Marion man charged with stalking Westboro group

Ryan J. Newell, 26, of Marion was arrested Tuesday, Nov. 30, in Wichita and was charged with one count of stalking, three counts of criminal use of weapons and one count of false impersonation, according to Georgia Cole, communications director, Sedgwick County District Attorney?s office.

All five counts are misdemeanors and, if convicted, she said, Newell could face up to three years in the Sedgwick County Jail and fines of up to $6,500.

Cole said the major differences between misdemeanor and felony charges is the offender serves time in the county jail for a misdemeanor and the state prison for a felony.

According to the Wichita Eagle and Sedgwick County Sheriff Robert Hinshaw, a sheriff?s detective became suspicious how closely he was following a vehicle carrying Westboro Baptist Church members following a protest at Mulvane High School.

The protest, one church member said, concerned the immoral behavior of youths.

According to Hinshaw, the detective stopped Newell on Kansas Highway 15. Newell was alleged to have told the detective he was with the group and was allowed to leave.

Later Tuesday morning, the detective contacted members of the Westboro group who were at Wichita City Hall to meet with police officials. They told the detective Newell was not part of their group.

Based on the information from church members, the detective stopped Newell a second time. Newell showed identification indicating he was a reserve law enforcement officer in another county.

The detectives then checked the validity of Newell?s explanation. They discovered Newell was driving on a revoked license and was not a reserve officer.

The original detective and two other detectives then went across the street to city hall where Newell was parked.

In his vehicle, authorities found two handguns, a rifle and more than 90 rounds of ammunition.

He was arrested and bail was set at $500,000.

At his arraignment Thursday afternoon in the 18th Judicial District Court, Newell was formally charged. He remains in jail, pending the posting of bail.

A bench trial is scheduled Dec. 16, which is a standard procedure in misdemeanor cases, Cole said.

Military service

Newell lost both of his legs while serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan from an improvised explosive device in January 2009.

For the next several months, he was in rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C.

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While convalescing, Newell was approached by members of ?Homes for Our Troops,? a group that builds houses for severely injured service members.

In late June, Newell and his family moved into their newly-built home in Marion.

Protests

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church are known for their protests at funerals of U.S. soldiers, claiming the deaths of service men and women are God?s way of punishing the U.S. for immorality and tolerating abortion and homosexuality.

The WBC is not affiliated with any known Baptist conventions or associations, according to information about the church.

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