HINESVILLE, Ga. — Confession upon confession, guilty plea upon guilty plea, the state of Georgia has methodically built its case against FEAR.
And what a strange case it has been.
Since teenage sweethearts Tiffany York and Michael Roark were found shot to death in a knot of woods near the Fort Stewart Army base here a few weeks before Christmas 2011, 11 people — mostly active-duty and recently discharged soldiers — have been arrested. There have been six guilty pleas to every aspect of the gang’s short but violent existence: murder, burglary, drugs, destroying evidence.
There was the guilty plea of Christopher “Jelly” Jenderseck, an Army medic, who built a roaring bonfire the night after the murders. The gang used the flames to consume evidence, including clothes splattered with blood and brain matter. Jenderseck pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and like everyone else agreed to testify against his former comrades.
There was Timothy Joiner, a recently returned Iraq war veteran and “proud Republican,” as he told The Associated Press before his arrest.
And there was Randall Blake Dearman, Joiner’s civilian partner in crime. Together they broke into houses and cars, stealing guns, television sets, tools, first aid supplies, a GPS device, a military Kevlar vest and a motorcycle helmet.
They did it with the hope of raising enough money to bail Dearman’s older brother, Adam, out of jail in northern Georgia, where he was being held for a near-fatal shooting. The elder Dearman is an alleged leader of FEAR but had nothing to do with the murder of the teenagers.
In Iraq, Joiner had been a prison interrogator. Now he was on the other side of the grilling. Isabel Pauley, the prosecutor, told the judge, Robert L. Russell III, that this was Joiner’s first offense.
“Well, all I can say” Russell said, “is you made up for lost time, I guess, Mr. Joiner, to do 30, 33 major felonies in a couple of days.”
And there was Jeff Roberts, who essentially pleaded guilty to being the personal drug dealer for FEAR. He told the FBI that he provided the gang $10,000 to $15,000 worth of cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy in a three- to four-week period not long before the killing in the woods.
He later feared the gang was going to kill him.
“I’m just regretful that I met these people,” Roberts told the court. “And I’m going to suffer for it for the rest of my life.”
The plea parade began with Pfc. Michael Burnett. He is one of the four active-duty soldiers arrested and charged with the murder of York, 17, and Roark, 19, a recently discharged soldier who served with the men at Fort Stewart.
In shackles and shame, Burnett told the court in the last days of August 2012 how sorry he was that he had gone into the woods with his three buddies and stood by while the two teenagers were slaughtered to keep secret, prosecutors say, FEAR’s delusional, megalomaniacal plans for terror and revolution. Roark had once been part of the group.
Burnett told the judge he would have stopped the killing if he could have. Brenda Thomas, the mother of Tiffany York, and Brett Roark, the father of Michael Roark, were in the courtroom that day. The remark outraged them both. Thomas shouted out, “You could have.”
“I’m never going to have closure,” Thomas told the Intelligence Report. “And I’m never going to understand how the military allowed this to happen.”
On July 19, the gang’s ringleader, Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, became the sixth member to plead guilty. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Now there is almost nothing left to FEAR.