By RUSS BYNUM, Associated Press
A Georgia soldier accused of plotting attacks as the leader of an anti-government militia group was charged by the Army on Wednesday with murder in the 2011 death of his pregnant wife.
Pvt. Isaac Aguigui of Cashmere, Wash., will face a military hearing to determine if he should be tried by court-martial for the deaths of his wife, Army Sgt. Deirdre Aguigui, and the child they lost in July 2011, Fort Stewart officials in southeast Georgia said.
“Every victim deserves to have their case prosecuted. In this case it took some time,” said Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson.
Months after his wife’s death, Aguigui and three fellow Fort Stewart soldiers were charged by civilian authorities in the December 2011 shooting deaths of Michael Roark, a former member of their Army unit, and Roark’s teenage girlfriend.
Civilian prosecutors have called Aguigui the leader of a militia group of malcontented Army soldiers who plotted attacks ranging from bombing a park fountain in Savannah to poisoning apple crops in Washington state. They say Aguigui used a $500,000 life insurance payout from his wife’s death to buy guns and bomb components and ordered his followers to kill Roark and his girlfriend, Tiffany York, fearing they would expose the group.
Roark’s father, Brett Roark, said the slayings of his son and York could have been prevented had the Army charged Aguigui sooner.
“The original command structure didn’t do their job,” Roark said. “This should have stopped at her murder.”
Deirdre Aguigui, an Army linguist, became pregnant after returning home to Fort Stewart from a deployment to Iraq. A few months later, on July 17, 2011, she was found dead at the couple’s home on the Army post.
Fort Stewart officials and the woman’s family have declined to discuss her death because of the ongoing investigation. The Army has refused to release records pertaining to her death when The Associated Press requested them last year.
Regina Ross-Schmid, an Army spouse at Fort Stewart and friend of Deidre Aguigui, told the AP last year that soldiers who served with her friend were never given an explanation.
“When we first were told she had died, what was said was she laid down to take a nap and when Isaac went to wake her up, he couldn’t wake her up,” Ross-Schmid said in an interview last August.
According to her obituary, Deirdre Aguigui met her husband at the U.S. Military Academy Prep School, which prepares cadets for admission to West Point, but he never became an officer. Instead, Isaac Aguigui’s service record shows he followed his wife in November 2010 to Fort Stewart, where the young private served as an intelligence analyst in the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.
Civilian prosecutors in Long County, where Roark and his girlfriend were found shot on Dec. 4, 2011, said Aguigui targeted troubled soldiers for the militia group that he called F.E.A.R. — Forever Enduring Always Ready. They said 19-year-old Roark wasn’t a member of the group. The slain ex-soldier’s father said Aguigui would give his son money to buy weapons for the group.
Prosecutors said Aguigui used the insurance payments from his wife’s death to buy $87,000 worth of semi-automatic assault rifles, other guns and bomb-making materials recovered by investigators.
One of the four soldiers arrested in Roark’s death, Pfc. Michael Burnett, pleaded guilty to reduced charges last year. He told a judge that he was with Aguigui and two other soldiers when they led Roark and York out to the woods and killed them. Burnett said Sgt. Anthony Peden, a veteran of two tours in Afghanistan, shot the teenage girl twice at Aguigui’s command. He also testified that Pvt. Christopher Salmon, who had served one tour in Iraq, put Roark on his knees and shot him in the head.
Civilian prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Aguigui, Peden and Salmon in those killings.