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Accused Pipe Bomber Confessed to Friends

Aired May 8, 2002 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to begin with the latest on the mailbox bombing case. We have some new information about suspect Luke John Helder who was captured by authorities in this pipe bombing case.

CNN's justice correspondent Kelli Arena is in Washington to bring us the latest development -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Let's start by informing you that yesterday at 4:00, according to affidavit in the case, Luke Helder did call two friends in Minnesota and admitted -- took responsibility -- for the pipe bombings. According to the affidavit, he did admit that he was the pipe bomber.

Right now, Helder remains in custody in Nevada. He is scheduled for an initial court appearance where he will be informed of the charges against him. Helder faces charges in both Iowa and Illinois. And charges in other states are possible. If he doesn't agree to a global plea, he will have to stand trial in every state that has brought charges against him.

At this point, the plan is to transfer Helder to Iowa, the first state that filed charges. If he's convicted of one of those charges, which is knowingly using a firearm to commit a crime of violence, it could mean life in prison for this 21-year-old college student. It turns out, as we reported earlier, it was Helder's father who first notified law enforcement that his son could be a suspect.

PHILLIPS: What kind of prison time could this mean for Helder?

ARENA: It could mean life in prison, if convicted of the latter charge, which is using a weapon to commit a violent crime. There's a lot of interesting stuff in this affidavit, Kyra. We're running through it right.

But here's something: he was stopped three times since the pipe bombing started, for traffic violations. The first time in Nebraska, he was speeding. And when the law enforcement officer approached the car, he said, I didn't mean to hurt anybody, and the law enforcement officer said, well, I'm only stopping you for a speeding ticket. But no one ever followed up.

Two hours later -- that was in Nebraska -- two hours later, which shows you how fast he was driving, he was stopped in Oklahoma for not wearing his seat belt, where he told that officer that he was very tired and needed a hotel room. He was stopped again for speeding the next day in Colorado. And the trooper wrote down in his notes that the person is very nervous and that his eyes were watering almost as if he was just about to cry. So all the time they were looking for this person, he was tracking the path of the pipe bombings. He was stopped three times for traffic violations, but no follow-up -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Interesting. So, Kelli, even when a police officer is suspicious like that, there really isn't anything they can do. How does that work? They have to have permission from the motorist? Is that right? They have to ask if they can search the car?

ARENA: That's true. There are so many things that come into play here. And basically, someone could be emotionally distressed and this officer, in all fairness, who stopped him the first time, when he readily admitted he didn't meet to hurt anybody, really had no information to go on. There was not an all-points bulletin at that point, with the make of the car and the license plate, as we saw yesterday.

So this was an officer stopping a young man. You know, you say a lot of things when you're stopped for speeding, when you're caught in the act. So I'm sure they hear all sorts of stuff. In hindsight -- hindsight is always 2020, Kyra -- it's interesting, though, that he was stopped in each of the states that, as he progressively headed west.

PHILLIPS: Kelli Arena with the latest from Washington. We will continue to follow the new information and, of course, the story on Luke John Helder. Thank you so much.

ARENA: You're welcome.

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