Airman admits pipe bomb plan targeting child molesters

By ROBERT PATRICK | St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Published: April 24, 2014

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. — An airman at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, on Wednesday admitted possessing three pipe bombs at his home.

As part of his plea, Justin VanGilder, 24, of Shiloh, Illinois, admitted that he had three illegal pipe bombs. Two had plastic casings and one was made of metal. All were packed with smokeless powder, bird shot and nails and equipped with fuses, his plea documents say.

VanGilder pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court here to three charges of possessing unregistered destructive devices and could face up to 10 years in prison on each charge when sentenced August 1. Federal sentencing guidelines will likely call for much less time, however.

The plea documents offer no motive for VanGilder's bomb making, and the U.S. Attorney's office declined comment, citing the pending case.

VanGilder was arrested Oct. 3 after a visitor contacted authorities. According to charging documents: VanGilder told that unnamed visitor that he was suicidal and had fantasies of killing child molesters. He'd assembled personal information about area molesters and said that the explosives in his house were a last resort and were intended to “inflict as many casualties as possible,” the visitor said. VanGilder showed the visitor a bag of shotgun shells, propane clinders and a bag containing razors, screws and shrapnel.

VanGilder's lawyers asked for a mental evaluation shortly after his arrest, but he was found competent to stand trial.

On Wednesday, wearing a tan jail jumpsuit and shackled at the wrists and ankles, VanGilder told U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan that he was currently taking prescription medications to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

In an email, Scott spokeswoman Karen Petitt person said that VanGilder is currently on "no-pay status," adding that the Air Force "is currently proceeding with separating him from the Air Force under 'other than honorable' conditions."


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