CHICAGO — By the time Gregory Weiler II was in his late teens, his family said, the Elk Grove Village, Ill., native was well down a path toward destruction.
Both his mother and father had committed suicide before he was 16, and Weiler had also tried to kill himself in the eighth grade. He had been hospitalized for mental illness at least six times. In between, he had become addicted to heroin and alcohol.
When Weiler, 23, left several years ago to join a religious group in Missouri, his family knew they’d eventually hear that he had again gotten into trouble.
It happened last week, when Weiler was arrested in Miami, Okla., for allegedly gathering materials to make 50 Molotov cocktails, with plans to bomb nearly that many local churches.
His family in Elk Grove Village expressed relief that Weiler had been caught, certain that he would have followed through with what an Oklahoma court affidavit described as a deadly terrorist plot.
“It’s a blessing in disguise that they were able to get there,” said Johnny Meyers, Weiler’s cousin. “He has to be held accountable. It’s a blessing, he can’t hurt anyone now.”
According to court documents, Weiler was arrested after police found the bomb-making equipment in a garbage can at a motel. He has been charged with violating Oklahoma’s anti-terrorism laws, a legacy of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.
Entering Weiler’s motel room, police found dozens of empty beer bottles fashioned as Molotov cocktails, along with a torn-up page that had hand-written instructions for making the bombs. The document had a hand-drawn map of 48 local churches, and plans to make more bombs, according to the affidavit.
The churches were “grouped and circled with a key detailing how many nights and how many people,” would potentially be affected, according to the affidavit. Officials said Weiler had plans to videotape the explosions. A hand-written journal discovered in his motel room laid out plans to destroy churches across the U.S. “a tiny bit at a time — setting foundation for the years to follow,” the affidavit said.
Miami Police Chief George Haralson said Weiler checked into the motel on Sept. 20 using an Illinois driver’s license with an address in Washington, Ill., just east of Peoria.
Haralson said police have not found any indication of a partner in the plot.
“To be able to fire bomb 48 churches in a week, that’s an awful lot of effort,” Haralson said. “But we’re confident that he was acting alone.”
As for why Weiler might have targeted the rural community of 15,000 people, “I couldn’t even begin to guess,” Haralson said.
Weiler is charged with threat to use explosives, incendiary device, simulated bomb to damage or injure persons or property, and a violation of the Oklahoma anti-terrorism act. He is being held without bail in Ottawa County Jail.
His aunt Joanne Meyers said she believes the latest incident is another example how mental illness has devastated their family. She and her husband, Chris, took in Weiler after his mother committed suicide in 2002 after years of depression and alcoholism, she said.
Weiler’s father suffered from alcohol and drug addiction before he killed himself in 2005.
And, a sister is hospitalized for mental illness after several suicide attempts, said Meyers.
“We just want people to understand how mental illness such as Greg’s affects our whole family,” Meyers said.
Weiler showed signs of mental illness early, she said. After graduating from Elk Grove High School, he went to Bradley University—where he skipped classes and stole money from friends and family through a pyramid scheme, Meyers said.
About three years ago, Weiler joined a church in Missouri that his family called “a cult.”
Several weeks ago, family members began reading odd missives Weiler posted on his Facebook page, which was the only way they kept in touch with him.
A Sept. 25 entry—apparently written from his motel room — referred to his childhood and focused on the Catholic Church, whose leaders he claimed are responsible for “hypocrisy, murder and deceit.”
He ends: “I have not opened a bible in a while, and I haven’t stepped foot into a church building in quite some time — and though I may be very lonely right now, I am hoping that someone, and maybe someday in the future, someone will take notice.”