative. At the time, Kruse said, Aguigui was on leave from the Army and visiting his old neighborhood. In addition to confirming the relative's claims that Aguigui was under investigation in connection with the suspicious death of his wife, Kruse said he also confirmed with a local gun merchant that Aguigui had recently purchased 15 firearms, several of them semiautomatic rifles.
Yes, the case remains a mystery. Though Aguigui's wife was 24 years old and five months pregnant when she died, no one knows what caused her death. Reuters reached her father Alma Wetzker by phone and he "declined to speculate about his daughter's death while it was under investigation." Needless to say, there's still quite a lot more of this case to unwind.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.