Glendon Crawford didn’t say anything threatening during his visit to Congregation Gates of Heaven, but his message was bone-chilling to the administrative assistants who greeted him there more than a year ago.
The 49-year-old Galway man now accused of plotting to build a lethal, remote-activated radiation device visited the Schenectady temple in April 2012. And the message he delivered to the women who greeted him left Rabbi Matthew Cutler with no choice but to contact police.
“He told them he had a solution to ending the problem the Jewish people and the people of Israel were facing,” Cutler recalled Wednesday. “He offered a weapon that would help them.”
Crawford wasn’t raving, the assistants later told Cutler. They said he seemed composed and groomed — something they said made his message seem even more ominous.
“He was very well-kept, somewhat articulate,” he said. “What he was saying was a little crazy and unusual.”
Cutler arrived shortly after the roughly 15-minute conversation. He knew Crawford from seeing him at other community events around the city, including one where he offered a distorted vision of the Christian crusades and world history.
The conversation stood out for Cutler, enough so that when his assistants described the man, he instantly remembered who he was.
“I’d seen him around and spoken to him at forums,” he said, “but nothing like this before.”
Crawford also contacted the Jewish Federation of Northeast New York, confirmed Shelly Shapiro, the Albany-based organization’s director of community relations. She said he had a lengthy conversation with Rodney Margolis, the federation’s now-retired executive director, who kept Crawford on the line long enough to get details of his plot that were later relayed to authorities.
“If you have someone who seems suspicious, you get as much information as you can and then call law enforcement officers,” she said.
A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday indicates Crawford contacted a synagogue and another Jewish organization in April 2012. Neither group was identified by name, and a prosecutor handling the case declined to identify them.
But investigators from the state police and FBI both visited Cutler’s temple during the course of the investigation. At the time, Cutler said the temple was in the midst of handling several strange correspondences, though none were as bizarre as the interaction with Crawford.
“It was a rather unsettling time,” he said. “But this one seemed like a threat.”