- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2002

RENO, Nev. (AP) 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" pattern on the map, a sheriff said yesterday.
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, form an arc that could be the beginning 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.
Sheriff Skinner said Luke J. 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, Mr. 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."
Mr. Helder faces federal charges in Illinois, Nebraska and Iowa, where his initial court appearance is scheduled today. At a hearing Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Robert McQuaid Jr. denied a request to release Mr. Helder to the custody of his parents.
"It's apparent to me that he suffers from some apparent mental health problems," Judge McQuaid said.
If convicted, Mr. Helder could be sent to prison for life. Cameron Helder said he expects lengthy legal proceeding.
"It's already been very hard on us," he said. "Our heart goes out to the families of the victims."
The FBI said Mr. Helder placed 18 pipe bombs in mailboxes in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas, along with anti-government notes. Six of the bombs exploded May 3, 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, Texas.
The FBI issued an alert for Mr. Helder after his father called police Monday night about letters from his son that included references to death, anti-government comments and the phrase "Mailboxes are exploding." The same phrase was in the notes found with the bombs.
Authorities said Mr. Helder has confessed to making 24 pipe bombs out of smokeless gunpowder, BBs or nails, paper clips and Christmas tree bulbs. The final 10 bombs found in mailboxes and the six found in his car were not rigged to explode, authorities said.
Mr. Helder's parents arrived at Reno-Tahoe International Airport early yesterday from their home in Pine Island, Minn.
Cameron Helder said he wanted to thank the FBI and the sheriff's department for allowing the visit "so we have a better understanding of what is going through his mind and what is happening."


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