PITTSBURGH -- An escaped convict who once said he was on a mission from God to kill abortion doctors has dodged police for more than three months and federal agents worry he may become a folk hero to fringe groups.
Clayton Lee Waagner, 44, who is on the U.S. Marshal's Service 15 Most Wanted List, has been profiled four times on "America's Most Wanted" television show but his improbable escapes, uncanny timing and luck have enabled him to avoid capture.
The National Abortion Federation has warned health clinics and abortion providers to be on their guard. The U.S Marshals Service has assigned several agents to track Waagner full time.
"He is probably one of the smartest fugitives we have ever tracked and undoubtedly the luckiest," said Deputy U.S. Marshal Bruce Harmening.
Waagner is one of several high profile anti-abortion extremists who have left abortion providers shaken.
James Charles Kopp was captured March 29 in France after a two-year manhunt. Kopp has been charged with the 1998 killing of Dr. Bernard Slepian, a Buffalo, N.Y., obstetrician who performed abortions. Kopp faces life in prison in America.
Abortion providers believe they may also have reason to fear Waagner, who previously testified that he has staked out at least 100 clinics in 19 states.
"Waagner doesn't have anything to lose at this point. He could go into hiding or he could finish what he's planned to do all along," said Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation.
Waagner escaped from the Dewitt County Correctional Center in Clinton, Ill., on Feb. 22 where he was being held on a federal weapons conviction.
Sheriff Roger Massey said Waagner used a plastic comb to spring the lock on a plumbing maintenance door, went to the attic and escaped through a roof drain. He wriggled out through a 17 1/2-inch hole, walked to the nearby parking lot of a sandwich shop, hot-wired a truck and drove away.
"Every police cruiser in central Illinois was on the road and looking for one truck, one man," Harmening said. "The odds of someone avoiding that kind of pressure boggles the mind. We have no theories."
While in jail, Waagner corresponded with several individuals and groups that advocate stopping abortion by any means.
The Rev. Donald Spitz, a Pentecostal minister who now heads Pro-Life Virginia, was one of several people in contact with Waagner.
"There is little doubt in my mind that God opened the door for Clayton Waagner so he could complete his mission," Spitz said.
Waagner is originally from Kennerdell, about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh, and is described as having long brown hair with gray streaks, a mustache and blue eyes.
Little is known about his whereabouts since February although some believe he may have returned to his old stomping grounds in western Pennsylvania and the Allegheny National Forest.
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