When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: John Timothy Singer

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Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.

Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.

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John Timothy Singer

In 1988, during a 13-day stand-off with police, John Timothy Singer — son of infamous fundamentalist Mormon John Singer — shot and killed Lt. Fred House from the Utah Department of Corrections. The stand-off was prompted after John Timothy’s brother-in-law detonated 50 pounds of dynamite at a Latter Day Saints meetinghouse in an attempt to “resurrect” the elder John Singer, himself killed 9 years earlier during his own stand-off with police.

After his brother-in-law detonated 50 pounds of dynamite in an attempt to "resurrect" a dead fundamentalist Mormon patriarch, John Timothy Singer shot and killed Lt. Fred House during a police stand-off. The Singer family is pictured above.
After his brother-in-law detonated 50 pounds of dynamite in an attempt to “resurrect” a dead fundamentalist Mormon patriarch, John Timothy Singer shot and killed Lt. Fred House during a police stand-off. The Singer family is pictured above.

John Timothy Singer is the son of John and Vickie Singer. (Son will hereafter be referred to as “John Timothy,” father as simply “John.”) His grandfather, John’s father, was a Nazi who served in the Schutzstaffel (SS). John himself served in the Hitler Youth at the age of 10. John eventually moved to the U.S. (where he was originally born) and married Vicki. They were both Mormons who raised John Timothy along with 6 other siblings on a 2.5-acre farm and compound in Marion, Utah. In 1970 John was excommunicated from the Latter Day Saints Church due to his advocacy of polygamy. He continued his advocacy for years and in 1979 took a second wife, Shirley Black, who was still married to another man with her own 4 children.

In 1973 John and Vickie withdrew all their children, including John Timothy, from public school in order to homeschool them. Homeschooling was necessary for “shielding the children from a system tainted by sexual promiscuity, drug abuse and racial mixing.” While the decision to homeschool created tensions between the Singer family and the local school board, the Singers were allowed to homeschool for several years. In 1979, however, custody of John Timothy and the other children were withdrawn from John and Vickie after they were found guilty of child neglect and abuse. Vicki, however, blamed the verdict on “state authorities and church officials who were angry at [John’s] practice of polygamy and refusal to send his children to public schools.” After he refused to give up custody, police came to his compound to arrest him. Refusing to surrender, John drew a gun and officers proceeded to shoot and kill him.

The death of their patriarch greatly impacted the rest of the Singer clan, including John Timothy and his brother-in-law, Addam Swapp, who married two of John Timothy’s sisters. On January 16, 1988, 9 years after the stand-off between their patriarch and authorities, Addam said he “received a divine revelation” and decided he could resurrect the patriarchy by bombing a public Latter Day Saint building. After doing so with 50 pounds of dynamite, Addam and “14 other members of his extended family” — including John Timothy — holed up in their compound, in a bizarre repetition of the 1979 incident. Police surrounded the compound once again, and the stand-off ended when John Timothy, while wheelchair-bound, “fired a rifle as Lt. Fred House and another corrections officer prepared to release police dogs on the property.” John Timothy fired a total of 10 rounds, and Lt. House was struck and died.

In September 1988, John Timothy was charged with murdering a police officer and was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 5 years of probation. He expressed remorse for killing Lt. House but defended his actions. During his trial, his defense counsel described him as “someone living one hundred years ago in terms of his background and education” due to his “intensely religious background” and being “confined at home.”  Numerous other members of the Singer family were also charged and sentenced after the stand-off. John Timothy was released from prison in 2006 and returned to Utah to serve parole.

View the case index here.

When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Angela Shannon

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Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.

Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.

*****

Angela Shannon

In 1993, 19-year-old Angela Shannon hand-wrote a death threat to George Woodward, a Milwaukee doctor who performed abortions. The threat of violence might not have been newsworthy in itself, except that Angela is the daughter of Shelley Shannon, the anti-abortion domestic terrorist from Grants Pass, Oregon who shot George Tiller in both arms outside his abortion clinic that same year.

Angela Shannon is the daughter of Shelley Shannon (pictured above), the anti-abortion domestic terrorist from Grants Pass, Oregon who shot George Tiller in both arms outside his abortion clinic.
Angela Shannon is the daughter of Shelley Shannon (pictured above), the anti-abortion domestic terrorist from Grants Pass, Oregon who shot George Tiller in both arms outside his abortion clinic.

Angela was born in 1974 to Rachelle Ranae “Shelley” Shannon in Washington state. Her birth father was married to another woman and Shelley married another man, David Shannon, later that year. In 1980 the Shannon family moved to Klamath Falls, Oregon. Angela’s mother Shelley was a “Christian wife and homeschooling mother,” and Angela and her later siblings were all homeschooled by Shelley. Shelley was introduced in 1988 to anti-abortion material from Last Days Ministries, a Christian commune in Texas that advocates “militancy against abortion” and uses a “language of violence” in their activism materials. Inspired by an Operation Rescue video at the first Right to Life meeting she attended, Shelley became a regular at clinic blockages across the U.S. By 1991 she began to “discuss violent action with other radical thinkers.” She edited a manual for Army of God, a network of Christian anti-abortion terrorists, and started corresponding with imprisoned terrorists. (Army of God claimed responsibility for several terrorist attacks in the 90’s perpetrated by Eric Robert Rudolph, himself a homeschooler.) Shelley considered Michael Griffin, who murdered abortion doctor David Gunn, to be “the awesomest, greatest hero of our time.”

