Suspect Aimed to Make 'Smiley Face' Pattern, Sheriff Says
The Washington Post
RENO, Nev. - The 21-year-old college student accused of putting pipe
bombs in mailboxes in five states told authorities he was trying to make
"smiley face" on the map, a sheriff said today.
The first 16 bombs were arranged in two circles, one in Illinois and
and the other in Nebraska. On a map, the circles could resemble the eyes
the 1970s happiness symbol. The final two bombs, found in Colorado and
Texas, lie in a line that could be continued into the arc of a smile.
"There was a comment made to one of my officers about his hope to make
smiley face when he was all finished," Pershing County Sheriff Ron Skinner
Skinner said Luke Helder made the comments to an undercover county
officer shortly after his arrest outside Reno on Tuesday.
"His demeanor was very jovial. He didn't seem to be taking anything
seriously at the time," the sheriff said.
An FBI official would not comment on the sheriff's report.
Meanwhile, Helder's parents, Cameron and Pamela Helder, met with their
son at the county jail in Reno for a half-hour. They were separated by glass
and spoke by telephone.
"We are here to see our son in his hour of need," Cameron Helder told
reporters afterward. "We told him we love him. I feel a lot better after
speaking to him."
Luke Helder faces federal charges in Illinois, Nebraska and Iowa, where
his initial court appearance is scheduled for Friday.
If convicted, he could be sent to prison for life.
The FBI said Helder placed 18 pipe bombs in mailboxes in Iowa, Illinois,
Nebraska, Colorado and Texas, along with anti-government notes. Six of the
bombs exploded last Friday, injuring four letter carriers and two
The eight bombs in Iowa and Illinois were found in rural locations that
form an uneven ring about 70 miles in diameter. The Nebraska bomb sites
about 350 miles away - form a ring about 90 miles across.
The other bombs were found hundreds of miles away - one in Salida, Colo.,
the other in Amarillo, Tex.