CLAYTON, Mich. — This tiny village was to be ground zero for a Christian revolution sparked by the planned killing of a local law officer that would snowball into a violent battle and nationwide rebellion, according to a federal indictment unsealed yesterday against nine people accused of plotting the violence.
The Lenawee County village of a few hundred homes, about 50 miles northwest of Toledo, appears to be the base for the militia group known as the Hutaree.
The Christian-based, anti-government group is said to believe that the end times of biblical scripture are near and that the men planned to be soldiers fighting alongside Jesus Christ.
Clayton resident Dick Ream, 67, described seeing the group — of about a dozen people — around town each month.
“They had a militia meeting every month. There were guys in uniforms running around. Some of them had guns,” he said. “It was no real surprise, with all these people being part of the militia, that something must have been up.”
Indicted were David Brian Stone, Sr., 45, his wife, Tina Mae Stone, 44, his son, Joshua Matthew Stone, 21, all of Clayton, and his other son, David Brian Stone, Jr., 19, of Adrian; Joshua John Clough, 28, of Blissfield; Michael David Meeks, 40, of Manchester, Mich.; Thomas William Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind.; Kristopher T. Sickles, 27, of Sandusky, and Jacob J. Ward, 33, of Huron, Ohio.
All of the suspects were in custody yesterday, with the ninth — Joshua Stone — arrested after he surrendered without incident around 8:15 p.m. to law enforcement agents in Wheatland Township, Michigan, just outside Hillsdale, and about 20 miles from Clayton.
FBI spokesman Sandra Berchtold said he was questioned and was to be transferred to the Wayne County jail.
The charges include seditious conspiracy — plotting to levy war against the United States — possessing a firearm during a crime of violence, teaching the use of explosives, and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction — homemade bombs.
Brittany Bryant, 18, the fiancee of David Stone, Jr., and mother of his 6-month-old son, said he and others were arrested Saturday night at a visitation service for a deceased friend in Ann Arbor.
She said the home in Adrian that she shares with David Stone, Jr., was raided by FBI agents about 8 p.m. Saturday, when he was at the memorial service.
She said agents confiscated her cell phone, computer, and Bible during the search.
She said her fiance called her about 11:30 p.m. Saturday from the Wayne County jail after he was arrested.
“He told me that he was sorry,” she said.
The home of David Brian Stone, the purported leader of the Hutaree militia, is in rural Clayton, Mich. Charges against the group include attempting to use homemade bombs.
She said that David Stone, Sr., was the leader of the Hutaree militia and her fiance wasn't involved in the alleged plot.
Ms. Bryant attended a hearing in U.S. District Court in Detroit yesterday with her fiance's mother, Donna Stone.
Donna Stone and David Stone, Sr., were divorced in 2006.
Ms. Stone obtained a personal protection order against him in Lenawee County Circuit Court in September, 2000, after, she said, he had kicked her out of the Dover Township home.
According to court records, she said he was standing in the front yard holding a gun when she went there to remove her son from the house.
Kristopher Sickles' wife, Kelly, said she was mentally exhausted by the arrest of her husband and that she would not talk about details of the case.
She said the couple are raising 4-year-old and 8-month-old children. She and her oldest child have been traumatized by the arrest and media attention, Ms. Sickles said.
“My 4-year-old had to be removed from the home,” she said yesterday afternoon. “I can't keep replaying this stuff in my head. I'm mentally exhausted. I'm still sitting here in my pajamas, and I haven't even taken a shower yet today.”
The Hutaree's doctrine online alludes to the end of the world: “When the time comes for those without enough faith, they will fall to the antiChrist's doctrine. And it will make perfect sense to the whole world; even the elect.”
Hutaree says on its Web site that its name means “Christian warrior” and describes the word as part of a secret language few are privileged to know.
An online video depicts men armed with rifles dressed in camouflage and an arm patch with the Hutaree insignia of a red and brown cross flanked by diagonal brown stripes. The gunmen practice shooting from behind a car and practice military maneuvers in a wooded area.
Biblical references to the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ and an apocalyptic “end of days” battle against the antiChrist appear frequently on the group's Web site.
Seven of the nine suspects appeared in Detroit yesterday morning before Magistrate Donald Scheer. All seven were being held without bond.
A hearing to determine whether bond should be set for all of the defendants was set for 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The other two suspects were in custody late last night.
