Randy Weaver Living Out of the Spotlight in Iowa
GRAND JUNCTION, Iowa (AP) _ Randy Weaver’s new place doesn’t stand out _ a plain, slightly disheveled white house with tricycles and toys strewn about an otherwise neat yard.
It’s quiet and private, like the man himself.
Even when neighbors give good directions, it’s nearly indistinguishable among the others on the gravelly, quiet streets where some of the homes are in need of a new coat of paint and a once-around with a weed-eater.
But this is where Weaver is trying to build a new life as a single-father to a toddler and a teen-ager, three years after his wife and son were shot to death during a siege by federal agents of the family’s Idaho cabin.
A few blocks away, on a practically deserted Main Street, Janet Gordon sits in her ceramic knickknack shop and expresses heartfelt concern for her neighbor, the reluctant subject of debate in forums as diverse as congressional hearings and Internet news groups.
``It’s too bad that had to happen to him _ to anyone,″ Mrs. Gordon said. ``And I guess it could happen to anyone.″
In 1983, Randy and Vicki Weaver moved their family from Iowa to an Idaho mountain cabin. They were growing increasingly distrustful of the government and wanted to teach their children themselves.
Weaver _ who interpreted the Old Testament to endorse white separatism _ was indicted by a federal grand jury in December 1990 for making and selling sawed-off shotguns to an undercover informant.
Weaver did not show up for his February 1991 trial, and U.S. marshals began an 18-month surveillance of the cabin.
On Aug. 21, 1992, deputy marshals scouting land around the Weaver cabin encountered 14-year-old Samuel Weaver, his dog, and a Weaver family friend, Kevin Harris. Samuel, U.S. Deputy Marshal William Degan and the dog were shot dead during an exchange of gunfire.
The next day, Vicki Weaver, 42, was shot in the head by a federal sniper as she stood in the doorway of the cabin holding 10-month-old Elisheba.
Weaver surrendered 11 days after the standoff at Ruby Ridge began.
He was acquitted in July 1993 of murder-conspiracy charges stemming from the standoff. He was found guilty of failing to appear on the earlier weapons charge and sentenced to 18 months in prison. With credit for time served and good behavior, he was released from jail in December 1993.
He returned to Iowa, where he was reunited with his three daughters _ Elisheba, now 3; Rachel, 13; and Sara, 19.
Weaver is living off Social Security ``that he gets as a result of Vicki’s death at Ruby Ridge,″ said his attorney, Gerry Spence.
``I think he’s quite a brave man, and I think he’s weathered this storm pretty well. I don’t think he’ll get over it,″ Spence said in a telephone interview from his office in Jackson, Wyo. ``He has his children and he’s trying to be a good father to them, and a mother as well.″
And, according to Mrs. Gordon, a good neighbor.
``He seems like a really nice guy,″ she said. ``My husband was plowing snow _ he just drives up and down the street _ and one time this guy came chasing after him and said, `I’m Randy Weaver, thanks for plowing for me.′ ″
As much as he tries avoid it, Weaver has not been able to keep his name out of the news. FBI Deputy Director Larry Potts on July 14 was demoted to the bureau’s training division for his role in the Idaho standoff.
Four days after the FBI shakeup, tax protester Gordon Sellner was arrested during a raid on his Montana forest home. Officials who had been watching his home for six weeks said they waited so long in an attempt to avoid another Ruby Ridge.
Weaver, who doesn’t answer his phone or the door to his home when a reporter knocks, has said all along he doesn’t want to be a role model for anti-government groups.
``I’m not a spokesman, and I don’t want to lead anyone anywhere. I never did,″ Weaver said in December 1993 after his release from prison.
What he said he did want, however, was to share a quiet life with his daughters. When he can be reached, which isn’t often, he refers questions about his life or ongoing legal battles _ he has filed a civil suit against the government for the deaths of his wife and son _ to his lawyers.
``I’ll let my attorneys do the commenting,″ he said in January after 12 FBI employees involved in the standoff were censured. ``They just told me to keep my mouth shut. I’d like to scream sometimes, but they’ve told me to keep quiet.″
Mrs. Gordon said she hopes that life for the Weaver family can somehow return to normal.
``I’m sure he wishes this would all come to an end,″ she said. ``It has to wrap up sometime.″