Oklahoma authorities have arrested Gregory Arthur Weiler II, 23, claiming that he was plotting to blow up 48 area churches. The startling allegation came to police attention after workers at a motel where Weiler, an Illinois native, was staying alerted them that something was awry.
The accused was subsequently arrested in Miami, Oklahoma, last week at a motel about 90 miles northeast of Tulsa, CNN reports. A worker who handled room service at the establishment told authorities that there were suspicious items in Weiler's room.
According to an affidavit filed by Det. Jeff Frazier, the maintenance worker alerted Miami police after noticing a pile of brown bottles with cloth wicks attached by duct tape in a trash bin at the Legacy Inn and Suites, which sits just off a major interstate. A funnel and 5-gallon red gasoline can also had been dumped in the bin.
While background checks were being done on the hotel's 18 guests, the maintenance worker accidentally walked into Weiler's room and saw him with similar items and a Walmart receipt showing the purchase of other items, the affidavit said.
Police also found documentation that purportedly outlines the man's elaborate plans to set off explosives at 48 local houses of worship. The documents allegedly included in the mix were: a list of churches, a map that Weiler presumably drew, directions instructing the man on how to make Molotov cocktails and a journal.
Ben Loring, assistant district attorney for Ottawa County, said that one of the journal entries points to what might be a more widespread plan to eliminate churches across America -- and not just in Miami (however there's no telling how realistic this particular threat was).
One of the entries read, "Self-Promote for the next 4 years while beginning list of goals written out in Oklahoma having to do with destroying and removing church buildings from U.S., a tiny bit at a time -- setting foundation for the years to follow."
On Friday, Weiler -- who is expected in court again on October 22 -- was charged with threatening to use an explosive or incendiary device. He was also found to be in violation of the Oklahoma Anti-Terrorism Act.
Weiler's family claims he has a history of mental illness. The man's parents both committed suicide, and Weiler has battled drug addiction and "a lot of mental illnesses" that led to a suicide attempt in the eighth grade, said his cousin Johnny Meyers.
Ironically, despite the fact that churches were his purported target, a pastor at a homeless shelter operated by a church in suburban Kansas City, Mo., said Weiler lived there for about six months within the past year.
Doug Perry said Weiler showed no violent tendencies and was active in the group's food pantry and various ministries, but he was clearly troubled. Among other things, he blamed himself for his parents' deaths, Perry said.
"I knew he was in a bad place," the minister said. He said he last saw Weiler about three months ago, when he left to take a roofing job in Houston.
While Weiler had the means to commit the crime, police are currently unsure as to just how grave the threat was.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.