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Helder Said to Be Mapping Smiley Face

ByABC News
May 9, 2002, 8:23 AM

May 9 -- The grinning suspect charged in a string of 18 pipe-bomb incidents over the past week told police he was attempting to map out a giant "smiley face" across the heart of the nation, police said today.

The first 16 bombs discovered in the string, which began last Friday, were arranged in two circles of eight, one straddling Illinoisand Iowa, the other in Nebraska.

The circles could represent eyes.

The last two of the 18 bombs were found in Colorado and northern Texas, perhaps the start of an arc that would have had to end in Kentucky or Tennessee in order to resemble a smile.

The suspect, Luke Helder, 21, was arrested Tuesday night in Nevada, well to the west of the direction the smile would have to go.

"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 told The Associated Press. Another officer confirmed the remark was made to a member of a task force investigating the case.

Suspect Meets With Parents

Helder's parents met with their son today for the first time since he was arrested.

"We are here to see our son in his hour of need," Cameron Helder said outside the jail in Reno, Nev., where the suspect is being held. "We told him we love him. I feel better, a lot better, after speaking to him."

Cameron Helder, of Pine Island, Minn., was instrumental in helping the FBI identify his son as a suspect. He called the FBI on Monday night after he received a letter from his son postmarked in Omaha, Neb., in which he seemed to take responsibility for the bombs.

The suspect's father extended his sympathy to the six people who were injured by the bombs, and thanked the FBI for helping him to see his son "so we have a better understanding of what is going through his mind and what is happening."

On Wednesday, a federal court judge in Reno, Nev., denied a request to release Helder into the custody of his parents, calling him a flight risk and a potential danger to the community.