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Chillicothe man faces federal charge in connection with Jan. 15 Peoria Planned Parenthood arson

Screenshot 2023-01-25 141327.jpg
U.S. Department of Justice
Authorities said the suspect in the Peoria Planned Parenthood clinic arson (two left photos) bears a resemblance to the mugshot (right) and Facebook photos of Tyler Wayne Massengill, 32, of Chillicothe. A license plate number for the suspect's vehicle provided by a tipster also matched up to a truck registered to Massengill, said police.

A Chillicothe man faces federal charges in connection with the Jan. 15 arson of the Peoria Planned Parenthood clinic.

Tyler Wayne Massengill, 32, was charged Wednesday in federal court in Peoria for malicious use of fire and an explosive to damage a property used for interstate commerce.

Court documents state Massengill carried a a laundry-detergent sized bottle up to the building, lit a rag on fire on one end of the bottle, broke out a window and placed the container in the building before running away.

Investigators allege Massengill admitted to breaking out the window at the Peoria clinic and placing the burning container into the building. Officials with Planned Parenthood of Illinois say the damage will keep the clinic at 2709 N. Knoxville Ave. closed for months.

Nobody was in the building at the time of the fire, but a Peoria firefighter suffered minor injuries in extinguishing the blaze.

Massengill reportedly told investigators his actions may have been "all worth it" if he caused "a little delay" in someone obtaining services from the clinic that doesn't perform surgical abortions, but does prescribe abortion pills.

Initially, Massengill denied he had anything to do with the fire, but prosecutors said he later changed his story and told investigators about a Peoria-area woman he dated three years ago who informed him via a phone call that she got an abortion while he was away working in Alaska.

Massengill reportedly told investigators he became upset after something reminded him of the abortion around Jan. 15.

He was identified by authorities after Peoria police received a tip about the suspect's white pickup truck on Jan. 17, after an image of the vehicle was released to local news organizations. The truck had a distinctive red driver's side door.

The tipster provided a license plate number for the truck matching up to Massengill. A photo from a license plate reader database also found the same truck had been near the intersection of McClure Avenue and Sheridan Road in Peoria's Center Bluff neighborhood on Jan. 5.

Prosecutors said the day after the arson, Massengill offered to pay a woman in Sparland $300 to keep the truck in her garage and repaint the truck's distinctive red driver's side door.

She said she messaged him on Facebook on Jan. 18 to come get his truck. Massengill reportedly said he'd seen his truck on the news, but denied any connection to the Planned Parenthood arson.

The FBI seized Massengill's truck from the Sparland garage on Monday. The truck still had the same Illinois license plate, but the driver's side door was repainted white. Authorities discovered a paint grinder with red paint residue.

Massengill called Peoria police on Tuesday and said he wanted to speak about the incident at Planned Parenthood. He was arrested when he arrived around 6 p.m.

Because a firefighter was injured in the Jan. 15 blaze, Massengill could face up to 40 years in prison, if convicted. He could also be fined $250,000.

Planned Parenthood of Illinois president and CEO Jennifer Welch said she's pleased to see an arrest was made. She now estimates costs to restore the Peoria clinic at more than $1 million.

"This senseless act of vandalism has robbed the community of access to birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and gender-affirming care as well as medication abortion services," Welch said in a statement. "We appreciate the outpouring of support from the community, state, and nation as we continue to meet our patients' needs through telehealth and at our other 16 health centers across the state."

Massengill has a lengthy arrest and conviction record in Peoria County, including 2011 convictions for felony mob action, a 2015 conviction for felony unlawful possession of cannabis, and a 2016 felony theft conviction. The court dismissed a 2012 felony allegation of aggravated domestic battery and strangling.

In a Facebook post made Dec. 28. 2020, Massengill asks if anyone wanted to go with him to what would later become known as the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C. It's unclear if Massengill actually attended. In a reply to another commenter, he also asked if guns would be allowed at a Jan. 6 rally in Springfield.

In a Dec. 25, 2020 post, Massengill also made a reference to smashing Planned Parenthood in a reply to another commenter who asked about throwing rocks. Massengill's original post was about violent incidents in other states and a plea for people to "realize what's going on."

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.