SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Four former Army soldiers and a civilian have been charged in new indictments for connections to an anti-government militia that authorities say was led by Fort Stewart troops who stockpiled weapons and talked of ultimately overthrowing the U.S. government.
A Liberty County grand jury indicted the five on charges of illegal gang activity and various counts involving theft, burglary and auto break-ins. Those crimes were committed to help fund the militia group, which called itself F.E.A.R., short for Forever Enduring Always Ready, District Attorney Tom Durden said Tuesday.
"The burglaries and entering autos, they were committed in an effort to fund F.E.A.R. and what F.E.A.R. was at least advocating they wanted to accomplish," said Durden, the top prosecutor for southeast Georgia's Atlantic Judicial Circuit. Their plans included bombing a Savannah park fountain and poisoning apple crops in the state of Washington, prosecutors say.
The new indictments Monday bring to 10 the total number of people charged in connection with the militia group.
Four are soldiers serving at neighboring Fort Stewart and are charged with murder in the December slayings of former soldier Michael Roark and his teenage girlfriend, Tiffany York. Prosecutors say Roark had access to the militia leader's credit cards and made purchases for the group, but they haven't said what he bought. Authorities say Roark was killed, along with York, after he left the Army in order to protect the group and its plots.
A wife of one of the soldiers has also been charged in the slayings.
Fort Stewart officials confirmed four of the men charged in the latest indictments are former soldiers — Christopher Jenderseck, 26, of St. Cloud, Minn.; Adam Dearman, 27, of Auburn, Ga.; Timothy Joiner, 21, of Hampton, Ga.; and Anthony Garner, 23, of Newnan, Ga. Three of them were discharged from the Army between November and May, while Jenderseck's enlistment ended in April.
The fifth man charged was Dearman's brother, Randall Blake Dearman. Their father, Randy Dearman, declined to comment when reached by phone Tuesday.
Durden said civilian authorities aren't sure how many members the militia group had. Army officials said they weren't surprised by the new indictments involving ex-soldiers, but they aren't saying how large the group was either.
"We remain confident there are no unknown subjects," Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said in a statement. "The five individuals indicted today ... were known to the investigation and were not publicly identified previously to preserve the integrity of the investigation and ongoing civilian legal proceedings."
Adam Dearman has been jailed since December in Elbert County, about 200 miles away in north Georgia, on charges of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during a commission of a felony. Prosecutors said Dearman shot and wounded a man Dec. 6 in what they now believe was an attack related to the militia. The victim in the shooting, Jimmy Smith, declined to comment when reached by phone.
Elbert County prosecutors now plan to seek two additional gang-related charges against Dearman after receiving information from authorities investigating the militia case in southeast Georgia.
"Our contention is that the cases are connected, this is part of that street gang activity," said Leon Jourolmon, chief assistant district attorney for the Northern Judicial Circuit. He would not comment on the specifics of the case.
The indictments in south Georgia charged Joiner with three home burglaries, nine car break-ins, and other thefts of items including guns, cellphones, GPS devices, bulletproof vest, a motorcycle helmet and a woman's debit cards. Randall Dearman was also charged in two of the burglaries and the car break-ins, which all occurred within a two-day period in mid-December. Adam Dearman helped coordinate the thefts, according to the indictment. Garner was charged with receiving more than $500 worth of stolen goods from the burglaries.
Joiner answered his cellphone Tuesday but declined to discuss the case.
"I'm a proud Republican," Joiner said. "I will not make any comments about this on the record until I am in court."
Relatives of Jenderseck and Garner could not immediately be reached. It was not clear if any of the men had hired attorneys.
Only one of the new indictments was related to the double slaying. Jenderseck was charged with evidence tampering. Durden said he had helped the accused soldiers burn clothing they had worn during the killings of Roark and York, who were found shot to death in some woods near Fort Stewart.
Prosecutors have charged Army Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon with murder and are seeking the death penalty. Salmon's wife, Heather Salmon, has also been charged in the deaths.
A fourth soldier, Pfc. Michael Burnett, pleaded guilty last month to reduced charges after agreeing to help prosecute the other accused troops.
Associated Press writer Ray Henry in Atlanta contributed to this story.