NOONDAY – Long before Timothy McVeigh bombed a federal building and Osama bin Laden leveled the World Trade Center, the government had its eye on William Krar, a cigar-chomping East Texan they feared might engage in domestic terrorism.
Described as a white supremacist and a student of militia-led revolt, Krar is scheduled to be sentenced in a federal court Tuesday after pleading guilty to possessing enough sodium cyanide to fatally gas everyone in a 30,000-square-foot building, such as a civic center or a high school basketball arena.
Federal officials say they still who [sic] first caught their attention in 1985 — intended to do with the deadly material.
For the 63-year-old Krar, his day in a Tyler courtroom caps years of suspicion by police who worried that he could be a threat to the government as he moved through several states, stockpiling guns and explosives in rental storage sheds, just as McVeigh had done.
At the same time, even as the FBI was secretly watching him, Krar was impressing casual acquaintances as someone friendly enough to share a picnic table with in the Piney Woods of East Texas.
Krar talked about food, not hate, when he routinely visited the Big Blue Store, a restaurant and gas station in Noonday, a town of 515 where the cyanide was stored in a rented shelter.
“He had nothing bad to say about America,” said store owner Bill DeLong.
Law-enforcement officers say Krar was a supplier of explosives, dangerous chemicals and high-powered guns who associated with white supremacists and militia rebels.
“If you had a McVeigh type and a Krar type come together, you might have had a very big explosion,” said assistant U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston, lead prosecutor in Krar’s case.
Similarities to McVeigh
Featherston said there is no indication that Krar and McVeigh ever crossed paths, but there were many similarities.
At the time of their arrests, both McVeigh and Krar had in their possession The Turner Diaries and Hunter, novels promoting racism, hate and reasons to attack the government.
The Turner Diaries, the government has said, was used as a blueprint by McVeigh in planning his attack on April 19, 1995, that killed 168 people, 19 of them children.
Krar’s reading materials, according to court documents, also included pamphlets titled “Firearms Silencers,” “Expedient Hand Grenades” and “Boobytraps.” And, like McVeigh, he owned The Anarchist Cookbook and The Poor Man’s James Bond.
Agents also found among Krar’s belongings a stack of calling cards that said: “You have been paid a social visit by the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Don’t make the next visit a business call.”
Krar had his mail delivered to rental postal boxes, just as McVeigh had done years earlier before he was caught, sentenced and executed for murder.
But while McVeigh was both plotter and perpetrator of a mass killing, Featherston said Krar seemed to be more of a “peripheral opportunist … more on the supply end” of weapons of mass destruction.
Krar’s defense attorney, Tonda Curry of Tyler, did not respond to repeated interview requests by the Star-Telegram. She was quoted in the Los Angeles Times in January describing her client as an eccentric whose cache of firepower and poisons were “stored as collectibles.”
Curry also told the Times that she saw nothing in Krar that “indicates there was any kind of terrorism plot or any intent to use these things against the American people or the government in any way.”
Featherston acknowledged that he has no idea what Krar planned to do with his cache of weapons, which included nine machine guns, three silencers, 67 sticks of explosives, more than 100,000 rounds of ammunition, 800 grams of near-pure sodium cyanide and the acids to turn it into poisonous gas.
But the prosecutor quickly added that he does not believe Krar was simply a collector of dangerous goods. “The majority of what Krar possessed you only possess to kill and maim human beings,” he said.
Brushes with the law
According to court records and FBI affidavits, Krar’s legal problems began in 1985 when he was arrested in New Hampshire and charged with impersonating a police officer. He did not fight the charge, opting instead to pay a fine.
Krar was under suspicion again in 1995 — the year of the Oklahoma City bombing — when his business card was found in a Tennessee home along with what federal reports say were “large amounts of bomb-making components” and a “large number of firearms and ammunition.”
That discovery, according to an FBI affidavit, placed Krar and a man identified as Sean Bottoms under police scrutiny for “serious allegations … to carry out a specific act of domestic terrorism against the United States government.”
After Bottoms failed a polygraph test concerning his statements implicating Krar in the plot, Krar was cleared of subversive acts against America — for the time being.
That same year, the affidavit said, a federal police source told authorities that “a militia member known to law enforcement for his strong and violent anti-government views had been spending a lot of time at [Krar’s] business, IDC America, in Manchester, New Hampshire.” IDC, according to court records, modified firearms and other items.
The informant also described Krar as being a “good source of covert weaponry for white supremacist and anti-government militia groups in New Hampshire.”
At about the same time, records say, Krar’s longtime companion, Judith Bruey, president of IDC, expressed to an undercover federal agent “her dissatisfaction with the United States government.”
An affidavit said Bruey told the agent that “she believed the government was restricting the flow of military surplus because it was afraid the military surplus would end up in the hands of citizens rejecting their government.”
