Montana cringes at more unwanted notoriety
Web posted at: 10:04 p.m. EDT (0204 GMT)
HELENA, Montana (CNN) -- Many people in Montana cringed last week when they learned that Russell Weston Jr. -- the man accused of killing two Capitol police officers -- was a part-time resident of the Big Sky State.
Weston, a former mental patient once diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, sometimes lived in a tiny, remote shack only about 40 miles from another infamous Montana resident -- convicted Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski.
At the same time Kaczynski was arrested in April 1996 for a series of mail bombs that killed three people, the anti- government Freemen were staging an 81-day standoff with the FBI on the plains of eastern Montana. The leaders of the Freeman were convicted of various federal weapons and fraud charges earlier this month.
All of this has the law-abiding citizens of Montana weary of inferences that people there aren't quite right. They say their state does not deserve its reputation as a nesting ground for notorious and paranoid criminals.
"Guy moves in for a couple of years into a 12-by-12 shack and ends up killing people," said Helena resident Roy Wunderlich. "That's not the way Montanans are ... and it's so embarrassing to us."
To set things straight, Montana Gov. Marc Racicot held a press conference Monday at the state capital.
He said Montana is no more to blame than the rest of the nation for the actions of Weston, Kaczynski or the Freemen.
"The only thing they had in common is that they came from somewhere else and already had problems when they arrived here," Racicot said. They are "not a reflection of the fabric of our existence here," the governor added.
"This is an American tragedy," he said. "This is not a Montana tragedy."
CNN Correspondent Rusty Dornin contributed to this report.
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