"To his Long Island family, Marcos Alonso Zea was an honor student, aspiring teacher and good Catholic.
To leaders of a mosque he visited, he was a young convert in a traditional gown who called himself "Ali."
To the FBI, he was a terrorist in the making, intent on joining al-Qaida and waging "violent jihad."
Zea, 25, grew up in Brentwood,
raised by immigrants: a mother from Guatemala, Sandra; and a father from
Colombia, Alvaro. The family, including Zea and several siblings,
regularly attended St. Anne Catholic Church, his parents said.
After graduating from Brentwood High
School in 2006, Zea took classes at Dowling College and Suffolk County
Community College's Brentwood campus, where he earned a liberal arts
degree in August 2011, officials said.
"He wanted to be somebody important in life," Sandra Zea said Friday in Spanish, referring to her son's teaching aspirations.
He completed a teaching course last
December, she said, proudly displaying the certificate during an
interview at the family's tidy home in a working-class neighborhood of
But Marcos Zea was also increasingly fascinated with Islam. Prosecutors say he converted in 2009."
Read the rest of this very sad story at Newsday.