PHILADELPHIA - Colleen LaRose spent long days caring for her boyfriend's father in a second-floor apartment in Pennsburg, a small town north of Philadelphia.
But online, federal authorities say, the devoted caretaker developed a daring alter ego, refashioning herself as "Jihad Jane" while helping to recruit and finance Muslim terrorists, and eventually moving overseas to try to kill an artist she perceived as an enemy to Islam.
LaRose, 46, was charged Tuesday with conspiring with jihadist fighters and pledging to commit murder in the name of a Muslim holy war, or jihad. The indictment was announced hours after seven suspected terrorists were arrested in Ireland, allegedly linked to LaRose, who has been in prison since she was arrested Oct. 15 on her return to the United States.
Born in Michigan, LaRose moved to Texas as a girl and had married twice by age 24. Her first marriage came at 16, to a man twice her age in Tarrant County, Texas, public records show. Both unions were long over by the time she met Pennsylvanian Kurt Gorman in 2005.
LaRose lived with Gorman and his father in Pennsburg, caring for the older man while Gorman worked at his family's small business in Quakertown, Gorman said this week.
"She was a good-hearted person," he said yesterday.
But online, she grew increasingly devoted to a band of what authorities say were violent co-conspirators from around the world. They found her after she posted a YouTube video in June 2008 saying she was "desperate to do something somehow to help" ease the suffering of Muslims, the indictment said.
Despite Web images that show LaRose in a Muslim head covering, Gorman said he never picked up on any Muslim leanings. She never attended religious services of any kind, he said. Gorman, 47, said he sensed nothing amiss in their five-year relationship until the day after his father's funeral last August.
"I came home and she was gone. It doesn't make any sense," he said.
That same day, LaRose had removed the hard drive from her computer and set off for Europe. She had swiped Gorman's passport and planned to give it to the co-conspirator she had agreed to marry, the indictment said.
Irish police disclosed that they had arrested two Algerians, two Libyans, a Palestinian, a Croatian and an American woman married to one of the Algerian suspects. They were not identified by name.
LaRose is scheduled to appear in court March 18 on the indictment. The document does not link her to any organized terrorist groups.
LaRose had a few minor convictions in Texas in the 1980s for trespassing and other misdemeanors, according to online records.