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Escape Artist Threatens Abortion Clinics

Escaped convict and anti-abortion zealot Clayton Lee Waagner says it isn't brains or luck that has helped him evade authorities, but divine intervention.

Escaped convict Clayton Lee Waagner, who stalked and threatened abortion clinics in 1999, says it isn't brains or luck that has let him elude a massive four-month manhunt by the U.S. Marshals service. It is, he says, divine intervention.

"My God has called me to a task," says a June Internet message that purports to be from Waagner. "It doesn't matter to me if you're a nurse, receptionist, bookkeeper or janitor, if you work for the murderous abortionist I'm going to kill you."

The message, which authorities say is probably authentic, is only the latest twist in an improbable chase. Waagner, a career criminal, was awaiting a sentence of 15 years to life for federal weapons violations he committed while stalking abortion clinics in 1999.

But after fasting for weeks to lose weight, then picking his cell door lock and wriggling through a drainage pipe only 17 inches wide, Waagner escaped on Feb. 23 from the DeWitt County, Ill., jail and stole a truck.

Since then, Waagner's stealth has astonished authorities.

"Every police cruiser in central Illinois was on the road looking for one truck — one man," said Deputy U.S. Marshal Bruce Harmening at the time. "The odds of someone avoiding that kind of pressure boggles the mind. We have no theories."

Waagner, an expert in computers, car thievery and wilderness survival, has been profiled repeatedly on "America's Most Wanted." And though he has been spotted several times since March, he has escaped on each occasion.

In Pennsylvania in May, authorities say he robbed a bank inside a shopping mall, without a mask and in full daylight.

He was smiling.

The Marshals Service believes Waagner has been in touch with a network of anti-abortion "safe houses" using calling cards, cell phones, e-mail and computer software that allows voice connections over the Internet.

His purported message explained to clinic workers why he put more 40,000 miles on stolen vehicles in the months after his escape.

"I am a terrorist. ... I didn't travel that much in a stolen car with no driver's license for the joy of travel. I traveled those miles while visiting your work place and following you home. I don't know where all of you live. But I do know where forty-two of you live."