Although no charge was brought against Krar in 1995, the government was suspicious enough to set up surveillance of his business by the FBI and agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
At one point, “agents conducting the surveillance concluded some type of organized meeting was taking place at IDC America,” an affidavit said. It added that the government was worried about the meeting because, parked outside the business, there was a “vehicle of a known militia member with strong/violent anti-government views.”
Krar once more drew investigators’ attention on Jan. 11, 2003, when he was stopped for a traffic violation in Tennessee.
In his car, rented in Tyler, police found firearms, a stun gun, 16 knives, a “smoke grenade,” a small amount of marijuana, an antidote for nerve gas, one “syringe of an unknown substance,” 40 bottles of “unknown liquid” and a vial of what was believed to be cocaine, an affidavit said.
Arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance and an unlawful weapon, Krar was allowed to post bail the next day.
But when he drove away from the Shelby County Jail, police were watching, noting that Krar went west on Interstate 40 — the opposite direction from where he told investigators he was going, New Hampshire.
Agents later learned, according to a federal report, that the white substance in Krar’s car was not cocaine.
Instead, it was sodium cyanide.
Investigators also questioned Jennifer Gionet, manager of a rental storage facility in Hooksett, N.H., where Krar and Bruey had rented two lockers.
Gionet, according to an affidavit, said that on the day of the 9-11 attacks Krar told her that “he had known the attacks … were going to happen” and that “he knew of anti-terrorist groups.”
The affidavit quoted Gionet as saying that she was afraid of Krar, accusing him of being “wicked anti-American,” and that he expressed a hatred for the government and “all of the cops.”
Despite lingering police suspicions that he was a potential danger to the public, Krar avoided long stays in jail.
In fall 2001, Krar, Bruey and a young woman leased a house on a heavily wooded 14-acre spread on the outskirts of Tyler. They obtained a postal address at a nearby Mail Boxes Etc. and rented three sheds at Noonday Storage.
Leslie Duecker, manager of the storage facility, said Krar “seemed a little strange.”
“He would always come in in jeans, black boots a T-shirt … and a big cigar in his mouth,” Duecker said.
Duecker said she assumed that Krar and Bruey were a couple and that the other woman, who appeared to be much younger than Krar, was their daughter or daughter-in-law. Duecker said she was surprised to later learn that Krar and the younger woman were romantically involved.
Krar and the two women were regular customers at the Big Blue Store.
Of the three, Krar was the big talker and “he never came in with anybody except that girl,” store owner DeLong said. During one visit, he said, Krar talked about losing $3 million in a bad investment but said he was “going to build some houses in Colorado and get his money back.”
While some whispered about the romantic relationship between two people so different in age, no one turned their heads when Bruey, always alone, entered the store, said DeLong’s son, Billy.
He said Bruey was unassuming and stuck to a routine. “She came in three or four times a week to get a hamburger — same kind, ketchup and onions,” Billy DeLong remembered.
At their home, they mixed in nicely with their neighbors, none of whom knew that Krar and Bruey had enough firepower and poison to fell just about everyone in nearby Noonday.
“They never complained. They were pleasant,” said Dee Boula, who lived nearby.
It is not clear exactly when undercover federal agents, hidden in the thick brush of East Texas, again began to watch Krar, except that it was sometime after Jan. 24, 2002.
A package mailed by Krar on that date was mistakenly shipped to a Staten Island address. The surprised recipient called police after finding the contents to be fake identification documents, including “identification cards” for the “United Nations Multinational Force Observer” and the “Defense Intelligence Agency,” an affidavit said.
The contents, according to the record, also included a note that said: “Hope this package gets to you OK. We would hate to have this fall into the wrong hands.”
The government quickly tracked down Edward Feltus, a New Jersey man who was supposed to receive the package. Feltus, the affidavit said, told agents that he was a member of the “New Jersey Militia” and that he had arranged for Krar to make him fake ID cards so “he could use the documents to travel freely in the United States.”
On April 10, 2003, federal agents armed with search warrants entered the Noonday storage sheds and the home of Krar and Bruey. The younger woman, Krar’s girlfriend, had already moved back to her home in New Hampshire, and the government never pursued criminal charges against her.
Krar initially fought the government’s case against him. His attorney argued, unsuccessfully, that he was “mentally incompetent” to stand trial.
In November, Krar struck a deal with the government some say he never trusted.
He pleaded guilty to possessing a chemical weapon, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of the plea agreement, however, Krar is expected to receive between 13 and 20 years in prison, a federal official said.
Bruey, 55, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess illegal weapons and faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. She is expected to be sentenced at the same time as Krar.
Feltus is scheduled to be sentenced on May 24 after pleading guilty to helping in the transportation of false identification documents. He faces a possible 15-year prison term and $250,000 fine.
The prosecutor, Featherston, did not rule out the possibility of more arrests in the case. “The investigation continues. Every name and clue that comes in will be checked out,” he said.
Featherston added that the main question in the case remains: “Where was this stuff going?”