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Police Cite a Map Motif in Bombings

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 a "smiley face" on the map, a sheriff said today.

The first 16 bombs were arranged in two circles, one in Illinois and Iowa and the other in Nebraska. On a map, the circles could resemble the eyes of 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 a smiley face when he was all finished," Pershing County Sheriff Ron Skinner said.

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 residents.

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.

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