This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
In early March, when Jeanette Finicum announced from the state Capitol steps that she believed police had murdered her husband after he left a standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge, two members of a Utah militia shared a private word with Finicum family spokeswoman Cherilyn Eagar.
William Keebler, they said, was dangerous, and the Finicums ought to stop associating with him.
Keebler is accused of attempting to detonate a pipe bomb that was placed Tuesday night against the door of a Bureau of Land Management cabin on the Arizona Strip, a few miles from a BLM allotment where the Finicums' cattle recently were seen grazing in violation of their permit.
Since the 57-year-old Stockton resident was charged Wednesday, social media pages for well-known militia groups like the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers have been mum on the subject, while others associated with recent standoffs on public lands have portrayed Keebler as an extremist who gives their efforts a bad name.
"He tried to get in with our militia group and we turned him down," said Chad Wilson, a leader in the Utah Unorganized Constitutional Militia who, like Keebler, joined southeastern Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy during a 2014 standoff near Bundy's Bunkerville ranch. "We told him no. Based on his attitude and his demeanor, we knew that he wasn't somebody that we wanted to be around."
Keebler faces five to 20 years in federal prison on an initial charge of attempted damage to federal property by means of explosive, and it's possible that additional charges will be brought via a grand jury indictment next month. Prosecutors said he asked an undercover FBI employee to build an explosive device, which was delivered inert.
His attorney, public defender Lynn Donaldson, declined to comment.
Prosecutors say Keebler was visiting late Cane Beds, Ariz., rancher Robert LaVoy Finicum, who was shot dead by Oregon state police in January, when Keebler scouted the cabins with another militia member.
Keebler worked a volunteer security detail at Finicum's Kanab funeral, and Jeanette Finicum wrote in an email to The Salt Lake Tribune that he later attended the Capitol rally and arranged "a couple of speaking engagements in his area" that involved Finicum family members.
She wrote in a Facebook post in late February that Keebler had been tapped as one of two "main security specialists and advisors" of Show Low, Ariz., firearms instructor Cope Reynolds, who headed her family's security team.
A member of the Utah Unorganized Constitutional Militia learned last year, Wilson said, that Keebler had threatened a member of Keebler's own Stockton-based group, "Patriots of America, Utah-Based." When Wilson's colleague "called him out" for the threat, he said, Keebler's response was to also threaten his accuser.
Wilson regards Keebler's militia as "aggressive, offensive-minded." Wilson also is a member of the Three Percenters and Oath Keepers and said he worries that Keebler's actions will tarnish the perception of what he considers to be "defensive" militias.
He said he applauds the FBI for its investigation.
Such militia members "aren't helping us," Wilson said. "They're hurting us. The word 'militia' has a bad name already."
Wilson said members of his group told Eagar at the March rally that the Finicum family should distance themselves from Keebler. Eagar said she passed along their advice to Jeanette Finicum, but she added that the family had been inundated by offers of help and it was impossible to vet the agendas of the many new faces.
For his part, Reynolds said he doesn't believe Keebler would have tried to use explosives unless he was coerced by the FBI agents who infiltrated his group and provided him with two inert pipe bombs.
"The whole thing is entrapment," Reynolds said. "There's no question about it. ... Bill would never ever come up with anything like that on his own."
Had LaVoy Finicum believed that Keebler intended to detonate an explosive, Reynolds said, he "would have run him off the property."
Public documents reveal little about Keebler's background or criminal history. He previously resided in Georgia, but attempts to contact relatives and his longtime roommate were unsuccessful. He had a registered business, Critter Gitter Outfitters, and Tribune staffers followed him in December 2011 as he guided a coyote hunt.
On Friday, an American flag flew upside down in the driveway of his Stockton residence, where neighbor Christine McGinn said law enforcement used flash grenades after kicking in the door Wednesday morning. Keebler was arrested in Nephi.
He was a survivalist who had many complaints about the federal government, McGinn said, but she didn't know him to be violent. She described Keebler as a positive influence on the community who taught McGinn and her children basic survival skills, like how to kill, skin and can animals.
If he did what he's accused of doing, McGinn said, she doesn't condone that. "But that's not the Bill we know."
Keebler was being held in Weber County jail over the weekend. A detention hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story, which relied on charging documents, stated that William Keebler scouted a BLM cabin with LaVoy Finicum in October 2015. A prosecutor clarified at a June 29 detention hearing that while Keebler visited Finicum's home around the time, Finicum did not join Keebler on the alleged scouting mission.