Former soldier, accused of terrorism, now charged in wife's death
FORT STEWART, Ga. — Isaac G. Aguigui, the former Cashmere man accused of leading a terrorist militia within his U.S. Army division and masterminding the murders of two people, now faces a court martial in the death of his wife and unborn son.
The 21-year-old Third Infantry Division private was charged with one count of murder in the July 2011 death of Army linguist Sgt. Deirdre Wetzker Aguigui, and one count of death of an unborn child. It's the first step in the court-martial process, which proceeds now to a grand jury-style hearing before a military officer to determine whether the case proceeds.
Civilian prosecutors say Isaac Aguigui and several fellow soldiers formed an anti-government militia called FEAR, for "Forever Enduring, Always Ready," that aimed to commit public mayhem — including the seizure of the armory at Fort Stewart Army Base near Hinesville, Ga.; blow up a public fountain in nearby Savannah; poison the Washington state apple crop; and even assassinate President Barack Obama.
Aguigui is charged with ordering three other militia members to murder former soldier Michael Roark, 19, and his girlfriend Tiffany York, 17, after Roark left the Army with knowledge of FEAR's activities. The two were found shot to death in a wooded nature preserve Dec. 5, 2011.
Deirdre Aguigui's death in the couple's home at age 24 preceded those murders by five months. Her father, Alma Wetzker, told Associated Press reporter Russ Bynum the investigation apparently was prolonged because the first medical examiner couldn't determine a cause of death. He said a second medical examiner had to be called to make an official determination. Wetzker wouldn't discuss what the cause of death was ruled to be.
"I'm just finally glad that there's an end to the endless investigation so we can finally start to move on," Wetzker told the wire service.
Prosecutors believe Aguigui financed FEAR's activities using a $500,000 insurance settlement from his wife's death. The group collected some $87,000 worth of guns and ammo — most of it purchased by Aguigui while he was on leave in Wenatchee. None of the violent terrorist plots described by prosecutors was ever carried out.
Aguigui, the homeschooled son of a Cashmere family, was arrested along with three other men a few weeks after the murders of Roark and York, and formally charged in state court with terrorist activities last August. He and two other defendants, Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon, face the death penalty if convicted of the civilian charges.
Ultimately, nine people were accused of participating in FEAR activities or otherwise aiding the group. One of the militia members, Army Pfc. Michael Burnett, pleaded guilty and gave testimony against Aguigui, saying he recruited soldiers to FEAR with the goal "to give the government back to the people."
Another FEAR associate accused of helping to burn evidence of the murders pleaded guilty in October. Two more pleaded guilty to burglary, car break-in and credit card theft charges. Yet another, identified as a drug dealer who sold narcotics to the militia group, pleaded guilty and told prosecutors he too was targeted for death by Aguigui after providing FEAR with a bad batch of Ecstasy.
Michael Roark's father, Brett Roark, told AP the slayings of his son and York could have been prevented had the Army charged Aguigui sooner in his wife's death.
"The original command structure didn't do their job," Roark said. "This should have stopped at her murder."
Aguigui's attorney, Newell Hamilton, declined to comment on any of the charges.
The hearing in the death of Deirdre Aguigui will be held on base at Fort Stewart. No date has yet been set. The hearing officer will then make a recommendation to a senior military officer, who may then dispose of the case or recommend a trial by court-martial to Brigadier Gen. John Hort, Fort Stewart's senior commander.
Russ Bynum of The Associated Press contributed information to this report.