Mikey Diamond Starrett: Self-proclaimed biologist charged with burning the halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses

A Washington state man already in federal custody on weapons charges has now been charged with a series of arson attacks on Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses, according to a Justice Department press release.

Charges were brought against 50-year-old Mikey Diamond Starrett, also known as Michael Jason Layes, on Wednesday for seven arson attacks on Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Mr Starrett, who describes himself in court filings and on his online resume as a veteran wildlife biologist and wetland scientist, was arrested in September 2021.

Late Tuesday, a federal grand jury in Seattle issued a new indictment charging him with setting fire to three Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are no allegations that anyone was injured in the fires.

According to the document, he defaced, damaged and destroyed religious property because of his religious character.

Mr Starrett now faces three additional counts of damage to religious property that constitute a hate crime and three counts of arson to commit a federal crime in connection with the 2018 arson attacks on the halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Tumwater and Olympia.

“Our detectives have worked tirelessly on these attacks since the beginning of their attacks in 2018,” said Jonathan T. McPherson, the ATF’s Seattle special agent in charge, in a press release.

“We hope these charges will help ease the fears of the people of Pierce and Thurston counties as they know Layes faces criminal prosecution for his alleged crimes.”

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The accused is due to appear in court next week.

Mr Starrett’s lawyer has not issued a statement on the new allegations, but he had previously insisted he did not attack the halls of worship.

“The prosecutor claimed I was a danger to society. That’s just not true,” he wrote in 2021. “It has been discovered that I was under investigation for multiple attacks on Jehovah’s Witness churches. I am innocent.”

His friends and relatives reportedly told law enforcement officials that Mr Starrett believed he was being haunted by the spirits of an ex-girlfriend’s deceased relatives, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and that he hated the religion.

Friends and family members claimed he used drugs and alcohol and had serious mental health problems.

However, in a follow-up letter to the court, Mr Starrett denied using drugs or being haunted.

“I smoke American Spirits cigarettes. There must be some confusion?”

Additional reporting by agencies

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