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
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
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
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
near Omaha, the FBI said, but told investigators that some in the batch
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
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.