January 6, 1995 in Nation/World

Some Suspect Conspiracy Against Abortion Clinics Evidence Against Shooting Suspect Salvi Raises Many Questions, But Anti-Abortion Activists Say There’s No Plot

Fred Bayles Associated Press
 

He drove more than 500 miles, bypassing 180 abortion clinics, before zeroing in on one of the few open on New Year’s Eve - a clinic long the target of radical anti-abortion activists.

He was marginally employed and failed even to pick up his last paycheck. Yet when he was arrested, police found over $1,000 in cash on him.

He is described as a disturbed loner, an outsider to the anti-abortion movement. Yet police reportedly found a receipt from a Massachusetts anti-abortion group and the name and number of a Virginia activist who has advocated the killing of abortion doctors.

While anti-abortion groups deny any connection to John Salvi III who is charged with killing two women at two Massachusetts abortion clinics and shooting up a third in Norfolk, Va. - the investigation has raised suspicions of a conspiracy.

“Why he went to Norfolk is a key aspect of the investigation,” a senior federal official in Washington said on condition of anonymity.

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, which advises abortion clinics on security, said Salvi passed more than 180 clinics on his alleged flight down the East Coast. She said only a half dozen of those clinics were open on Saturday.

“He not only found a clinic opened on New Year’s Eve, but he found one with an anti-abortion demonstration going on attended by people who advocate violence against doctors,” she said. “It could be by chance, but it strains credibility.”

Salvi was flown back to Massachusetts on Thursday after Virginia officials held off prosecuting him in the attack on Norfolk’s Hillcrest Clinic.

Salvi faces two state murder charges in the Dec. 30 attack on two Brookline, Mass., abortion clinics that left two women dead and five wounded.

On Thursday, Salvi’s attorney released a rambling six-page statement that talked of persecution against Catholics, urged the Church to institute its own welfare system and listed a menu of jail food he said was tainted.

Salvi, 22, has been portrayed as an unstable loner, a student hairdresser who never picked up his last paycheck, a rabid opponent of abortion with no links to the anti-abortion movement.

But when arrested by Virginia authorities, Salvi had $1,277.04 in his pocket. Investigators who searched his truck found anti-abortion literature, four highway maps and a receipt from “Mass. Citizens in Life.”

Also, the FBI told Norma Aresti, director of the Summit Medical Center in Hartford, Conn., that her abortion clinic was on a list found in Salvi’s possession. The clinic, another target of anti-abortion protesters, had increased security after the Massachusetts attacks and was open Saturday.

Frances Hogan, executive vice president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, said she had no idea what the receipt may be.

“We have looked this fellow up on our records and we don’t have him as a donor and we do not have him as a member,” she said. “I do not know what the receipt could be for.”

The Boston Globe reported Thursday that a police search of Salvi’s Hampton, N.H., apartment turned up the name and number of Donald Spitz, director of ProLife Virginia, an anti-abortion group that has tried to close the Norfolk clinic.

Spitz said Thursday that he never heard of Salvi before last week.

“There is no conspiracy,” he said.

Spitz, a Baptist minister, along with David Crane and the Rev. Michael Bray of Bowie, Md., signed a petition endorsing the belief that the killing of abortion doctors is justifiable in defense of the unborn.

The petition was originally circulated by Paul Hill, convicted last year of murdering an abortion doctor and his bodyguard in Pensacola, Fla.


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