TUNIS, Tunisia (NBC/WOOD) — A Montcalm County woman who dated one of two Lansing men arrested on terror suspicions says she’s not surprised by the allegations.
The brothers were arrested in Tunisia Tuesday on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organization, local sources tell NBC News.
A senior police official said one of the men was carrying a U.S. passport identifying him as 31-year-old Patrick Alan Lawwill.
Property records obtained by 24 Hour News 8 indicate Lawwill is from Lansing. WOOD TV8’s Media General sister station WLNS confirmed the other brother, who Tunisia Live has identified as 32-year-old Nathan Lawwill, also has ties to the Lansing area.
REPORT: BROTHERS PLANNING ATTACKS
Sources say the brothers were arrested in Jendouba Tuesday, after locals reported they were “behaving suspiciously.” Sources told NBC the brothers came to study at the University of Jendouba two weeks ago.
However, Tunisia Live reports the brothers were found plotting terror attacks from an encampment near Zawha City. A source with the governor’s office said officials found material relating to hardline Islamic law and jihad during a raid of the brothers’ encampment. Police told Tunisia Live the brothers had contacted international terror groups via social media.
The brothers recently converted from Christianity to Islam; one of them was married to a Tunisian woman who was also arrested, according to the NBC’s sources.
There are conflicting reports about whether they remain in custody.
MONTCALM WOMAN DESCRIBES ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP
Ingham County records show Nathan Lawwill applied for a license to marry a Montcalm County woman in 2015. The woman, who didn’t want to be identified, told 24 Hour News 8 she met Lawwill in March 2015 on Plenty Of Fish’s dating website. She said he threatened her with a knife to go get the marriage license and that she did it out of fear he would hurt her.
The woman said Nathan Lawwill used a fake name and eventually turned violent when she visited him in Lansing, where he lived with his brother and their mother. The woman said when she tried to leave, he attacked her and threatened to kill her and her family.
“He started to choke me and we ended up on the floor. The only thing I could do was to kick a dryer that was near me, trying to make noise. I screamed for his brother Patrick to help me and he watched through a crack in the door. He watched what was happening and he didn’t help,” she explained.
This woman told 24 Hour News 8 Nathan Lawwill controlled his brother’s every move and even had padlocks on doors that kept them from the outside.
“[Patrick] was very quiet and he did everything his brother tells him to do. He always looked really sad,” she added.
She said she escaped and went to the hospital. She has since pressed charges in Ingham County, where both men have criminal records, according to police.
She said that for a month after leaving, Nathan Lawwill sent her threatening text messages, which she shared with 24 Hour News 8.
One text read, “I’d say good luck but I don’t believe in luck. I’m just going to say you should prepare for death because my god is with me to judge both you and this country.”
Texts from Nathan Lawwill
The Montcalm County woman said she believes Nathan Lawwill is capable of terrorism.
“He would read passages (from the Bible) and he would explain what they mean but they had nothing to do with each other,” she said. “In his Bible he had a recipe for a flash bomb, some sort of bomb.”
“He doesn’t like people. He thinks he’s right and he’s ill,” she continued. “I would say he needs help but honestly this person is beyond help he needs to be put where he can’t hurt anybody else.”
Tunisia Live reports the Lawwills’ records are lengthy and include charges of domestic violence and indications of mental health issues.
Online records from Michigan State Police show Nathan Lawwill has a record dating back to 2008 that includes charges of misdemeanor domestic violence, felony first-degree criminal sexual conduct, felony unlawful imprisonment, felony stalking and felony assault by strangulation. Other online records show that between 2008 and 2011, he was also charged with felony domestic battery by strangulation, felony false imprisonment, misdemeanor battery, felony tampering and felony domestic battery in Florida.
Patrick Lawwill has a 2007 conviction in Michigan for misdemeanor attempting to assault, resist or obstruct a police officer, MSP records show.
–24 Hour News 8 Lynsey Mukomel contributed to this report.