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Man suspected of sending fake anthrax threat letters caught

Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A fugitive suspected of mailing hundreds of fake anthrax letters to abortion clinics was captured by federal authorities Wednesday.

FBI officials said Clayton Lee Waagner was caught in the Cincinnati area. Apprehended by the U.S. Marshals Service, he was among the FBI's 10 most-wanted fugitives.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has called Waagner the primary suspect behind anthrax hoaxes committed against 280 abortion clinics last month.

Waagner, 45, allegedly claimed responsibility for the letters when he showed up with a gun at the Georgia home of an anti-abortion activist recently, authorities said.

Diane Rust, a branch manager at a Kinko's Inc. copy store in Cincinnati, confirmed that Waagner was arrested at the store.

Ashcroft noted Waagner's apprehension at installation ceremonies for Ben Reyna as new head of the U.S. Marshals Service.

A series of most-wanted-fugitive pictures was displayed at the ceremony, and Ashcroft exclaimed, "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!' "

"Clayton Lee Waagner is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. You know something, in those good hands, I have to tell you, that the United States is a safer and more secure place. The battle against those who seek to inflict terror through hoaxes and threats is a battle that must be joined by all Americans."

Waagner had been on the lam since February, when he escaped from a jail in Clinton, Ill., where he was awaiting sentencing on federal firearms and auto theft convictions.

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

Ashcroft and others in federal law enforcement have said they're vigorously pursuing people who send anthrax threats as hoaxes, promising they will aggressively prosecute such individuals. Such acts cost local, state and federal valuable time that could be used to investigate actual anthrax threats, Ashcroft said.

Waagner, who has vowed to kill abortion providers, was indicted by a grand jury on weapons and other charges in Memphis.

He was charged with possessing a destructive device, being a felon in possession of firearms and being a fugitive in possession of firearms.

Waagner abandoned a car on an interstate in Memphis after a Sept. 7 collision with a tractor-trailer, police said. A pipe bomb was found in the car.

Hours later, a man believed to be Waagner committed a carjacking in Tunica, Miss., some 40 miles southwest of Memphis, authorities said. A casino there was evacuated after a tip that he was there.

Waagner was armed with a rifle and a shotgun, according to the indictment.

Each of the five counts against him could result in a 10-year sentence and a $250,000 fine.

Police also had issued warrants for Waagner's arrest on charges of aggravated assault and auto theft.

Waagner escaped in February from a Clinton, Ill., jail where he was awaiting sentencing on federal firearms and auto theft convictions. He had been arrested in September 1999 after entering Illinois with his wife and eight children in a stolen Winnebago, which had four stolen handguns under the driver's seat, authorities said.

During his trial, Waagner testified that he had carried out surveillance on abortion clinics for months, stocking up on weapons after, he said, God asked him to "be my warrior" and kill doctors who provide abortions.

In June, 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. He had never taken any direct acts against them, police said.

That same month, a federal grand jury charged Waagner with robbing a bank just outside Harrisburg, Pa., in May.


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