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Man left jail days before arrest for alleged NC airport attack

Michael Christopher Estes is charged with leaving a homemade bomb near a terminal and later telling investigators he sought to "fight a war on U.S. soil"


Associated Press

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The man charged with stashing a jar filled with explosive chemicals and nails at a western North Carolina airport was freed just eight days earlier after a short prison stint for an earlier crime.

Michael Christopher Estes, 46, is charged with leaving a homemade bomb near a terminal at Asheville's airport on Oct. 6 and later telling investigators he sought to "fight a war on U.S. soil," according to court documents released last week. Bomb technicians defused the explosive that was timed to explode around dawn as travel activity started picking up.

This undated photo provided by the Buncombe County Detention Center shows Michael Christopher Estes. (Buncombe County Detention Center via AP)
This undated photo provided by the Buncombe County Detention Center shows Michael Christopher Estes. (Buncombe County Detention Center via AP)

The state prison system's online database shows Estes spent seven days behind bars in September. The Citizen-Times of Asheville reports that records show he attacked a Swain County man with a hatchet and knife earlier this year.

It's unclear why Estes would have been released so soon after being sentenced to between 10 and 21 months. The newspaper reports state prison officials did not respond to messages requesting clarification.

Cherokee Indian Police Department officers said in incident reports that Estes chased the man into his house trailer on July 31, 2015, with a 16-inch knife and hatchet, the newspaper reported. The victim reportedly suffered cuts to his right temple, one his left check from his mouth to his ear lobe, and his left tricep. He also suffered a puncture wound to his chest, according to the reports.

The attack came 17 days after Estes was arrested and charged with breaking and entering and larceny, Swain County Sheriff Curtis Cochran said.

Estes' father said he hasn't spoken to his son in several years. Jimmie Estes of Tazewell, Tennessee, told the newspaper he did not know whether his son was married, where he was living or whether he had a job.

"I don't really know him anymore," Jimmie Estes said.

According to court documents, a man security cameras show dressed in black left the improvised explosive device at Asheville Regional Airport. The bomb contained ammonium nitrate, Sterno fuel, nails and a .410 gauge Winchester shotgun cartridge, authorities said. Estes waived his Miranda rights, answering questions and admitting to building and planting the device, the criminal complaint said.

"Estes described how he created the device ... and then rigged the alarm clock to strike the matches and cause the flame necessary to trigger the device," the complaint states. "More specifically, the alarm clock would go off, the matches would strike, the Sterno would heat up, and then the Ammonium Nitrate would explode."

However, Estes also claimed that he hadn't actually set the device to go off, the complaint said.

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