E-mail about cop-killing led to arrest (indymedia.org connection)
A person with connections to indymedia.org just got busted for killing a cop. An Arizona FReeper named Neil Wright, 50, said he had received an e-mail from "Mitch Stephens" at email@example.com at about 6 p.m. Friday on his home computer in Lake Havasu City and called police an hour later. FREE REPUBLIC RULES!
An Arizona man who received a "strange and mysterious" e-mail apologizing for the slaying of a Red Bluff cop launched investigators on the trail of an ex-Army private who was arrested four days later in New Hampshire.
Neil Wright, 50, said he had received an e-mail from "Mitch Stephens" at firstname.lastname@example.org at about 6 p.m. Friday on his home computer in Lake Havasu City and called police an hour later.
"We apologize to the family and friends of the Police Officer that we killed in Red Bluff, California," stated the e-mail, posted from the Capitol Hill Internet Cafe in Seattle.
The e-mail included a "Declaration of a Renewed American Independence" that is the same as an anti-government diatribe posted Monday under the name Andrew McCrae, who is charged with the ambush murder of Officer David Mobilio on Nov. 19.
More than 20 versions of the declaration -- some with an apology, some with a bragging confession -- were posted on a series left-wing "alternative news" sites from Hawaii to Maine and Georgia under the umbrella indymedia.org.
An investigator in the case, who asked not to be named, confirmed late Wednesday that Wright's tip on Friday night had started police and FBI agents on the trail of the man later identified as McCrae. The investigator also confirmed that FBI agents on Saturday had downloaded the hard drives from the Seattle cafe based on Wright's tip.
"Mr. Wright was very helpful to us in the case," the investigator said. "If you want to measure his assistance, just look at the result. We arrested that same guy."
Wright, a right-wing activist who writes for the conservative Web site freerepublic.com, said he had no idea what crime the sender was referring to when he received the message -- but felt compelled to check it out.
"The death of the police officer there in Red Bluff wasn't national news then," Wright said Wednesday night. "I had no idea what this e-mail was about.
. . . After I read some background on this case, I realized this person was confessing to an unsolved murder. I immediately called police in Red Bluff."
Investigators would reveal few other details about the investigation that led to McCrae, 23, who was found at a Holiday Inn in Concord, N.H., around 2 a. m. Tuesday. The arrest warrant for McCrae, who usually goes by the name Andrew Hampton Mickel, remains under seal in Tehama County Superior Court.
McCrae, who is jailed without bail in New Hampshire pending extradition to California, is charged in Tehama County with the murder of a police officer -- which, if he is convicted, could land him a life sentence without parole.
Red Bluff Police Chief Robert Petitt said authorities were trying to locate McCrae's car, a 1992 maroon Ford Mustang with Washington state license plate 595 NAB. It is believed that he used the car the night Mobilio was killed.
"We don't run into this kind of situation in a small town in rural America, " Petitt said. "We have tapped resources of the state criminal bureau of investigation and the federal FBI. We have a lot of work to do." Investigators said they were curious about McCrae's actions before the killing.
McCrae grew up in Springfield, Ohio, as Andrew Mickel, according to his family. His mother, Karen Mickel, said she didn't know why he was using the name McCrae.
His father, Stan Mickel, a professor of East Asian studies at Wittenberg University, said his son had attended Springfield North High School before joining the Army in 1998.
Springfield police records show that Karen Mickel reported her son missing on Oct. 28, 1997, and that he had left a runaway note and refused to take his medication for depression. The next night, she called police to say her son had been found in a nearby town.
In the Army, he was a private stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky. until his discharge in 2001. That fall, McCrae enrolled in college at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. He was arrested there in April for obstructing a sidewalk, apparently at a political protest, police said.
Stan Mickel said his son had visited Ohio in March and given no hint anything was wrong.
"This is a shock to us," he said.
Chronicle wire services contributed to this report. / E-mail Jim Zamora at email@example.com.
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