Psychologist calls mailbox bombing suspect delusional
By Joshua Freed
Flying out of his body and "worldwide ascension" are two things Lucas Helder, the 23-year-old Pine Island native accused of planting pipe bombs in rural mailboxes, believes.
On Wednesday, Dr. Andrew Simcox, a psychologist at the federal medical prison in Rochester, told a federal magistrate that Helder is delusional and should not be freed because he is a great risk to society. Helder believes he vibrates at a certain pitch and that physical death is insignificant because it just moves people to a higher plane of consciousness, Simcox said.
In April, Helder was declared incompetent to stand trial on charges that he planted pipe bombs and anti-government notes in rural mailboxes in Iowa and four other states in May 2002.
The current testimony is about whether Helder is so likely to hurt others that he should be committed indefinitely for treatment. The magistrate didn't immediately make a recommendation.
Helder claims he can fly out of body whenever he wishes and says he's done so as recently as this week, Simcox said. Helder also talks of a "worldwide ascension" in the year 2011 that will be akin to heaven on Earth and believed he could bring about such an ascension earlier by making people aware of it, Simcox said.
Simcox said Helder told him that the mailbox bombings were justified because "it was imperative that he get his message out, that he had no other choice."
Simcox said health professionals on both sides of the case agree Helder has schizo-affective disorder, a claim defense attorneys did not dispute Wednesday. Helder has been treated with four medications while at the Rochester prison, but the drugs haven't been as effective as doctors would like, Simcox testified.
Helder has told his doctors that he wouldn't hurt anyone again, but doctors are concerned that his violent history and beliefs about death make him too risky to release, Simcox said.
Helder, a former art student at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, in Menomonie, is accused of planting pipe bombs in mailboxes in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas. Several bombs exploded, injuring four postal workers and two Iowa women.
The explosions shut down mail delivery in several rural Midwestern communities and touched off a nationwide manhunt that ended with Helder's arrest May 7, 2002, outside Reno, Nev.
After his capture, authorities said Helder claimed he selected mailboxes in areas to form a pattern of a smiley face, and within weeks, his attorney, federal public defender Jane Kelly, filed legal briefs stating her intention to use the insanity defense at trial.
Weeks after pleading not guilty to charges of using a pipe bomb in a crime of violence and destroying property used in interstate commerce, which carry a life sentence, Helder was transferred from a jail in Iowa to Rochester, where he has undergone treatment and tests.
Quiet in custody
Helder sat quietly at the defense table during Wednesday's hearing, speaking only to his attorney from time to time. He has been quiet while in custody, eager to please, and taking his medication without prompting, witnesses said.
"He's smarter than most people, in general," Simcox said.
Defense attorneys tried unsuccessfully to get U.S. Magistrate Franklin Noel to close the parts of the hearing that dealt with Helder's medical and psychological history. Their cross-examination of government witnesses was limited.
Helder's parents, Cameron and Pamela Helder, attended the hearing, with Pamela Helder rubbing her son's neck beforehand. They did not make any public statements.
Whether Helder is committed indefinitely for mental health treatment will eventually be decided by a judge.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry Sekus said Helder could be found to be sick but not dangerous and released without trial. Prosecutors could object, Sekus said.