Prosecutors seek death for U.S. soldiers accused of militia-linked murders

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 30, 2012 3:22 PM
Prosecutors seek death for U.S. soldiers accused of militia-linked murders

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Georgia prosecutors said on Thursday they would seek the death penalty against three soldiers accused of being part of an anarchist militia that killed a former soldier and his girlfriend to keep their anti-government plot secret.

U.S. Army privates Isaac Aguigui and Christopher Salmon and Sergeant Anthony Peden all face first-degree murder charges in a civilian court for the December 5, 2011, deaths of Michael Roark, 19, and his girlfriend, 17-year-old Tiffany York.

The soldiers, who are stationed at Fort Stewart near Savannah, were accused of killing Roark and York as part of an effort to keep their anti-government group called FEAR, or Forever Enduring Always Ready, from being exposed.

A fourth Fort Stewart soldier charged in the case reached a plea deal with prosecutors on Monday that could allow him to avoid a death sentence. Private First Class Michael Burnett, 26, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and agreed to testify against the other defendants.

Salmon's wife, Heather Salmon, also has been charged in the deaths of Roark and York, but prosecutors will not seek the death penalty against her, said Long County assistant district attorney Isabel Pauley.

Aguigui, the alleged ringleader of the militia group, will plead not guilty to the murder charges, said his attorney, Keith Higgins.

Prosecutors say the soldiers plotted to assassinate President Barack Obama and to attack their Army base and a dam in Washington state. They also discussed poisoning the apple crop in Washington state, and purchased $87,000 worth of weapons to carry out their attacks, according to Pauley.

The bodies of Roark and York were discovered in a heavily wooded area near the military base, Pauley said. Both had been shot to death.

During his plea hearing on Monday, Burnett said Roark, who had recently left the Army, had learned of the militia while serving at Fort Stewart. The group came to see him "as a loose end," Pauley said.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins)