GBI Talks about Investigation of FEAR Militia Group

A young man who had once been a soldier found himself in a Ludowicie courtroom Thursday facing sentencing.  His crime: being part of a plot to kill two teenagers on a deserted Long County road back in December of 2011.  But the case would prove to be much more.  It was the murder investigation that uncovered the existence of the FEAR militiia group, i.e. a small number of soldiers, family members and friends who were stockpiling tens of thousands of dollars in weapons and even explosives.  And all with the purpose to commit domestic terrorism.

But on this day, Michael Burnett, who once had been part of the group, was simply a prisoner awaiting sentencing.  “I have to live with this for the rest of my life,” he told the judge as he teared up.

A young man who had once been a soldier found himself in a Ludowicie courtroom Thursday facing sentencing.  His crime: being part of a plot to kill two teenagers on a deserted Long County road back in December of 2011.  But the case would prove to be much more.  It was the murder investigation that uncovered the existence of the FEAR militia group, i.e. a small number of soldiers, family members and friends who were stockpiling tens of thousands of dollars in weapons and even explosives.  And all with the purpose to commit domestic terrorism.

But on this day, Michael Burnett, who once had been part of the group, was simply a prisoner awaiting sentencing.  “I have to live with this for the rest of my life,” he told the judge as he teared up.
Burnett had been the first to confess his involvement in the murders of 19 year old Michael Roark and 17 year old Tiffany York when speakiing to investigators.  And he received a reduced sentence for his cooperation in the investigation that brought forth information about the militia group and its plans. “We did find explosives in the storage facility at the residence of one of the individuals so they were purchasing bomb components to move forward with whatever plan they had,” said Lindsay Smith, GBI Agent.

Smith and another agent, Stacy Carson talked for the first time about the murder investigation that led to not only the arrests of four individuals who at the time were active duty soldiers, but uncovered what many would come to view as a bizarre and perhaps grandiose plan to hurt government officials and engage in destructive acts like blowing up the fountain at Forsyth Park in Savannah.

Smith and Carson said it was difficult to know what the group could have accomplished if it had not been found out, but said its ringleader, Isaac Aguigui was determined.  “He’s an evil person,” said Carson simply.

The GBI says the plan to Roark and York amounted to concern about Roark (who had just left the military) telling someone what he knew about the militia group.  But they said it was also payback for Roark reportedly using credit cards that belonged to the “group.”  “These two individuals whose lives were taken from them basically got caught up in this and wanted out,” said Smith.

Burnett said as much in court as he tearfully told the judge that while he did not pull the trigger that night, that he had been there. But Burnett said he feared what Aguigui might do to his young son or to him if he had not gone along.  “If I had not gone along there would have been three bodies on that road,” Burnett said.

Burnett also told family members of the victims he was “so sorry and wished he could have done something to prevent the murders.”

Brenda Thomas, the mother of Tiffany York told Burnett he could have done something.  Burnett had told the judge that several weeks before Aguigui and the others “wanted to kill Roark then but I talked them out of it that time.”

Thomas said in open court that Burnett could have called authorities and could have done something to prevent the tragic and gruesome killings.  “You talk about wanting to see your son, but I will never see my daughter again,” she said.

The investigation of the murders led to Burnett’s and Auguigui’s arrest, but also to two others.  Anthony Peden and Christopher Salmon (also active duty soliders at the time and militia members) were also charged with the murders.  And Salmon’s wife, Heather, was also charged.  The GBI agents said they believed that Heather Salmon had spurred on Augigui that night, encouraging him to order the killings.

In talking about the murder case Smith told us ” in this case it was different because they’re soldiers who you would think would have a better mindset about wanting to protect people and the country.  And to know they went against that and against what they had been trained and taught to do, that’s kind of shocking.”

Smith and Carson said the murder investigation started out like any other.  They found the friends and family members of the victim.  That led them to the four soldiers because Roark had been friendswith them.  From there, text messages and other evidence led them to believe the four were involved in the killings and the military was contacted.  During interviews and or interrogations, they say several revealed their involvement and the ultimate reason, i.e. to protect the militia and its future plans of violence.

“It’s not something you see in Long County, Georigia every day,” said Smith.

Smith and Carson also said during their investigation they found so many weapons they were compelled to find out where these men were getting the tens of thousands of dollars needed to buy the guns.  That led them to the death of Isaac Aguigui’s pregnant wife Diedre.  He collected a large life insurance policy after her death.  Aguigui was ultimately court martialed  for her murder by the military.c

Both Smith and Carson said it was somewhat baffling why the other soldiers followed Aguigui because he was a private and to them “not that charismatic.”

The reasons for some of what transpired may never be know.  But the GBI agents said the sentencing of Burnett does close the case for them at least. “Burnett’s sentencing I guess for us closes a book on this case but unfortunately though for the families, it’s kind of the close of chapter for them.  You know this book remains open for a lifetime because they’ll always be affected by what happened.”

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