Family of man arrested in Oklahoma City bomb plot says his mental illness was taken advantage of
OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The family of a man arrested for trying to blow up the BancFirst building in downtown Oklahoma City said he is not a criminal but a mentally ill young man.
Jerry Varnell, 23, was arrested over the weekend after an undercover agent, who had been working with him for months, said he tried to detonate a bomb to blow up the building.
The FBI said they thwarted what could have been a major disaster.
Varnell’s family, though, said they took advantage of a mentally ill person.
In a public statement, Varnell’s parents said, “The FBI came and picked him up from our home, they gave him a vehicle, gave him a fake bomb, and every means to make this happen none of which he had access to on his own.”
They said their son is a paranoid schizophrenic, and “Schizophrenics always have conspiracy theories and feel everyone is out to get them.”
“I know firsthand because of my son. My son had a great paranoia that his father worked for the government, therefore he was spying on everyone, and listening in on their phone calls as well as his and planting bombs under people’s cars,” said Cathy Costello.
Cathy’s mentally ill son, Christian Costello, stabbed her husband, former Labor Commissioner Mark Costello, to death in August of 2015.
She said she feels for the Varnell family.
“It’s heartbreaking because, as a mother who had a son that suffers from schizophrenia, our family did so much to try to help our son and I understand what they are going through,” Cathy said.
The Varnell family also said, in their statement, “The mental health system has consistently failed us.”
Cathy said she helped get a bill passed that could help families with mentally ill loved ones to get help during an ongoing mental health crisis.
“This bill could actually help save lives, and it’s proven to do so in other states. This is something that this family may have had an opportunity to take advantage of if they knew about it,” Cathy said.
Cathy strives every day to make sure something good comes of her husband’s death, and she hopes the same can happen from the publicity surrounding Varnell’s arrest.
The Varnell family said the state deemed their son incompetent in April of 2013 and they were appointed his guardians.
They said the FBI clearly knew he was schizophrenic because they have gathered every ounce of information on him.
They tell us their son would have never had the means to carry out a plot like this without the help from that undercover FBI agent.
We left a message with the FBI office in Oklahoma City, but they did not return our call.