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Massengill sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for Peoria Planned Parenthood firebombing

Authorities said the suspect in the Peoria Planned Parenthood clinic arson (2 left photos) resembled the mugshot, right, and Facebook photos of Tyler Wayne Massengill, 32, of Chillicothe, who was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison.
U.S. Department of Justice
Authorities said the suspect in the Peoria Planned Parenthood clinic arson (2 left photos) resembled the mugshot, right, and Facebook photos of Tyler Wayne Massengill, 32, of Chillicothe, who was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison.

A Chillicothe man was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in federal prison for the January firebombing of the Peoria Planned Parenthood clinic.

Tyler Massengill, 32, appeared in federal court wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. He pleaded guilty in February to the arson.

In addition to the prison sentence, U.S. District Court Judge James Shadid ordered Massengill to pay $1.45 million in restitution.

Massengill apologized for his actions in open court, saying he didn't think about the people he would impact through his actions.

"I never meant for this to harm anybody," Massengill said. "It was actually the exact opposite of that."

Shadid said he appreciated Massengill's remarks expressing regret, but it doesn't change the facts of the case. He expressed skepticism about Massengill's claim.

"Is it really the case you wish me to believe these actions rose out of a concern for others?" the judge asked.

Federal prosecutor Ron Hanna showed the court a compilation of security and body camera video depicting the chain of events on Jan. 15.

The footage shows Massengill filling up a gas container at a service station. A masked Massengill later appears outside the clinic with the container. He smashed a window with a rock, lit a rag in the container on fire, and placed it into the front waiting room of the clinic. Interior video footage showed the rapid spread of the flames.

A firefighter's body camera video shows a survey of the aftermath of the blaze that caused more than $1 million in damages. One firefighter was injured, and 12 employees were displaced.

"This is not a victimless crime," said Hanna.

Hanna also cited Massengill's lengthy criminal record, noting he'd been arrested more than 30 times since he was a teenager, and had left residential treatment for substance abuse four times — three of those against medical advice. He has six felony convictions and 10 misdemeanor convictions on his record.

Court documents say Massengill believed a Peoria-area woman he had dated three years ago had gotten an abortion while he was away working at a remote Alaskan gold mine. The woman told investigators she had never gotten an abortion.

Massengill's public defender, Karl Bryning, said Massengill has a long history of mental illness, as well as substance abuse issues that began after he stopped taking his ADHD medication around age 14.

Bryning said his client was distressed after his maternal grandmother died on Christmas. Before the firebombing on Jan. 15, Bryning said Massengill had watched "disturbing" videos about the body parts of aborted babies being sold over overseas after getting drunk following a visit to his abusive father.

"It's not as simplistic to say he bombed a Planned Parenthood clinic because he's against abortion," said Bryning.

Bryning said Massengill doesn't need to be made a national example of, adding he's a man whose mind is unwell and who was suffering from "misplaced passion" at the time of the firebombing.

Following the incident, Massengill paid a Sparland woman $300 to repaint the distinctive red driver's side door on his pickup truck that authorities were seeking. He later turned himself into Peoria police.

Prosecutors said Massengill later told investigators he believed his actions were worth it if they caused "a little delay" in people obtaining services from Planned Parenthood.

The Peoria clinic doesn't provide surgical abortions, but does offer medication abortions, cancer screening, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, and gender-affirming care treatments.

Planned Parenthood of Illinois president and CEO Jennifer Welch said the clinic saw about 4,000 patients in 2022. About 3,000 were from Peoria and Tazewell counties; 60% of the patients are on Medicaid.

Planned Parenthood is now providing transportation to other clinics for patients, but Welch said the additional travel time creates a barrier to care. The nearest Planned Parenthood clinic is in Bloomington. Most of the Peoria clinic's 12 employees are now working out of Bloomington. Welch said the longer commute also creates difficulties for them.

Shadid said Massengill has a history of doing what he wants without thinking about the impact it will have on others, noting Massengill achieved his goal of delaying services at the clinic that isn't expected to reopen until January of next year.

"If it is possible to be spontaneous and intentional at the same time, you may have achieved it," the judge said,noting Massengill had once referred to Planned Parenthood as "evil" and said he hated the organization.

Federal sentencing guidelines recommended a sentence of 92 to 115 months for Massengill's charge. Shadid said he went above the recommended maximum because he believes Massengill has a high chance for recidivism.

Massengill waived his right to appeal the sentence.

Welch said after the sentencing hearing that she was satisfied by the outcome.

"I think 10 years is a fair and just sentence. And we are very pleased with the actions of the U.S. Attorney's Office and very grateful to all the law enforcement who are involved in this case," she said.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.