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May 09, 2002
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Student Admits to Planting Pipe Bombs, FBI Says

by Rene Sanchez, Washington Post

FBI officials said yesterday that Luke Helder, who was apprehended Tuesday on a Nevada highway, has confessed to planting pipe bombs in rural mailboxes across the Midwest in the past week.

Helder, 21, a college student, has told investigators he made two dozen small, makeshift bombs with ordinary items such as tape, paper clips and light bulbs and spread them across five states, according to court documents filed by the FBI. The bombs injured six people, four of them mail carriers. The FBI said Helder pointed to the towns where he placed the bombs on a map during questioning after his capture.

The documents suggest that Helder, a Minnesota resident who attends college in Wisconsin, did little to conceal his violent activities. He called two friends in Minnesota on Tuesday and claimed responsibility for the bombings, the FBI said, and left bomb-making materials under the bed in his apartment. Helder also sent a letter to his father that made references to exploding mailboxes.

Five days after he disappeared from his Wisconsin apartment, Helder was apprehended Tuesday after the FBI issued a nationwide alert about him. Police closed in on him on Interstate 80 about 40 miles outside Reno, Nev., after receiving a tip from a motorist who had spotted the car Helder was said to be driving and intercepting cell phone calls he made to his father.

Investigators said they found six pipe bombs inside Helder's car after his arrest. Helder admitted to making many of the pipe bombs in a motel room near Omaha, the FBI said, but told investigators that some in the batch were not explosive.

As he drove hundreds of miles across the Midwest, the FBI said, Helder was pulled over three times - twice for speeding, once for not wearing a seat belt - before he was known to be a suspect in the pipe bombings. Each time he was sent on his way. Court documents state that at one stop, Helder told a police officer writing him a ticket, "I didn't mean to hurt anybody." A pipe bomb was later discovered about 12 miles from where he was ticketed.

Helder, who is being held temporarily in the Washoe County Jail in Nevada, is facing a range of criminal charges in several states. He chose not to make a statement when he was arraigned in Reno yesterday. A federal judge ordered Helder to be held without bail while awaiting transfer to authorities in Iowa.






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