OKLAHOMA CITY – 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 with 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.
Read the Varnell family's full statement below:
"We as a family are extremely distraught about this situation with our son Jerry Drake Varnell, but what the public must understand is that he is a paranoid schizophrenic and is extremely susceptible to different types of ideology that normal people would deem immoral. Underneath his condition, he is a sweet-hearted person and we are extremely shocked that this event has happened. However, what truly has us flabbergasted is the fact that the FBI knew he was schizophrenic. The State of Oklahoma found him mentally incompetent and we, his parents have legal guardianship over him by the Court. These documents are sealed from the public, which is why no news media outlet has been able to obtain them. The FBI clearly knew that he was schizophrenic because they have gathered every ounce of information on him. Reading the criminal complaint against him has brought us great pause due to the numerous lies from the informant. We do not have an underground bunker! We built our home a few years ago and bought a storage container, as we use it for a storm shelter. We only recently pushed dirt up around it to make it safe. The building is used for storage and is NOT a bunker full of food and supplies, in fact the doors close from the outside. It has neither electricity nor anything that would make it habitable.
What the public should be looking at is the fact that the FBI gave our son the means to make this happen. He has no job, no money, no vehicle, and no driver’s license, due to the fact that he is schizophrenic and we; his parents do everything we can possible to keep him safe and functional. The mental health system has consistently failed us due to the lack of establishments and health care coverage for a person like him. He has attended college and just enrolled in welding school. His medications allow him to be somewhat functional but he will never be completely functional in life. His brain does not work like a normal person and never will due to the nature of his mental illness. He has suffered through countless serious full-blown schizophrenic delusional episodes and he has been put in numerous mental hospitals since he was 16 years old. 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. We know who their informant is and what the public should know is that he is that a drug-dealing criminal. On June 15, 2017, Jerry’s Father told the criminal informant “that he was not allowed back on our property and if he returned we would have him arrested for trespassing and drugs”. Apparently, he continued to sneak onto our residence. The FBI paid him to continue this operation and I believe they have cleared his criminal record.
The FBI should have filed conspiracy on our son and had him committed to a mental institution. They should not have aided and abetted a paranoid schizophrenic to commit this act. There are many more facts that I will not make public that will support my son and the disturbing acts made by the FBI.
I realize that many will say my son could have found another person to commit this act. Yet, any person that has access to the materials and the state of mind necessary to bomb a building would not have any need for a schizophrenic who has no resources to contribute. Schizophrenics always have conspiracy theories and feels everyone is out to get them. They trust no one and there is no doubt in my mind that this informant began this hate against the government and my son followed along because others easily influence him. There is no person in his life that has even heard anything about hatred for the government and we have all been shocked by the event.
We ask all news media outlets to please respect our privacy. Do not fly helicopters over our home and stalk us at our gates for a story, we are trying our very best to comfort each other because this is a devastating loss for our family. We do not need to be bombarded by reporters who only want to omit important facts of this event. We understand the public wants to know how this could possibly happen. We simply ask them to look at the facts of the case and ask why the FBI made this happen. He is our son and he is a brother and loved one no matter what he has done. We have unconditional love for him, we are heart broken by this event and wish we had been made aware by the FBI, and we would have committed him into a mental institution for help.
Clifford and Melonie Varnell"