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Families grapple with terrorism allegations against soldiers

By Craig Schneider, Bill Rankin and Katie Leslie, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution –

LUDOWICI, Ga. — Tiffany York came from a proud military family. That makes it all the harder for them to understand how the teenager and her soldier boyfriend might have been murdered by other soldiers in what prosecutors say was a bid to conceal a terrorist plot.

“It’s a big hit in the heart,” said her brother, Marine Sgt. Timothy York Jr., who lives in California. “These people served their country, and they’re killing their own, especially my sister.”

At a court hearing Monday, a Long County assistant district attorney, Isabel Pauley, laid out a narrative of not just cold-blooded murder but planned bombings and assassinations, according to The Associated Press.

A group of four men, all active-duty soldiers at Fort Stewart, had stockpiled $87,000 in weapons and bomb components, Pauley told the judge. She said the group called itself F.E.A.R., short for Forever Enduring Always Ready, and planned to attack the base and bomb the cars of government officials.

York was dating a soldier, Michael Roark, who was friends with the men, who were in the same unit. Roark was discharged from the Army on Dec. 2. At that point, the group members decided he knew too much and had to be silenced, Pauley told the judge.

On Dec. 5, fishermen discovered the bodies of Roark and York in woods near the base. Both had been shot.

A hearing is scheduled Thursday in Ludowici, about 18 miles from Fort Stewart, for three members of what Pauley called a “domestic terrorist organization” — Sgt. Anthony Peden, Pvt. Christopher Salmon and Pvt. Isaac Aguigui. District Attorney Tom Durden said he will seek the death penalty for all of them. A fourth defendant, Pfc. Michael Burnett, pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter and is cooperating with authorities.

Salmon’s wife, Heather Salmon, is also charged with murder, although her attorney, Charles Nester, said she was not present at the killings. Nester said he has been informed that the district attorney will not seek the death penalty against her.

York’s father, Tim York, said his 17-year-old daughter had dated Roark for only a few months, but several things about the young man had troubled him. Tiffany had sent him a photo of the couple at a shooting range, with what the father described as a pile of about 15 rifles and handguns stacked on a table.

He said Tiffany had also wondered aloud about the large amounts of money that Roark and his friends had. She said Roark told her they were in a business that placed holds on credit cards.

According to the AP, Pauley said the money came from a very different source: a life insurance settlement that Aguigui received after his pregnant wife, also a soldier, died last year at Fort Stewart.

York said he tried to persuade his daughter to distance herself from Roark, to no avail. Now, the 49-year-old father, who has trouble walking after an illness, blames himself for not leaving his home in California to travel to Georgia to take his daughter away.

“I should have gotten on a plane and got my daughter,” York said.

Roark’s father, Brett Roark, said his son was in the military for only about a year before he became disillusioned and was discharged.

He said prosecutors told him his son was not a member of the group, but that the group was trying to recruit him and “he wanted to get away.” His son had not gotten the group’s tattoo, which is an anarchist symbol.

The father, who lives in Florida, said his son gave no indication that he was in with a bad crowd or in any danger. “Absolutely not,” he said. “Not a glimmer.”

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