Fairbanks Militia Leader Compared to Cult Leaders
The trial of a Fairbanks militia leader took a personal turn as relatives of Schaeffer Cox testified that he had the charm of a cult leader who turned increasingly paranoid and spewed violent rhetoric.
Several witnesses testified Thursday that they were helpless to stop Cox and Coleman Barney from slipping deeper and deeper into the ideology that landed them in a federal courtroom, the Anchorage Daily News (is.gd reported.
Cox, 28, the commander of the Alaska Peacemaker Militia, and Barney, 37, are on trial in U.S. District Court on federal weapons charges and conspiracy to murder law enforcement officials and judges. A third militia member, Lonnie Vernon, 56, is on trial with them.
One of the witnesses to testify was Cox’s mother-in-law, Anchorage elementary school teacher Janice Stewart, whose daughter is married to Cox. Stewart testified that Cox’s rhetoric became increasingly anti-government and violent.
“It was a gradual move toward a more radical view of what he thought he needed to do to offset the corruption and loss of rights he was feeling,” Stewart said. “We got used to hearing him talk like that - he was on a tirade against the government. We let it flow over us.”
Sarah Thompson, Barney’s former sister-in-law, said she saw Cox become increasingly paranoid about his safety and sounding more and more like cult leader David Koresh of the Branch Davidians.
Thompson, once married to Coleman’s brother Joseph, saw Barney become a different man before her eyes. When she and Joseph separated, Barney’s wife, Rachel, invited her and her two children to live in their North Pole duplex in 2009.