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Man sentenced to 10 years for firebombing Peoria Planned Parenthood center

Man sentenced to 10 years for firebombing Peoria Planned Parenthood center
Man sentenced to 10 years for firebombing Peoria Planned Parenthood center 00:25

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A central Illinois man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $1.45 million in restitution for setting fire to a Planned Parenthood facility in Peoria in January, after pleading guilty to federal charges less than a month after his arrest.

Tyler Massengill, 32, of Chillicothe, admitted in February that he set fire to the Planned Parenthood Peoria Health Center on Jan. 15 using an explosive device. Federal investigators have said he targeted the center because he was upset his girlfriend had an abortion three years ago.

One firefighter was hurt while putting out the flames. No one was inside the building at the time of the fire.  

Suspect arrested in fire at Illinois Planned Parenthood clinic
Security video of a suspect outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Peoria, Illinois, which was set ablaze on Jan. 15, 2023.  Federal Bureau of Investigation

Federal prosecutors had said surveillance video showed Massengill walk up to the building with a laundry-detergent-sized bottle, the light a rag on fire on one end of the bottle, before breaking a window, and placing the bottle inside the building, and running away. 

Additional surveillance video showed a white pickup truck with red doors parking nearby just before the fire, and then leaving moments afterward. After the footage was released to the press, a tipster provided a license plate number for the truck to Peoria police, who traced the truck to Massengill.

About a week after the fire, a woman in Sparland, about 25 miles north of Peoria, told local authorities that Massengill had shown up at her home on the day after the fire, and asked to keep his truck in her garage, and arranged for her to paint the red doors white for $300.

Massengill stayed at her home that night, and the next day her father drove Massengill and her boyfriend to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and then took Massengill to his father's home in Chillicothe, about 20 miles north of Peoria.

When the woman called Massengill the next day to come and get his truck, he told her he had seen his truck on the news, and claimed "I didn't do it, I didn't do it."

Peoria Planned Parenthood Fire
An arson fire at the Planned Parenthood facility in Peoria, Illinois, on Jan. 15, 2023, caused more than $1 million in damages. CBS

Massengill later called Peoria Police and said he wanted to talk about the fire at the Planned Parenthood facility. At first, during an interview with police and the FBI, Massengill denied responsibility for the fire, claiming he had gone to Peoria on Jan. 15 and let two men borrow his truck.

He later confessed to setting the fire, telling investigators he'd been in a relationship with a girlfriend three years before, and while he was working in Alaska, his girlfriend called him from Peoria to tell him she'd gotten pregnant, and chose to have an abortion, which upset him.

According to the charges, Massengill said he "heard or saw something that reminded him of the abortion" on the day he set the fire, and he got upset, and broke the window of the Planned Parenthood facility, and placed a burning container inside. He also confirmed he later drove his truck to a woman's house and asked her to paint the doors white.

Massengill also told investigators he believed, if setting fire at the Planned Parenthood caused "a little delay" in someone receiving services there, it might have been "all worth it," according to the charges.

He pleaded guilty to the federal charges in February, and on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James E. Shadid sentenced him to 10 years in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release, according to court records. Massengill also was ordered to pay $1.45 million in restitution for the damage caused by the fire.

Planned Parenthood of Illinois said after the fire that it would cost more than $1 million to rebuild the Peoria facility. The rebuilt facility is expected to open in early 2024.

"Today, justice has been served and a powerful message has been sent that acts of violence against Planned Parenthood of Illinois will not be tolerated," Planned Parenthood of Illinois President and CEO Jennifer Welch said in a statement Tuesday. "When someone attacks one of our health centers they do more than damage a building. They rob the community of essential sexual and reproductive health care like birth control, STI testing and treatment, cancer screenings and gender-affirming care. We stand in solidarity with the community in Peoria that continues to heal from this traumatic event."

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