Extremist's Son Found Guilty of Murders

Extremist Crimes

The senselessness of the February 2007 home invasion murders of Tracy Kruger and his 13-year-old son Alec shocked the residents of Waseca County, Minn.

The killer, Michael S. Zabawa, then 24, broke into the victims' home after he drunkenly crashed his truck into a nearby ditch, and then used their SUV in a failed attempt to pull his vehicle back on the road. According to prosecutors, Zabawa, who did not know the Kruger family, killed Alec and Tracy Kruger with shotgun blasts, and shot and critically wounded Hilary Kruger, the wife and mother of the slain, simply because he didn't want to get in trouble for using their SUV without permission.

A jury convicted Zabawa of murder and attempted murder March 13.

Zabawa's employer, a local hog farmer, told the media the cold-blooded killer had seemed like a good guy. "You just can't explain why a good person does evil things," he said.

Perhaps not. But anyone trying to better understand how Zabawa could have such callous disregard for human life would do well to consider the influence of his father, Donald Zabawa, who in the 1980s and 1990s was a highly active member of violently anti-Semitic and antigovernment organizations including the Posse Comitatus.

A former prison guard from Minnesota, the elder Zabawa was arrested in the mid-1980s for attacking a GI with nunchuck sticks. He later served time for shooting up a police car. In May 1984, Zabawa told FBI agents that he'd participated in mock attacks on law enforcement officers staged by The Covenant, The Sword and The Arm of the Lord, a radical-right paramilitary group in Arkansas whose members, he said, often expressed their desire to "kill cops for the cause."

During the same FBI interview, Zabawa outlined his association with the Christian Patriots Defense League, another far-right paramilitary outfit. "They have two fully automatic converted AR-15s and a couple of cases of baseball grenades," Zabawa said. "I have seen an ammo can full of booby trap mechanisms with blasting caps. [A friend] wants to kill Jews, cops, judges, lawyers and everyone who doesn't agree with him." Zabawa also boasted of his friendship with James Wickstrom, a one-time Posse associate who preaches the anti-Semitic theology of Christian Identity. "He [Wickstrom] said to arm myself and prepare for the war between the Posse and the system," Zabawa told the FBI. "He said the movement is going to overthrow the government by force."

Michael Zabawa was just a toddler back then. His trouble with the law started in 2001, at age 18, when he was charged with shoplifting. That was followed by a couple of drunken-driving arrests and a 2004 conviction for felony theft and criminal property damage. Then came the Kruger murders.

When Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Jon Tevlin informed a former sheriff in Kansas who once arrested the elder Zabawa that Donald Zabawa's son had been arrested for murder, the sheriff said, "I'm not surprised one bit."

Donald Zabawa wasn't around to see how his son turned out. He choked to death on his own booze-soaked vomit in 1998, when Michael was 15.