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Former Nuclear Reactor Worker Pleads Guilty To Setting Fire To Planned Parenthood Clinic In Columbia

Cole County Jail

A Columbia, Missouri, man faces at least 5 years in prison after admitting he torched the Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia in February.

Wesley Brian Kaster, 42, pleaded guilty on Thursday to maliciously using explosive materials to damage a building owned by an organization that receives federal funding and to violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

Although his plea agreement was sealed, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas City said in a news release that Kaster, 42, admitted he threw a Molotov cocktail into the Planned Parenthood building in the early morning hours of Feb. 10. The clinic’s sprinkler system extinguished the blaze.

Kaster worked at the University of Missouri Research Reactor, the nation’s largest university-run nuclear reactor, as a senior reactor operator from December 2008 to August 2016.

When he was arrested for the Planned Parenthood arson, he was working as a floor supervisor in the welding shop of a light manufacturing business in Jefferson City.

Court records show that after the arson fire, investigators searched social media accounts associated with Kaster and found a picture posted to the Facebook page of his wife depicting a handgun with the words, “Guns Don’t Kill People, Planned Parenthood Kills People.” 

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia is operated by Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which is based in Overland Park, Kansas.

The Columbia clinic does not provide abortion services. Missouri now has just one abortion provider – the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis – and the state is trying to strip it of its license. Planned Parenthood sued to block the move and the case is now in the hands of the state Administrative Hearing Commission.

Kaster could face as many as 21 years in prison. No sentencing date has been set; he’ll be sentenced after a presentence investigation is completed.

Kaster has been in federal custody since he was arrested on March 2.

Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

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