A federal grand jury has added an arson-related charge against a man accused of setting fire to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia.
The grand jury indicted 42-year-old Wesley Brian Kaster on Wednesday on two counts — using explosive material to maliciously damage federal property and malicious use of explosive materials. Both charges carry a minimum of five and a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.
The indictment replaces a single count of maliciously damaging a building owned by an organization that receives federal financial assistance, which was filed March 4 by federal prosecutors. The malicious damage to federal property is based on the clinic's receipt of federal financial support and the second charge is based on the clinic's status as participating in interstate commerce.
Kaster is represented by Troy Stabenow of the Federal Public Defender’s Office. Stabenow did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Kaster is being held in federal custody pending trial. In an order signed March 7 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Willie Epps Jr., the court found there was strong evidence against Kaster that exists and that he has a history of substance abuse and an unstable work history.
FBI affidavits and news releases suggest the fire was politically motivated, but little is known about Kaster. Most of his social media accounts have been deleted since the incident and he has no criminal history in Missouri visible to the public. The only civil filing is an uncontested divorce in 2010.
Kaster’s Linkedin page is the only social media platform where he still has a presence. It lists him as an MBA student at Columbia College. The college confirmed Kaster attended school there from January 2018 to October 2018.
The page also lists several manufacturing companies and that Kaster has skills in industrial and maintenance. The FBI affidavit states he worked as a floor supervisor in the welding shop at a Jefferson City light manufacturing facility. Investigators found a pair of cut-resistant gloves at the scene that were the same model as those used at his workplace.
Agents wrote in the affidavit that on Oct. 25, 2015, a graphic which states “Guns don’t kill people, Planned Parenthood kills people” was posted on his wife’s Facebook page. She is not being identified by the Tribune because she is not accused of a crime. Her Facebook page has been deleted.
Part of the government's evidence, according to an FBI affidavit, is a surveillance video that shows Kaster parking a 2004 Toyota minivan with a missing hubcap in the Central Missouri Community Action Agency parking lot near the clinic on Feb. 10, the night of the fire. He then moved the van to near the intersection of Grand Avenue and Sexton Road, and walked back to the CMCA lot.
When he was next seen on video 10 minutes later, Kaster was carrying what appeared to be a white bucket. He paused for a moment in the shadows and then walked to the north door of the clinic. He broke the glass door and placed the bucket inside, then threw a molotov cocktail type device inside the building, according to the FBI affidavit.
Kaster stood at the door and watched, it’s not clear how long, but fled the scene as two people walked by. After he fled, no smoke was seen coming from the building. He returned at 4 a.m. with an unknown device in hand and three minutes later, smoke was seen coming from the clinic, according to the affidavit.
The investigation focused on the minivan and the buckets found at the scene, tied to Kaster through registration records and retail receipts and video.
Federal agents arrested Kaster on March 2 as he left his workplace. When agents asked if he committed any crimes recently he said no and asked if they were referring to traffic violations. Kaster said he had nothing to confess. When agents pressed him on his whereabouts the night of the crime, he asked they be more specific.
The agents responded they weren't asking questions they did not already know the answer to and suggested Kaster did not intend to be honest. The interview then ended, according to the affidavit.
The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri because Planned Parenthood receives federal funds. The clinic, which provides a number of health services to women, has been fighting to regain its state license to provide abortions since abortions ended in October and late last month a federal judge turned down a request for an order for the state to license the clinic.