Seven of the defendants asked to be represented by public defenders. The eighth had a public defender appointed in Indiana.
2 area counties
The FBI's Ms. Berchtold said the arrests and searches related to the indictment were carried out in Lenawee and Washtenaw counties.
She refused to comment on the relationship between the eight men and one woman — or whether any of them were arrested at a funeral home.
“I can't confirm of deny the events of the arrests,” she said. “There were search warrants served in both counties. I cannot be specific which was done where.”
The indictment states the men trained with automatic weapons in the Clayton area for a year, planning to eventually kill a law enforcement officer and then attack and bomb that officer's funeral, where there was certain to be legions of law enforcement attending, said the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Their plan then called for the group to retreat — possibly to Clayton — for a battle they hoped would prompt sympathy and wider revolution.
The federal indictment states the purported leader, David Brian Stone, Sr., known to his followers as “Captain Hutaree,” was trying to join forces with a militia group in Kentucky and had planned to travel there. He also was trying to find someone who could make IEDs, (improvised explosive devices), similar to the roadside bombs used by insurgents in Iraq.
The group gathered in Clayton on or around Feb. 20 to train for the battle. The indictment states the men were all armed at the training.
Some members of other militia groups distanced themselves from the Hutaree organization.
Lee Miracle, coordinator of the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, said none of that group's members was arrested.
“It had nothing to do with our group and nothing to do with the bulk of the militia groups here in the state,” he said.
On its Web site, lenaweemilitia.com, the organization posted a notice yesterday stating it had “not been raided by the FBI. We do nothing illegal.”
In Clayton, outside Sand Creek High School, 45-year-old graduate Rhonda North sat in her car and read a printout of the 12-page indictment about her classmate, the accused leader of the group. She was there waiting to pick up her daughter.
She remembered Mr. Stone, Sr., as someone who had a keen interest in guns and hunting, which is a popular sport in the area.
“He was way big on guns ... but as far as this here, I'd have never thought it,” she said, pointing at the printout.
She said he wasn't motivated in school and was just “doing what you have to do to get by.”
No one answered the door at the Stone residence in rural Clayton yesterday. Three battered trailers stood on the property, with broken furniture, garden tools, and children's toys strewn across the muddy yard.
There were three dogs tethered outside and what looked like a plastic air gun propped up against an old washing machine. Two sets of windchimes strung up on a bare tree clanged eerily in the breeze.
The property is listed as being owned by David Stone Sr.'s father, Ray Stone, and is up to date on property taxes, records show.
The Stones' Tomer Road residence in Dover Township was the scene of a tragic drowning in April, 1998.
Darrin Christopher Michael Hayes, who was two weeks from his 3rd birthday, and Qamar Tariq Griffin-Jones, 18 months, died after they fell into a water-filled pit that had been dug for a septic system being installed on David Stone's property.
Darrin was the son of Geraldine Stone, who was living next door at the home of her husband, Ray Stone. Ms. Stone was the grandmother of Qamar.
Ms. Stone had pulled the boys from the watery pit and attempted to revive them by using both hands to pump on each boy's chest. She and Ray Stone were divorced at the time, but she said he put her up at his place after she lost her job.
“He was always willing to help someone who needed a helping hand,” she said.
‘A nervous wreck'
Ms. Stone said in an interview yesterday that she called Ray Stone after learning about the raids and arrests, and the only information he has about his son and grandsons was given to him by FBI agents.
“He's just a nervous wreck. He is worried about all of them,” she said.
Ms. Stone said she moved from the Dover Township property after the deaths of her son and grandson and has only visited the place once in the last 12 years.
She said she recalled that David Stone, Sr., spoke strongly about gun rights and that sometimes he talked about the militia, but “nothing of that stuff,” referring to the indictment alleging a plot to carry out crimes against the government.
In addition to David Stone, Jr., and Joshua Stone, David Stone, Sr., is the father of two other grown children.
He and the former Deanna Stone, who were married in 1985, are the parents of Joshua Stone, as well as Daniel Stone, 23, and Steffanie Stone, 18.
According to court records, Joshua Stone lived with his father after the couple divorced in 1993, and the other children lived with their mother in Missouri.
Staff writer Claudia Boyd-Barrett contributed to this report.
Contact Mark Reiter at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6199.