Ethan Phelan Melzer’s secret life of hate ran deep. The 24-year-old private in the 173rd Airborne Brigade appeared to be just another young soldier, trying to find his way through military life at Fort Benning, Georgia. However, in his private time, prosecutors allege, Melzer had another, sinister side: He said he liked to perform macabre blood rituals; read obscure, gruesome tracts about torture and child abuse; collected violent iconography; and found like minds in the depths of Telegram, an encrypted messaging app so favored by extremists of all stripes that it is often referred to as “Terrorgram.” His handle was “Etil Reggad” — a near anadrome for “Elite Dagger.”
By Melzer’s own account, enlisting in the Army was a ruse — on the encrypted app, he wrote that he had joined up solely to gain knowledge of military weaponry and tactics. “It’s great for training,” he wrote, adding a cryptic remark about his base. “All of these places the vast majority deserve to be burned.”
Melzer repeatedly trash-talked the Army and described it as merely a means to hone his violent skills. “I’m not patriotic for shit,” he wrote to another radical who was considering enlisting in the Marines. Telegram chats disclosed by the government in court filings reveal his efforts to mask his true beliefs: “I fly under the radar already, act completely normal around other people outside and don’t talk about my personal life or beliefs with anyone.”
The young paratrooper said he was conducting what he called an “insight role” — both infiltrating and subverting an institution, one of the core tenets of the Order of Nine Angles, a secretive, nihilistic, bloodthirsty satanist-Nazi sect, to which, prosecutors allege, Melzer swore allegiance.
Once confined to the most obscure occultism, “O9A” ideology has spread like wildfire via the internet and the global fascist resurgence of the 2010s. Its cells, known as “nexions,” have cross-pollinated with the millenarian neo-Nazi worldview popularized by the wannabe 21st-century Tim McVeighs of the Atomwaffen Division, a group of American extremists who celebrated the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, venerated terrorists like Anders Breivik and psychopaths like Charles Manson, and have been connected to five murders and numerous bomb plots.
The key evangelical for O9A, the figure who facilitated this macabre wedding of apocalyptic death cults, is Joshua Caleb Sutter, a 41-year-old ex-convict, prolific satanist, publisher of manuscripts advocating murder, torture, rape, and child abuse — and a paid FBI informant since 2004.
Sutter’s O9A message is a lunatic mashup of vampirism, Columbine-style death worship, and edgelord posturing, specifically designed to lure in the lost, angry, and transgressive types like Melzer.