James P. Wickstrom, the white supremacist leader whose presence in the community stirred controversy earlier this year, has returned to living in the Hampton Township area.
The Marquiss Quality Furniture store, 644 W. Center Road in Hampton Township, had been Wickstrom’s home base for more than two years. At the time, he said he was living in the Essexville area.
Wickstrom returned to town about three months ago, and is now living in Hampton Township, law enforcement officials said.
The Times has been unable to reach Wickstrom for comment. Mary Marquiss, who owns the furniture store with her husband, LeRoy, declined comment on Tuesday.
Special Agent Walt Reynolds, regional director for the FBI in Bay City, said that while Wickstrom’s presence here concerned many residents and church leaders earlier this year, people shouldn’t be alarmed that he’s back.
“To some, it may be a concern,” he said. “I just caution (people) not to jump to conclusions. We’ve got nothing to tell us that he or anyone else (with his group) is involved in anything that may be a threat to anything or anybody.”
The concerns earlier this year culminated in a meeting with law-enforcement officials at a Jewish synagogue on Center Avenue in Bay City, an interfaith service attended by 500 people at a Baptist church near the furniture store, and a unity picnic in a Bay City park.
Wickstrom reportedly had been traveling back and forth from Tennessee to hold meetings at the Hampton Township store earlier this year, with as many as 180 people in attendance.
Reynolds said he’s not sure why Wickstrom has relocated to the area. Wickstrom has said preaching is his main source of income. He sells tapes and books and also takes donations.
The Christian Identity doctrine advocates the murder of Jewish people. Wickstrom has been called one of the most virulent racists in the country by organizations that monitor hate groups. He also maintains a Web site and broadcasts an Internet radio show.
Wickstrom’s beliefs, detailed in a June 1 story in The Bay City Times, also include strong anti-government sentiments.
But Reynolds said Wickstrom called the FBI with a concern when he felt threatened about three months ago, and the matter was turned over to local authorities.
Hampton Township Police Chief Gerald Runde said Wickstrom reported Aug. 14 that natural gas pipes outside his home were “sabotaged.”
Officers looked into the report, and determined that the pipes were probably leaking due to their age, Runde said. Consumers Energy workers concurred.
“It didn’t appear that someone from the outside was trying to harm him, or at least they didn’t have any evidence,” the chief said.
Reynolds said he’s not sure how often Wickstrom has been holding meetings at the furniture store since his return.
Wickstrom and the Marquisses said earlier this year that the meetings were being held about every two weeks.
Runde said there haven’t been any complaints or trouble at the store during the last few months.