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updated: 10/8/2012 5:21 PM

Family: Elk Grove terror suspect 'not a monster'

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  • Gregory Arthur Weiler II

      Gregory Arthur Weiler II

 
 

Gregory Weiler's family doesn't know much about the events leading up to his arrest in Oklahoma on domestic terrorism charges.

They know the 23-year-old hasn't been in contact much since leaving home after graduating from Elk Grove High School in 2007. They know he's likely off the medication he's taken during his long battle with mental illness. And they know he joined "an organization" in which members call the leader "father."

"We're focusing on going down to Oklahoma as soon as possible so that we can get more answers," Weiler's cousin, Johnny Meyers, said Monday. "Greg is responsible for his actions, but we still care about him. He's not a monster."

Weiler was arraigned Monday morning and is being held without bond at the Ottawa County jail in Miami, Okla., after police there found the makings for dozens of Molotov cocktails and plans to firebomb nearly 50 area churches, according to an affidavit filed by District Attorney Eddie Wyant.

Wyant said he anticipates Weiler will soon face federal charges in connection with the foiled plot.

For now he is charged with two felony state counts of threatening to use an explosive, incendiary device, simulated bomb to damage or injure persons or property as well as violation of the Oklahoma Antiterrorism Act.

The Meyers family took the suspect in after his mother, and later father, committed suicide. Meyers said his cousin suffers from mental illness, but that it was largely under control during high school.

"He made it through Elk Grove just fine," Meyers said. "But when he took off, so did the meds."

According to an affidavit, workers at a Miami, Okla. motel alerted authorities to suspicious materials in a Dumpster just before noon Thursday.

Responding officers located a "new" military bag that contained "50 brown glass bottles with gray duct tape attached and a section of cloth," according to court papers and police officials. The bag also contained another brown bottle, a funnel, plaid polyester sheets and an unknown "green object." A 5-gallon gas can also was found in the Dumpster.

About four hours later, officers were called back to the motel when similar items were discovered inside Weiler's room.

Miami Police Chief George Haralson said the suspect had been identified by detectives as a person of interest. He had arrived at the motel on foot Sept. 20 and paid weekly to stay at the hotel. His driver's license listed his hometown as Washington, Ill., a small downstate town near Peoria.

Haralson said police called Weiler on the motel room's phone and asked him to step outside. He was taken into custody without incident.

Officers obtained a search warrant and recovered numerous other items tying him to the materials found earlier, including numerous beer bottle caps and a receipt from a local Wal-Mart for items recovered in the Dumpster, authorities said. Further investigation of the Dumpster uncovered an unopened bottle of lighter fluid with a bar code that matched lighter fluid listed on the Wal-Mart receipts, court papers show.

Among the items recovered in the room was paper that had been torn into sections. When reassembled, the handwritten notes contained recipes for making Molotov cocktails, a list of 48 area churches, a hand-drawn map of the church locations and a map key detailing "nights and how many people," according to court papers.

"I've been around a while and so have some of the guys from (federal agencies), and none of us have ever seen 50 Molotov cocktails all together before," Haralson said. "We don't know if he was throwing them away or hiding them out there."

The affidavit also says the shredded paper contained a written outline of Weiler's intent to plant bombs, identify church buildings, purchase ingredients for explosive devices and video record the attacks.

Authorities said additional notes written on the shredded papers read, "Try to get away with it ... maybe a plan out of town?" A journal also was recovered and included an entry that read, "self promote for the next four years while beginning list of goals written out in Oklahoma having to do with destroying and removing church buildings from U.S. a tiny bit at a time -- setting foundation for the years to follow."

Miami is located about 25 miles from Joplin, Mo., the largest nearby urban center. A Muslim mosque in Joplin was destroyed by an arsonist in August this year, but Haralson said Weiler has been eliminated as a suspect in that case. Haralson said all the churches targeted in the recovered papers were in Ottawa County, Okla. The churches are no longer under any threat, though investigators have not done any checks of the buildings, he added.

"We feel like based on our investigation we took the suspect in custody before he could start his plan," Haralson said.

Weiler did not confess to anything, but made "incriminating" statements during an interview with police, Haralson said. Agents from the FBI and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have also interviewed him, the chief said. Attempts to reach federal authorities were unsuccessful Monday because of the Columbus Day holiday.

Weiler was arrested in 2007 for underage drinking at a teen club in Naperville. At the time, court records listed him as a Peoria resident where he was attending Bradley University. He pleaded guilty in 2008 and was sentenced to community service and ordered to pay a $195 fine.

Meyers said Weiler attended Bradley for just a couple of weeks before dropping out. He said his cousin moved in with a girlfriend, but they broke up.

He said his family isn't happy about the arrest, but they are relieved his cousin can get the help he "desperately needs."

Weiler's Facebook posts from the past two months provide a glimpse into his childhood and hardships.

Writing about himself in the third person, Weiler described how he was bullied when he attended a Catholic elementary school, but later became stronger when he worked out and joined Elk Grove's football and wrestling teams. He wrote about volunteering, giving money to the poor and spending time with friends and family.

He also acknowledges anger issues and exploiting females at church youth group meetings.

"Greg had money, was in shape, had nothing to lose and had been through so much pain and hardship in life that he did not give a (expletive) about what anyone said anymore -- even his own family, friends, and girlfriends," he wrote.

On Sept. 26, Weiler posted a long message from his hotel room about doing away with old belief systems and purifying the U.S. of its enemies so that everyone could be free.

"And I am telling you that I have not opened a bible in a while, and I haven't stepped foot into a church building in quite some time -- and though I may be very lonely right now, I am hoping that someone, and maybe someday in the future, someone will take notice."

Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer Josh Stockinger contributed to this report.

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