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Civil settlement in FEAR militia murders
Families: Army should have stopped tragedy
Tiffany York
Tiffany York was 17 years old and living in Midway when her life was cut short because she was with her boyfriend at the wrong time. - photo by File photo

The string of criminal and civil legal cases that began in December 2011 with the discovery of two murder victims in Long County and resulted in the exposure of a militia group among soldiers on Fort Stewart is coming to an end with a $4 million settlement to be paid by the government to the parents of the two victims.

The families of former Pvt. Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York, will receive $1.7 million and $2.3 million, respectively. The two were executed by an anti-government paramilitary group founded by former Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, who is serving a life sentence for ordering the killing, as well as the murder of his pregnant wife earlier that year.

The parents’ civil suit alleged negligence by the Army and asked for $30 million for the wrongful deaths.

The settlement was the result of arbitration in lieu of the suits that had been filed in Washington state. It was announced Jan. 25.

Roark, just discharged from the Army, and his girlfriend York were shot in Long County on Dec. 5, 2011 by four soldiers who were members of the FEAR (Forever Enduring, Always Ready) militia led by Aguigui. Militia members reportedly thought Roark knew too much about the group and would be out of their control after leaving the military. York reportedly was killed because she accompanied her boyfriend when he was targeted.

The parents’ claim charged that the Army is guilty of "numerous negligent actions and omissions which directly and foreseeably caused the deaths ...

"The four murderers were part of a terrorist conspiracy called FEAR … which had been formed and fostered within the Army’s ranks at Fort Stewart."

According to the claim, the Army was negligent in its hiring and retention of soldiers who made up the known membership of the terrorist conspiracy, including but not limited to the four who were present for the murders of Roark and York.

The four murderers all had troubled histories that included petty crimes and violent threats. For example, Sgt. Anthony Peden was sent home from Iraq in August 2010 after threatening to shoot a fellow soldier. Once back at Fort Stewart, he aimed a loaded rifle at his wife, according to one of at least three complaints she filed with the police. Also, Pvt. Christopher Salmon was demoted from specialist in August 2011 for reasons not made public.

In the year before Salmon’s 2006 enlistment, he was charged with 12 misdemeanors, according to the documents filed under the Federal Tort Claim Act.

Aguigui helped finance FEAR by collecting approximately $500,000 in benefits after the death of his wife, Sgt. Deidre Aguigui, in the middle of 2011.

The group’s ultimate goal, according to investigators and testimony at earlier criminal trials, was to bring down the U.S. government. Plans ranged from poisoning apple orchards in Washington state to assassinating government officials in Washington, D.C.

The claim filed by the D.C., law firm of Clinton, Brook and Peed said evidence was clear that Aguigui had murdered his wife: "Despite the wealth of incriminating evidence, the Army negligently failed even to classify Sgt. Deidre Aguigui’s death as a homicide, much less arrest and prosecute Pvt. Isaac Aguigui for her murder until April 3, 2013, almost two years later."

The court filing called it incredible that Aguigui was not arrested sooner, and that the arrest and court martial were long delayed even though the Army had or could have had criminal evidence well before the two teens were murdered.

Attorney Brian Brook wrote, "By wrongfully keeping Pvt. Isaac Aguigui on active duty stationed at Fort Stewart, the Army provided him with the means and opportunity to build FEAR into a bona fide terrorist gang/militia, enabling him to recruit members, build an arsenal, plot terrorist attacks.

"Aguigui’s stockpiling of weapons was brought to the attention of the Army and other federal agencies obligated to share information with the Army in or about November 2011.

"Despite the Army’s open investigation into Sgt. Deidre Aguigui’s death and the existence of non-discretionary rules, regulations, and moral imperatives which required Army personnel to investigate and put a stop to Pvt. Aguigui and FEAR, the Army failed to conduct any reasonably adequate investigation and/or failed to act reasonably based on the substantial amount of information already known or available at the time.

"A conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism was hatched and negligently permitted to fester within the ranks of the United States Army," Brook’s memorandum of claims said. The attorneys for Roark’s and York’s families note that the Army likely has additional information supporting the wrongful death claims that has not been disclosed.

The Army has not made any public response to the families’ claims; it normally does not comment on matters being litigated. Questions were referred to the Department of Justice, which has not commented.

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