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Lawsuit: Army knew Washington soldier was a threat

The U.S. Army should have known that a soldier from Washington state was in danger, according to a lawsuit filed by his family.
Former private Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend Tiffany York were killed outside Ft. Stewart in Georgia on December 6, 2011. Their killers were Army soldiers led by Isaac Aguigui (at lower left).

The U.S. Army got its first hint about Isaac Aguigui well before the private from Washington state was arrested and charged with the murders of three people.

Records show that Aguigui was kicked out of West Point in 2009 after he pulled a knife during an argument with another cadet.

Troubling as that was, it was not enough for the Army to reject the Cashmere native for service as an enlisted soldier.

The story of how Aguigui’s military career came to a murderous end has been well-told. In 2011 he was arrested as the leader of a secret militia that included at least four U.S. Army soldiers and a dozen or so civilians. Together, they plotted to overthrow the U.S. government.

What ultimately brought the militia members to justice was the murder of a young soldier and the soldier’s girlfriend – killed because the militia members feared the pair knew too much about their plan.

Former private Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend Tiffany York were both shot in the head in the woods outside Ft. Stewart in Georgia on December 6, 2011.

Records recently filed in a civil lawsuit against the U.S. government by the victim’s families offer new details about Aguigui’s run ins with the authorities and raise new questions about why the Army didn’t rein him in.

Michael Roark’s mother says, if the Army had acted, her son would like be alive today.

“They had Aguigui in their sights. They had him on their radar. They were watching different things he did and nobody took any action to stop him,” said Tracy Jahr from her Marysville home.

Hundreds of pages of records filed in the federal lawsuit show:

* Seven months before Roark and York were murdered, Aguigui admitted to his role in a plot to kill and rob a Georgia drug dealer. His sworn statement shows that on May 31, 2011, he “…further admitted to purchasing a shot(gun) he intended to use….”

* Five months before the double murder, Aguigui killed his wife. He was alone with her in their Ft. Stewart apartment at the time and claimed that she died mysteriously hours after a session of “rough sex.” Records show that within days, Army investigators suspected Aguigui in her death. After the murder of Roark and York, an Army investigator urged that Aguigui be charged with his wife’s murder. “We’ve met this criteria months ago,” the investigator wrote during a review of the Sgt. Deirdre Aguigui death investigation. Aguigui was convicted of killing Dierdre and her unborn child in 2014.

* Three months before the Roark/York murders, the Army issued a bulletin to law enforcement to arrest Aguigui. In spite of his troubles at Ft. Stewart, Army brass had allowed him to make a trip home to Washington. During that trip, he purchased more than $32,000 in firearms from a Wenatchee gun store with proceeds from his wife’s death insurance. At the same time a tipster told the FBI that “…Aguigui may be planning a terrorist attack….” . Agents interviewed Aguigui, said he was “credible” and that he “…does not appear to pose a terrorism threat at this time.”

With all this history, Aguigui was still free to lead a group of soldiers off Ft. Stewart into the Georgia woods on the evening of December 6, 2011.

Roark had been asked by the group to join them for some late-night target shooting. The group didn’t know that Roark would be joined by his girlfriend, York, a high school junior. Both were killed that night.

“It’s to keep them all quiet, because we didn’t want any of this (expletive) getting out,” Aguigui said to a police investigator in a videotaped confession days after their bodies were found.

Authorities said Aguigui was the ringleader of an anti-government militia called FEAR, Forever Enduring Always Ready. The FBI determined the group’s core members included about a dozen people who plotted attacks on politicians and government buildings. Targets discussed by the group included poisoning the Washington apple crop and blowing up a Washington State dam.

Jahr says her son might be alive if the military had taken basic steps to confine or monitor Aguigui after he was suspected in the murder plot of a drug dealer, his wife’s death, and a terrorism investigation.

“Absolutely, the Army bears responsibility for Michael’s death,” she said.

The Army refused to comment on the case when contacted by KING 5.

“As a matter of policy, the Army does not comment on ongoing litigation,” said LTC Jennifer R. Johnson. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle also declined to comment on claims made in the civil lawsuit.

The suit says the Army ignored “abundant signs” that Aguigui and his group were “dangerous” and “mentally unstable soldiers.”

Jahr is appealing a judge’s decision that her family is not allowed to sue the federal government. The judge cited a law that bars military personnel and their families from suing the government from death or injury sustained during service.

Jahr is appealing because Roark had separated from the Army at the time of his death and was about to head home to the house in Marysville where Jahr lives.

York’s family is still pressing the lawsuit, which is scheduled to go to trial next month in federal court in Seattle.

Aguigui is serving two life sentences, without the possibility of parole, for the murders of Roark and York, and the murder of Aguigui’s wife five months before their deaths.

In all, 11 people were convicted of charges relating to the murders and the FEAR militia including four active duty soldiers.

-- Follow Chris Ingalls on Twitter @CJIngalls.

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