A soldier from Chelan County, Wash., suspected of murder in Georgia and accused of being the founder of a militia group that was plotting to kill President Barack Obama and overthrow the U.S. government, purchased 15 firearms, including several semiautomatic assault-style rifles, at a Wenatchee, Wash., gun store in September 2011.
It was that purchase, along with a suspicious relative, that first brought Army Pvt. Isaac Aguigui of Cashmere, Wash., to the attention of local law enforcement, Wenatchee Police Sgt. John Kruse said Tuesday.
The relative, who has asked not to be named, told police that Aguigui's wife, who was a fellow soldier, and their unborn child had died under suspicious circumstances in July 2011 at Fort Stewart, Ga., where they were stationed. The relative also was concerned that Aguigui had purchased more than a dozen firearms from High Mountain Hunting Supply in Wenatchee.
After checking the report and talking to the gun store, Kruse said police decided they should contact the Army Criminal Investigation Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and the FBI in Spokane. Kruse said he spoke with FBI Resident Agent in Charge Frank Harrill about the incident.
"We didn't do much with this. There had been no crime that we knew of, and it didn't really involve Wenatchee at all," he said. Moreover, "people buy multiple guns all the time," Kruse said.
The department did issue an "officer safety" bulletin alerting police to Aguigui's whereabouts, the fact that he was under investigation by the Army, and that he had recently purchased numerous firearms.
Kruse said Aguigui returned to Fort Stewart in southeast Georgia shortly thereafter.
Aguigui is among four soldiers based in Georgia who are charged with killing a former comrade, a Washington state native, and his girlfriend to protect an anarchist militia group they formed, plotted a range of anti-government attacks, including bombing a dam in Washington and poisoning the state's apple crop, prosecutors told a judge Monday.
Isabel Pauley, the prosecutor in Long County, near Fort Stewart, said the militia group of active and former U.S. military members spent at least $87,000 buying guns and bomb components. They allege the group was serious enough to kill two people -- former soldier Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York -- by shooting them in the woods last December in order to keep its plans secret.
The group allegedly called itself F.E.A.R., short for Forever Enduring Always Ready. Pauley said authorities don't know how many members it had.
One of the Fort Stewart soldiers charged in the case, Pfc. Michael Burnett, pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter, illegal gang activity and other charges in a deal to testify against the three other soldiers -- Aguigui, identified by prosecutors as the militia's founder and leader, and Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon.
All are charged by Georgia authorities with malice murder, felony murder, criminal gang activity, aggravated assault and using a firearm while committing a felony. A hearing for the three soldiers was scheduled Thursday.
Aguigui was home-schooled in the Chelan County town of Cashmere, joining the Army after graduation. He married fellow soldier Dierdre Wetzker at Fort Stewart, according to news reports and interviews with family.
Wetzker, 24, died last year at Fort Stewart while pregnant with the couple's son. According to Orlin Wetzker, her uncle in Ogden, Utah, the family was told by law enforcement officials that she may have been poisoned. A call to Aguigui's parents' home in Cashmere was not returned.
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