In April of 1992, Shelley began committing acts of arson against abortion clinics in Oregon. Her first target was the Catalina Medical Center in Ashland, Oregon. During her acts of arson, Shelley often brought Angela along as an accomplice. Indeed, by the age of 18 Angela had become “a fellow anti-abortionist as well as a daughter,” who “would faithfully convey Shelley’s sentiments and her doctrine should the need arise.” (Angela was actually first arrested at the age of 14, during a blockage and protest against the Lovejoy Surgicenter.) Mother and daughter targeted clinics in Portland and Eugene as well, and also traveled to Sacramento, California and Reno, Nevada to napalm clinics.

In February of 1993, Angela arranged to meet a friend of hers that she met during an anti-abortion event at the Sacramento airport. While they visited, Angela gave the friend a sealed envelope and asked him to mail it for her because “she did not want the letter traced to her.” Her friend did as requested, and days later the envelope was received by George Woodward, a doctor who performed abortions at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The letter, opened first by George’s wife, said that if the doctor “had not ‘stopped killing’ by March 16, 1993, the writer would ‘stalk’ him down and harm him and his family.” It concluded with the following threat: “If I hear you are still killing when I get to town I will haunt you and your wife day and night and give you no peace. If you continue, I will hunt you down like any other wild beast and kill you.”

In September 1993, police searched Angela’s apartment and discovered material indicating her guilt in the death threat. She was sentenced several years later in 1997 to 4 years in prison. 2 years later Angela’s mother Shelley was also sentenced to 20 years in prison, declared by a judge to be “a terrorist for firebomb attacks on women’s clinics in three states.” Shelley was already serving a sentence from 1993 for shooting George Tiller.

View the case index here.

When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Eric Robert Rudolph

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Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.

Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.

*****

Eric Robert Rudolph

Eric Robert Rudolph is known today as “the Olympic Park Bomber” and a terrorist. Responsible for a string of anti-abortion and anti-gay bombings across the U.S. from 1996 to 1998, he is serving a life sentence at the ADX Florence supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft called Eric Robert Rudolph "the most notorious American fugitive on the FBI's 'Most Wanted' list."
Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft called Eric Robert Rudolph “the most notorious American fugitive on the FBI’s ‘Most Wanted’ list.”

Eric was born on September 19, 1966. His mother and father (who died in 1981) had extreme beliefs “ranging from hatred of Social Security numbers to a naïve faith in the curing powers of laetrile.” After her husband died in 1981, Eric’s mother Patricia moved herself, Eric, and Eric’s five siblings to Topton, North Carolina. In Topton, his mother — and subsequently Eric — became immersed in the Christian Identity movement, which is “a virulently anti-Semitic ‘religious’ sect that preaches that Jews are descended from Satan and that God made non-whites inferior to whites.” Followers are “fiercely opposed to race-mixing, abortion and homosexuality.” They also are “taught to shun birth certificates, Social Security numbers and marriage licenses,” and have “a taboo on antibiotics.”

A year after moving to North Carolina, Patricia and Eric traveled to Missouri and stayed for several months in a Christian Identity compound. Patricia spent time with Nord Davis, an Identity advocate who “advocated killing gays and those who engaged in mixed-race relationships.” She homeschooled Eric and his siblings except for one year when he attended ninth grade at Nantahala School. (During that one year attending school, he “wrote a class paper denying the Holocaust ever happened.”) In fact, Patricia said that she “was drawn to the [Christian Identity] group by the promise of home schooling.” She reportedly used homeschooling to “drill her brand of idealism and independence into her offspring with a vengeance,” teaching that “the government was  a threat to society” and her ideas about God had a “racist slant” with “overtones of the KKK and Nazis.”

After receiving a general equivalency diploma for high school, Eric briefly attended Western Carolina University. He dropped out after two semesters, though, and then enlisted in the Army in August 1987. After 1 1/2 years in the Army, he was discharged “for smoking marijuana.”

In the time between being discharged from the Army and his string of bombings, Eric grew “increasingly paranoid” about the government and society. Then on July 27, 1996, Eric detonated a bomb during the 1996 Summer Olympics at the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. The blast killed 1 person and wounded 111 others. His reason for doing so, he wrote, was “to confound, anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand.”

A year later, on July 16, 1997, Eric also bombed an abortion clinic in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs, injuring 50 people. A mere month later, on February 21, 1997,  he bombed the Otherside Lounge, a lesbian bar in Atlanta, and injured 5 more people. His last attack was one year later on January 29, 1998, when he bombed an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, killing a police officer and critically injuring a nurse.

From 1998 until 2003, Eric became a fugitive, “hiding in the Nantahala National Forest of western North Carolina.” During those 5 years, Eric was featured on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. At the time of his capture on May 31, 2003 in Murphy, North Carolina, Eric was “the nation’s most wanted domestic terrorist.” In fact, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft called him “the most notorious American fugitive on the FBI’s ‘Most Wanted’ list.”

Eric was finally captured in May of 2003 in North Carolina when a police officer “spotted Rudolph at about 4 a.m. behind a Save-a-Lot grocery store during a routine patrol.” In April 2005, Eric revealed his motives for all the attacks. After pleading guilty to the attacks, he issued an 11-page statement blaming them on “the legalization of abortion and ‘aberrant sexual behavior.'” Abortion and homosexuality, he explained, were to be met with “force if necessary.” He also said he had no regrets or remorse over the deaths he caused. In August 2005, Eric was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

View the case index here.