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US woman in terrorism case plans guilty plea

August 11, 2014

DENVER (AP) — A 19-year-old U.S. woman accused of trying to go to Syria to help a foreign terrorist organization plans to plead guilty in the case.

Federal documents filed Friday say an agreement has been reached in the case against Shannon Conley, who was arrested at Denver International Airport in April while boarding a flight she hoped would ultimately get her to Syria.

Details of the agreement were not part of the court filing, but Conley’s public defender Robert Pepin asked to schedule a change of plea hearing. Pepin declined to comment Monday.

The details of such deals cannot be disclosed until a change of plea hearing, said Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver.

Agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation say Conley, a licensed nurse’s aide who lived with her parents in Colorado, was intent on waging jihad in the Middle East, despite their repeated efforts to stop her.

In several meetings over eight months, Conley, a convert to Islam, told members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force that she was planning to travel overseas and marry a man she met online, who she believed was a Tunisian fighting for the Islamic State militant group that has recently overrun parts of Iraq and Syria.

Conley said she planned to fly to Turkey and then travel to Syria. According to court documents, she told agents she wanted to fight, but if she couldn’t, she would use her nursing skills to help jihadi warriors.

Her parents, Ana and John Conley, told investigators that there were several firearms in their ranch home at the end of a cul-de-sac and that their daughter had recently taken one of the rifles to practice at a shooting range, according to the documents.

FBI agents encouraged her parents to talk to Conley about finding more moderate beliefs. But just days after her father refused to let her marry her suitor, whom she apparently met online, he found a one-way plane ticket to Turkey with her name on it. Authorities have said they are still investigating the man, identified in court documents only as Y.M.

Even four days before her arrest, she continued to tell the agents there was nothing they could do to change her mind, the documents say.

FBI agents became aware of Conley’s growing interest in extremism in November after she alarmed employees of a suburban Denver church by wandering around with a backpack and taking notes on the layout of the campus, according to the court documents. The church, Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, was the scene of a 2007 shooting in which a man killed two missionary workers.

Few people who went to high school with Conley knew her personally, but some recalled her wearing a headscarf in gym class and requesting a special room for daily prayer.

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