NEW YORK (Dec. 30)
Investigators are analyzing evidence that could link an abortion-clinic arsonist to a fire at a Holocaust museum in Indiana.
Earlier this month, police arrested Joseph Charles Stockett, 57, after an informant told police Stockett was involved in the November attack on the CANDLES Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute and was planning to kill Jews.
Stockett, who in 1976 was convicted of burning down a Planned Parenthood office in Oregon and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, currently is being held on an unrelated firearms charge.
The museum’s founder, Auschwitz survivor Eva Mozes Kor, says she has collected $80,000 in donations toward rebuilding her museum, which she estimates will cost $250,000.
“I have never in my nicest dreams imagined that so many Jewish people would care about a little Holocaust museum here in Terre Haute,” Kor told JTA.
Kor, 69 — who was among thousands of children subjected to medical experiments in the Holocaust by the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele — and her husband Michael, 75, founded the museum in the Indianapolis suburb in 1995.
The 4,500-foot museum — its formal name is the Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors — was housed in a former print shop in a strip mall on a busy highway. It mostly educated local school children about the horrors of the Holocaust.
In November, someone broke into the museum after hours, set it ablaze and scrawled “Remember Timmy McVeigh” on an exterior wall, a reference to the Oklahoma City bomber who killed 168 people in 1995 and was executed subsequently in a federal prison in Terre Haute.
The attack was labeled a hate crime and called a case of domestic terrorism. The FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, as well as local police, quickly launched an investigation.
Michael Kor told investigators that shortly before the attack two suspicious men had visited the museum and drove off in a pickup truck bearing a Nazi eagle sticker. But earlier this month police arrested Stockett.
Stockett denies any involvement.
A law enforcement official knowledgeable about the case said there may be evidence linking Stockett to the attack.
Investigators are analyzing a brick used to break the museum’s glass door and break into the building and bricks discovered behind the efficiency apartment Stockett rented in Terre Haute, Vigo County Prosecutor Bob Wright said in an interview.
“They’re trying to see if there’s a match,” Wright said. “Certainly that would be a big step for us.”
Stockett’s court-appointed attorney, James McKinley, said he is unaware of any evidence involving bricks and his client.
“I suspect what made him a chief suspect are his anti-Jewish sentiments, which he’s made no secret of,” McKinley said.
McKinley said Stockett has long tried to organize students and others sympathetic to his political views.
“He’s been very critical of what he sees as the undue influence of the world Jewish community on American foreign policy,” McKinley said.
But McKinley discounted reports that his client was any kind of neo-Nazi or skinhead, and he denied Stockett was involved in the museum attack.
Meanwhile, Eva Kor is lauding the local community, as well as Jews around the country, for their support.
Local clergy and other community members, both Jewish and non-Jewish, held candlelight vigils and sent donations in the days after the attack, she said. Jews nationwide also have chipped in.
“Many Jews from New York are sending 10 times chai,” she said, using the Hebrew word for life whose numerical equivalent is 18.