The Duncan Banner

Local News

October 9, 2012

Motel workers talk about church bomb plot arrest

MIAMI — A bright green duffel bag caught maintenance worker Ralph Smith’s eye as he emptied trash in a bin at motel just off a major interstate in northeast Oklahoma.

Curious, he unzipped it. Inside were a pile of brown bottles with cloth wicks attached by duct tape. Then he noticed an empty gas can in the bin, and a co-worker remembered seeing a motel guest with it two days earlier.

They quickly reported their observations to police, leading to the arrest of a 23-year-old Illinois man who authorities say planned to attack dozens of churches with Molotov cocktails. Gregory Arthur Weiler II, 23, of Elk Grove Village, Ill., has been charged with threatening to use an explosive or incendiary device and violating the Oklahoma Antiterrorism Act.

“I don’t feel like I’m a hero or anything like that,” Smith told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “We were doing it because we want the public to know people can stay here and this is not a bad place.”

Maintenance worker Steve Ballenger said he saw Weiler with the gas can two days earlier and Weiler explained that he had run out of gas in his car.

After Smith discovered the gas can and bag in the trash bin on Thursday, the two pretended to be cleaning and went into Weiler’s room. There, they found more duct tape, nylon and other items.

Motel owner Ishver Patel said he considers it “lucky” that Weiler was caught.

“He might have blown up here and innocent people get hurt,” Patel said.

Police said in an affidavit that along with bomb-making materials, they found pieces of paper in Weiler’s room that when assembled, contained directions for making Molotov cocktails, a list of 48 local churches and an outline of a plan to plant bombs at the churches.

Weiler, who is being held without bail, has applied for a court-appointed attorney.

His cousin, Johnny Meyers, has said that Weiler has struggled with mental illness but is fine when he takes his medication. Meyers said relatives believe Weiler may have stopped taking his medication before his arrest.

Ministers and others at churches in Miami said they were surprised by the arrest and didn’t know why he focused on their town.

“The only thing I can think of is this is the Bible belt,” said Carrol Thompson, the secretary at Immanuel Baptist Church, referring to the region’s reputation for having many churches.

Others expressed sympathy for Weiler, who was raised by Meyers’ family after his parents committed suicide.

“Whatever bad experience he had, we don’t look at him any different than anybody who needs Jesus in their lives,” said Rev. Raymond Frizzelle, of First Assembly of God, which sits across the road from the motel.

At nearby First Christian Church, associate minister Gary Reed said his first reaction was disbelief, followed by compassion for Weiler.

“We pray for him and our heart goes out to somebody that’s feeling very disenfranchised and has a lot of anger and resentment toward the church and our faith tells us we have to have compassion,” Reed said.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Bench found competent, trial to start Monday

    A jury took 50 minutes on Thursday to find Miles Sterling Bench competent to stand trial for first-degree murder  and District Judge Joe Enos scheduled the trial to begin Monday.
    Bench, 23, of, Velma, is accused of the bludgeoning death of 16-year-old Braylee Henry of Velma. She was killed in June 2012 in the Teepee Totem convenience store in Velma where Bench was employed.

    April 18, 2014

  • 4-18 Miller and Decathlon 0016.jpg Miller pumps up decathlon students

    Dr. Ché Miller, who helped bridge a funding gap needed to send the Duncan High School Decathlon Team to the national competition in Hawaii, gave the team a pep talk on Thursday.
    Miller, recently recognized as the Man of the Year by the Duncan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told the students they are about to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and advised them to absorb as much of the experience as they can.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Churches prepare for Easter Sunday

    Churches throughout Duncan and Stephens County are preparing to celebrate Easter this Sunday, the day Christians celebrate the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven.
    Today is known as Good Friday to mark the day Christ was crucified on a cross.

    April 18, 2014

  • 4-18 lauren-ellis mug.jpg Ellis named new CEO of regional United Way

    Lauren Ellis, who’s led the United Way of Stephens County for more than two years, has been named the new chief executive officer of the United Way of Southwest Oklahoma.
    Her new job will be based in Lawton but Ellis said she will remain in Duncan and commute.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jurors to decide Bench competency issue today

    Jurors will hear final arguments on Thursday and then be asked to determine whether  23-year-old Miles Sterling Bench is mentally competent to stand trial for first-degree murder in the bludgeoning death of 16-year-old Braylee Henry nearly two years ago.

    April 17, 2014

  • 4-17 Decathlon Team1 0127.jpg DHS Decathlon Teams prepares

    Not every high school student gets an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii. But that’s exactly what’s happening with the 10 team members of the Duncan High School Decathlon Team.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Baseball tourney to be held in Wiles' memory

    The Duncan Middle School baseball team will hold a tournament in memory of the late Alyssa Wiles.

    April 17, 2014

  • Corporon memorial planned for Friday in Marlow

    A candlelight vigil for Dr. William Corporon and his grandson Reat Underwood will be held at Marlow High School at 8 p.m. Friday.

    April 17, 2014

  • Gay recuses himself from Morales trial

    Associate District Judge Dennis Gay on Wednesday disqualified himself from the trial of Dr. Oscar Morales Jr.

    April 17, 2014

  • Psychologists disagree on Bench’s mental competency

    Two psychologists on Tuesday offered differing opinions  about the mental competency of Miles Sterling Bench to stand trial for first-degree murder in the 2012 death of Braylee Henry.
    Bench, dressed in a dark blue suit, sat through a second day of court proceedings that will determine if the case against him goes to trial. The state is seeking the death penalty.

    April 16, 2014