One of the FBI's most wanted fugitives — a prison escapee and anti-abortion extremist — is suspected of sending hundreds of anthrax hoax letters to abortion clinics, Attorney General John Ashcroft said today.
Clayton Lee Waagner, 44, has been on the run from authorities since he escaped from an Illinois jail last February, as he was awaiting sentencing on federal weapons charges.
He used an insanity defense during his trial, saying he received multiple messages from God, instructing him to kill abortion doctors.
Ashcroft said the FBI had information indicating Waagner had claimed responsibility for sending more than 280 letters to health clinics, purporting to contain anthrax to clinics on the East coast in the second week of October. All such threats to date have proven to be hoaxes.
Authorities told ABCNEWS they found Waagner's fingerprints on some of the anthrax hoax letters, such as the one sent to a doctor in Rochester, N.Y.
Waagner has ties to the Army of God, a militant anti-abortion group. Many of the anthrax threats sent to abortion clinics were signed "Army of God."
The Army of God praises anti-abortion militants who have committed violence against abortion providers. The group has voiced support for Paul Hill, a Presbyterian minister on death row in Florida for killing two abortion clinic workers in Pensacola, Fla., in 1993, and James Kopp, who is in a French jail pending extradition to face charges in the 1998 shooting death of Buffalo, N.Y., doctor Barnett Slepian.
Eric Rudolph, the fugitive wanted in connection with the 1996 Olympic Park bombing, is also suspected of involvement in two bombings in Atlanta for which the Army of God claimed responsibility.
Suspect Vowed Online to Kill Abortion Providers
This summer, Waagner maintained on the Army of God Web site that he wants to kill as many abortion providers as he can.
"I consider this a war and in war there are few rules … It doesn't matter to me if you're a nurse, receptionist, bookkeeper, or janitor, if you work for the murderous abortionist I'm going to kill you," he wrote.
On the day after Thanksgiving, another anti-abortion militant, Neal Horsley, posted a message on his Web site, the Christian Gallery, saying that Waagner had visited him and told him he had sent the hoax anthrax mailings.
Waagner is also a suspect in a Pennsylvania bank robbery last May, and a carjacking in September. Authorities describe him as a trained survivalist and although he is not known to have injured anyone in the past, authorities say he has made specific threats against several individuals and is considered armed and dangerous.
In the September incident, authorities say a car abandoned by Waagner contained a pipe bomb and extremist anti-abortion literature.