December 5, 2001 at 10:42 PM EST - Updated July 12 at 3:10 AM
By JAMES HANNAH, Associated Press Writer
SPRINGDALE, Ohio (AP) - A fugitive suspected of mailing hundreds of fake anthrax letters to abortion clinics was captured Wednesday after employees in a copying store recognized his picture on a U.S. Marshals Service flier.
Clayton Lee Waagner, 45, was armed with a loaded .40-caliber handgun when police arrested him at 1 p.m. at a Kinko's Inc. store in this Cincinnati suburb, said U.S. Marshal Frank Policaro in Pittsburgh.
Waagner, one of the FBI's 10 most wanted fugitives, was the primary suspect behind anthrax hoaxes committed last month against 280 clinics, Attorney General John Ashcroft said.
Waagner was arrested with $10,000 cash in his pocket, computer components and the handgun in his vehicle, a stolen Mercedes Benz, said Ben Reyna, who was sworn in Wednesday as new head of the U.S. Marshals Service. Waagner lived a lavish lifestyle by robbing banks in several eastern states, Reyna said.
Federal marshals had alerted Kinko's stores nationwide to be on the lookout for Waagner because he was known to use the company's computers, Policaro said.
Just last Friday, Waagner was spotted at a Kinko's in Norfolk, Va., but police arrived 15 minutes too late, authorities said. Waagner had been logging on to anti-abortion Web sites and checking e-mail at the stores, said Drew Wade, spokesman for the marshals service.
"This individual quite often visits Kinko's, ties into the network system and uses his computer on rental time at Kinko's," Policaro said.
An employee at the Kinko's store recognized Waagner from a "wanted" flier and alerted police, who arrested Waagner and turned him over to the marshal's office in Cincinnati, Policaro said.
Waagner was to face a federal court appearance in Cincinnati on Wednesday before likely being returned to Clinton, Ill., where he escaped Feb. 22 from the DeWitt County Jail while awaiting sentencing on federal firearms and auto theft convictions, Policaro said.
The Pittsburgh office of the Marshal's Service had been directing the search for Waagner because he is from Kennerdale, Pa., about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, Policaro said.
Waagner claimed responsibility for the letters sent to clinics and elsewhere when he showed up with a gun at the Georgia home of an anti-abortion activist last week, authorities said.
Waagner has been on the lam since February. He also was sought in bank robberies in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the firearms violations in Tennessee and a carjacking in Mississippi.
The FBI offered a reward of $50,000 for information leading to his arrest.
"We can write across the face of that poster 'apprehended,'" Ashcroft said as a series of most-wanted-fugitive pictures were shown during Reyna's swearing-in ceremony.
Police said that on Sept. 7 Waagner abandoned a car on a highway in Memphis after colliding with a tractor-trailer. A pipe bomb was found in the car, along with anti-abortion literature and weapons.
Hours later, a man believed to be Waagner committed a carjacking in Tunica, Miss., about 40 miles southwest of Memphis, authorities said.
He had been arrested in September 1999 after he entered Illinois with his wife and eight children in a stolen Winnebago, which had four stolen handguns under the driver's seat, authorities said.
During his trial, Waagner testified that he had watched abortion clinics for months, stocking up on weapons after God asked him to "be my warrior" and kill doctors who provide abortions.
The Rev. Donald Spitz, a Pentecostal minister who heads Pro-Life Virginia in Chesapeake, Va., and a Waagner supporter, said it was shame that he got caught.
"Clayton closed down a lot of abortion mills, and I supposed he had plans to close down a lot more. He won't be able to fulfill that mission," Spitz said.
Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation in Washington, said she was relieved Waagner was apprehended. The group, which works with 400 abortion providers and health clinics nationwide, has been keeping its members notified of the latest news about Waagner.
"We've been very concerned that he remained at large for so long because he made some very specific threats," Saporta said. "He'll be going away for a very long time, and we don't want any people who might have helped him to escape justice."
Ashcroft and others in federal law enforcement have said they're vigorously pursuing people who send anthrax threats as hoaxes, promising they will aggressively prosecute such individuals. Such acts cost local, state and federal valuable time that could be used to investigate actual anthrax threats, Ashcroft said.
(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)