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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gregory McCrea, serial child rapist with militia ties, released after two decades in federal prison

Oct. 18, 2019 Updated Fri., Oct. 18, 2019 at 9:06 p.m.

Gregory Lee McCrea, a serial child rapist who amassed an  arsenal of machine guns, pipe bombs and other illegal weapons, speaks during his sentencing on Friday, Oct. 8, 1999. McCrea, now 75, was released from federal prison on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)
Gregory Lee McCrea, a serial child rapist who amassed an arsenal of machine guns, pipe bombs and other illegal weapons, speaks during his sentencing on Friday, Oct. 8, 1999. McCrea, now 75, was released from federal prison on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

Gregory Lee McCrea, a serial child rapist with anti-government militia ties who amassed a huge arsenal of machine guns, pipe bombs and other illegal weapons through the 1990s, has been released from federal prison five years ahead of schedule.

The 75-year-old is expected to return to Spokane, where a new warrant already has been issued for his arrest because there is time remaining on a separate state prison sentence.

McCrea was released from the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, on Friday, according to an email from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ public affairs office. Officials would not comment on his medical condition.

Though he was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison in 1999, the bureau said McCrea was released early at least in part for good behavior.

“Gregory Lee McCrea’s release date was calculated in accordance with the revised good conduct time provisions provided in the First Step Act,” the bureau said.

The First Step Act is a sentencing reform law that received strong bipartisan support in Congress before President Donald Trump signed it last year.

McCrea, who sported long gray hair and a beard in the ’90s, often volunteered to babysit for neighbors and friends, positioning himself as a grandfather-like figure and encouraging children to call him “Papa Smurf,” according to Spokesman-Review stories from the time.

He pleaded guilty in 1999 to a litany of sex crimes involving at least eight victims between the ages of 3 and 11. Prosecutors believed he had raped at least 25 children and molested hundreds of others. He once estimated he had 1,000 child victims.

Authorities also believed McCrea had ties to white supremacist serial killer Chevie Kehoe, and witnesses reported McCrea had met with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh at a motel in north Spokane.

While raiding McCrea’s home in the 1400 block of East Bridgeport Avenue and several storage units that belonged to him, authorities found huge caches of child pornography, including at least one video of him and another man raping children.

They also found an arsenal bigger than authorities in the region had ever seen. It included hundreds of firearms, 100,000 rounds of ammunition, more than 70 pipe bombs, 28 pounds of C-4 explosive, 56 grenades, a grenade launcher and a 20 mm cannon.

McCrea received several state and federal prison sentences on Oct. 8, 1999.

In U.S. District Court, where he pleaded guilty to 10 firearms counts and 11 child pornography charges, Judge Robert Whaley handed down consecutive sentences of 10 and 15 years. The total of 25 years was a departure from sentencing guidelines that recommended a maximum of 14.

“The guidelines don’t reflect the seriousness of what happened here,” Whaley told McCrea, according to Spokesman-Review coverage of the sentencing. “If I could, I’d sentence you to more than 25 years.”

The judge said McCrea was involved in “unspeakable abuse of children.”

Later that afternoon, in Spokane County Superior Court, then-Judge Robert Austin sentenced McCrea to 26 1/2 years in state prison, to be served concurrently with his federal sentences. McCrea had pleaded guilty to a dozen state charges, including 11 counts of child rape.

McCrea expressed remorse at his sentencings, though some victims and their parents said they hoped he would die in prison.

As part of his federal sentence, Whaley ordered that McCrea be under federal supervision for three years after his release from prison.

Matthew Thompson, the chief federal probation officer for Eastern Washington, and the Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on the terms of McCrea’s release, citing privacy concerns.

But one of McCrea’s victims, who is now an adult and requested anonymity, said a victim’s advocate informed her McCrea would return to his former home on East Bridgeport Avenue.

Attempts to reach the owner of the house – who was also named in federal court documents as having power of attorney for McCrea – were unsuccessful.

If he does return to Spokane, McCrea would have to register as a sex offender with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. On Friday, Cpl. Mark Gregory, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said that hadn’t happened yet.

Meanwhile, McCrea has not finished his state prison term, and he could be rearrested upon his return to Spokane. With credit for time served in jail before his convictions, he could be incarcerated again for a little more than five years.

The Bureau of Prisons recently notified the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office that McCrea was scheduled to be released. In response, deputy prosecutor Kelly Fitzgerald requested a warrant for McCrea’s arrest, and Superior Court Judge Shelley Szambelan granted it on Oct. 7.

On Friday, Fitzgerald said McCrea “needs to be transferred into the custody of the Department of Corrections.”

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