Man pleads guilty in 'militia plot' slayings

Published: Aug. 27, 2012 at 3:11 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 9, 2012 at 1:22 AM EDT
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Tiffany York, Michael Roark
Tiffany York, Michael Roark
Salmon, Peden, Burnett, Aguigui (Source: Long Co. Sheriff's Office)
Salmon, Peden, Burnett, Aguigui (Source: Long Co. Sheriff's Office)
Heather Salmon (Source: Long Co. Sheriff's Office)
Heather Salmon (Source: Long Co. Sheriff's Office)

LONG CO., GA (WTOC) - A Fort Stewart soldier pleaded guilty Monday morning in connection with the death of a former soldier and his girlfriend.

Michael Burnett was one of four men arrested in December in connection for the slayings Michael Rourke and Tiffany York. Burnett agreed to testify against three other men, who he said carried out the murders.

Burnett pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter and other charges. Four other defendants also face charges in the case including Isaac Aguigui, Anthony Peden, Christopher Salmon and Heather Salmon, according to the District Attorney of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit Tom Durden.

As part of that plea bargain, Burnett described the group's motive in the case, which involved a domestic terrorism plot among a small group of current and former soldiers. He said slayings were part of a militia group looking to overthrow the government.

Burnett said the group called itself FEAR and planned to join other militia groups in overthrowing the federal government. Prosecutors said Burnett and other group members detailed plans to blow up the fountain in Savannah's Forsyth Park, take over Fort Stewart, assassinate several local officials and target several economic targets as well.

Burnett said Rourke was part of FEAR but was suspected of planning to leave the group after he left the U.S. Army. Burnett claimed he tried to talk group leaders out of the execution, but could not. He said he and three other group members followed Rourke and York to a remote area of Long County under the guise of target practice. Two of the men shot the couple, execution style, and the four returned to Fort Stewart.

As part of the plea agreement, Burnett agreed to testify against the three group members indicted in the murders. Local prosecutors said Monday they are working with state and federal investigators to determine the scope of FEAR. Durden said after court some suspected FEAR members had been arrested since the murder, but are not suspected in the deaths.

All of the defendants are charged with two counts of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and two counts of aggravated assault. Christopher and Heather Salmon, who are husband and wife, are also charged with one count of making a false statement.

The other three suspects are expected in court Thursday.

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