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Man charged with attempted arson at Planned Parenthood in Missouri

By Kevin Murphy

(Reuters) - A man accused of twice trying to set fire to a Planned Parenthood health clinic in Joplin, Missouri, in early October was charged on Friday with attempted arson, federal authorities said.

Jedediah Stout, 30, is accused of trying to burn the clinic, which does not provide abortions, by tossing items containing an accelerant on the roof on October 3 and October 4 and then igniting attached materials, a Justice Department statement said.

No significant damage was reported to the building from either attempt, authorities said.

A clinic employee called Joplin police after finding burned materials at the building on October 3, and surveillance video showed a person tossing a backpack onto the roof and lighting an attached rope, FBI Special Agent Stacy Lee Moore said in an affidavit attached to a criminal complaint filed in Springfield, Missouri, federal court.

The next night, Joplin police notified the FBI of a second arson attempt, and surveillance video showed a person tossing a device onto the roof near the spot of the first attempt and lighting attached materials, Moore said.

Joplin police found Stout walking on railroad tracks about five blocks from the clinic minutes after the second attempt and detained him, Moore said in the affidavit.

Stout denied trying to burn the clinic, but investigators linked him to the purchases of the backpack used in the first attempt, as well as rope like the one used and a jacket that looked like one worn by the suspect in the video, Moore said.

Authorities also found a fingerprint matching Stout's on a clear plastic bottle recovered from a gutter on the clinic building on October 3, Moore's affidavit said.

Elise Higgins, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said she was not familiar with Stout and was unaware of any motivation in the alleged arson attempts.

Stout's first court appearance was set for Monday in Springfield federal court, officials said.

Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, has been the target of various attacks in recent years.

In April, police charged a man who said he opposed abortion with breaking into an Indiana Planned Parenthood clinic and causing extensive damage with an ax.

In April 2012, a small explosive device was detonated outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in central Wisconsin. Four months before that, the American Family Planning Clinic in Pensacola, Florida, was destroyed by a Molotov cocktail.

(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Mo.; Editing by David Bailey and Peter Cooney)

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