By Scott Sonner, Associated Press
RENO, Nev. -- The 21-year-old college student accused in a string of
bombings wanted to make a "smiley face" pattern with his
"There was a comment made to one of my officers about his hope to
a smiley face when he was all finished," Pershing County Sheriff
Skinner said Luke Helder made the comments to an undercover county
shortly after his arrest outside Reno on Tuesday.
"His demeanor was very jovial. He didn't seem to be taking anything
at the time," the sheriff said.
The smiley face symbol was designed by a Massachusetts man in 1963 as
of an in-house happiness program for an insurance company. It
of the most recognizable symbol of the 1970s.
An FBI official would not comment on the sheriff's report.
Meanwhile, the suspect's parents, Cameron and Pamela Helder, met with
son at the county jail in Reno for about 30 minutes. They were
by glass and spoke by telephone.
"We are here to see our son in his hour of need," Cameron Helder told
afterward. "We told him we love him. I feel a lot better
Helder faces federal charges in Illinois, Nebraska and Iowa, where
initial court appearance is scheduled for Friday.
If convicted, he could be sent to prison for life. Cameron Helder
he expects the legal proceedings to be a long process.
It's already been very hard on us," he said. "Our heart goes out to
families of the victims."
The FBI said Helder placed 18 pipe bombs in mailboxes in Iowa,
Nebraska, Colorado and Texas, along with anti-government
notes. Six of
the bombs exploded last Friday, injuring four letter
carriers and two residents.
The eight bombs in Iowa and Illinois were found in rural locations
form an uneven ring about 70 miles in diameter. The Nebraska
- about 350 miles away - form a large ring about 90 miles
The other bombs were found hundreds of miles to the southwest - one
Salida, Colo., and another in Amarillo, Texas.
The FBI issued an alert for Helder after his father called police
night about letters from his son that included references to
comments and the phrase "Mailboxes are
exploding." The same phrase was
in the notes found with the bombs.
Authorities said Luke Helder has confessed to making 24 pipe bombs
of smokeless gunpowder, BBs or nails, paper clips and Christmas
The final 10 bombs found in mailboxes and the six found
in his car were
not rigged to explode, authorities said.
Helder's parents arrived at Reno-Tahoe International Airport early
from their home in Pine Island, Minn.
Cameron Helder said he wanted to thank the FBI and the sheriff's
for making the visit possible "so we have a better
understanding of what
is going through his mind and what is
Washoe County Sheriff Dennis Balaam said Helder did not seem upset
his father turned him in.
"I think he understands. I don't think there are any ill feelings
at all," the sheriff said. "It was an emotional goodbye. It's a
time for all.
"I think as each moment goes by the consequences are starting to set
Balaam also said Helder was headed for California when he was
but he did not know why.