Captured fugitive going to Illinois

John Nolan and John Nolan

CINCINNATI – A man suspected of sending fake anthrax letters to abortion clinics nationwide will be taken back to Illinois to be sentenced for unrelated crimes, a government spokesman said yesterday.

Clayton Lee Waagner had been awaiting sentencing when he escaped Feb. 22 from jail in Clinton, Ill. He became one of the FBI’s 10 most-wanted fugitives before his arrest last week at a copy shop in suburban Cincinnati.

Waagner, 45, faces at least 15 years and up to life in prison on the convictions for interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle and illegal possession of a firearm as a convicted felon.

He could be returned to Illinois as soon as Thursday after he appears before a federal magistrate, said Fred Alverson, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Gregory Lockhart’s office in southern Ohio.

Waagner is suspected of sending more than 550 anthrax-hoax letters to abortion clinics this fall. The envelopes contained white powder and letters signed, “Army of God.” The powder was not anthrax.

During his trial in Illinois, Waagner testified that he had watched abortion clinics for months and stocked up on weapons after God asked him to “be my warrior.”

When arrested on Dec. 5, Waagner had a loaded .40-caliber pistol tucked into his waistband and was driving a 1999 Mercedes Benz car that was stolen in early November from a Fargo, N.D., car dealership, police said. Federal prosecutors in Cincinnati had planned to present evidence to a grand jury Wednesday on those charges, but that was called off because prosecutors decided he should first be sentenced on the convictions in Illinois, Alverson said.

A white powder found in the stolen Mercedes-Benz was an insect-killing bacteria that is harmless to humans, Lockhart said. He declined to comment on why Waagner was carrying the insecticide.

Federal authorities also have charged Waagner with bank robberies in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, a car theft in Mississippi and possession of a pipe bomb in Tennessee, Lockhart said.

He was arrested in September 1999 after entering Illinois with his wife and eight children in a stolen Winnebago with four stolen handguns under the driver’s seat, authorities said.