December 13, 2013

Neighbors describe terrorism suspect Terry Lee Loewen

Richard McKown woke up at 6 a.m. Friday to a street lined with police and FBI officials.

Richard McKown woke up at 6 a.m. Friday to a street lined with police and FBI officials.

It was hours later before the Wichita man found out why the serenity of his quiet block in the 3900 block of East Funston, tucked behind the Wichita Mall, was the scene of a criminal investigation.

McKown’s neighbor, Terry Lee Loewen, 58, was charged with attempting to blow up Wichita Mid-Continent Airport in a criminal complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Wichita. He faces one count of trying to use a weapon of mass destruction, one count of attempting to damage property and one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

“I can’t believe it,” McKown said. “This is a pretty close-knit neighborhood, but they kind of kept to themselves. You’d see them come and go. Sometimes they’d wave. Sometimes they wouldn’t.”

But McKown was firm – he never saw anything suspicious at the house with the unkempt front yard, with an old Jeep Wrangler and a newer-model Saturn in the driveway.

“Kinda different. Most of us, we get together like this here today – chat and find out what’s going on. We know each other,” McKown said.

That’s the picture Terry Lee Loewen’s neighbors paint of him: a quiet, unobtrusive man who didn’t take part in a relatively close-knit neighborhood.

Loewen – also known as Terry L. Lane, according to records – was born July 18, 1955, and is a registered independent according to voting records. He has one apparent brush with the law – a concealed-carry violation at the airport in 2009, police spokesman Doug Nolte said; and one civil judgment, for a medical bill in 1991.

District Attorney Marc Bennett’s office said it had no record of him. U.S. District Court and U.S. Bankruptcy Court records in Kansas show nothing for Loewen.

He is an avionics technician at Hawker Beechcraft Services and a longtime Wichitan, show records dating back to at least 1978. He has lived on Funston since 1999, according to records, but has had several other Wichita addresses.

Hawker Beechcraft Services officials confirmed Loewen’s employment Friday afternoon and said he has been suspended pending the current investigation. Company officials said they continue to work with federal authorities on the probe.

Loewen and his former wife, Sarah, divorced in 1995 in Sedgwick County District Court. The records of that case indicate the couple has one son. Sarah Loewen did not return a message seeking comment for this story.

Terry Lee Loewen and his wife, Deborah Loewen, are the listed owners of record for the house on Funston.

Liz Champaigne, who has lived on Funston for 23 years, told the same story as McKown: Loewen and the other occupants of his home were private people.

“They pretty much kept to themselves,” she said.

Two other neighbors were equally stunned Friday afternoon as they watched FBI investigators in white protective coveralls come and go from the Loewen home, as police investigators worked nearby.

“You’re kidding,” said Kyia Reed, who moved into the neighborhood with her mother, Constance, four months ago.

“We just went trick-or-treating down there a month or so ago. It’s a normal house, normal decorations. We saw him and his wife, both normal people.

The Loewen brick house is a couple of doors west of Col. Bruce Griffith Elementary School on a block of brick ranch homes, the perfect place for a quiet life, said Constance Reed.

“It’s been real quiet. Absolutely great,” the woman said. “That’s why we bought this house here four months ago.”

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