Judge grants more testing time for accused bomber

Helder will stay in Rochester at least four more months

By Todd Dvorak

Associated Press

A former college student from Pine Island who police say planted pipe bombs in Midwestern mailboxes will spend four more months in the custody of federal doctors, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Luke Helder, 21, has spent the past six months at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, where psychiatrists are trying to determine whether he is fit for trial.


U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett lengthened Helder's stay at least another four months based on a report filed by doctors and the agreement of attorneys.

The report will not be made public, Bennett said during a brief hearing Tuesday.

"Hopefully (in four months) we'll be able to set it for trial, pending what the doctors tell us," Bennett said.

Helder, a former student at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, is accused of placing pipe bombs and handwritten, rambling notes in 18 rural mailboxes in May 2002.

Six people were injured in the five-day spree that began with explosions in western Illinois, spread across eastern Iowa and prompted the U.S. Postal Service to order rural mail carriers not to deliver to closed mailboxes.

Bombs and notes were also discovered in mailboxes in Nebraska, Colorado and Texas, though none detonated. Helder was captured outside Reno, Nev.

He was taken to Iowa, where exploding bombs injured six people -- four mail carriers and two residents -- and the first federal charges were filed.

For the first several months, Helder was held in the Linn County Jail in Cedar Rapids. In May, he was transferred to the prison in Rochester, which is just 17 miles from the home of his parents, in Pine Island, Minn.


Helder has pleaded not guilty to charges of using an explosive device to maliciously destroy property used in interstate commerce and using a firearm to commit a crime of violence. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.

His attorney, public defender Jane Kelly, filed papers last year stating she will use the insanity defense if the case goes to trial.

No date has been scheduled for the next hearing in the case.

What To Read Next
Get Local