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Pipe bomb suspect arrested

| June 14, 2006 12:00 AM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

A 25-year veteran with the U.S. Forest Service has admitted to making and planting a pipe bomb at his employer's office in Troy.

Stephen Neil Young, 55, of 336 Pioneer Road, Libby, told investigators he attached the bomb to his USFS pickup to kill himself. That's according to a criminal complaint filed against Young on attempted murder and related charges.

The accused, who faced a 21-day work-related suspension, also confessed that he wanted his death to look accidental so his family would benefit from his life insurance, the complaint said. Young admitted to building the bomb at his home and attaching it to his 3/4-ton Dodge in the parking lot nine days before he also reported finding it.

The unexploded bomb was found at 10:30 a.m. June 1 in the parking lot at the Three Rivers Ranger Station at 1437 North Highway 2, said Cheryl Glenn. Glenn is the resident agent in charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Helena and Missoula.

"Forest service law enforcement responded to the scene, secured and notified the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office and ATF," Glenn said. "At that point we requested assistance from the Missoula County Bomb Squad to render the device safe."

Officials secured the area, but had to wait one day for the bomb squad to arrive and detonate it. The bomb contained a low-explosive smokeless powder.

No one was hurt.According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula:

An ATF agent in Missoula on June 2 interviewed Young. Young one day earlier told USFS Law Enforcement Officer David Helmrick he found the bomb after co-worker Laura Finley moved the pickup so she could do the annual check on the truck's radio.

Prior to moving the truck, Finley told investigators Young had asked her for the keys so he could start the truck. Young, who lost his USFS driving privileges for seven months because of accidents, had formerly used the pickup as his work truck.

After Finley moved the truck, Young claimed he found the bomb where it had been parked. Yet, he never told Finley.

A one-time blaster for USFS, Young told investigators the bomb was intended for him. Young told investigators it could be activist Rick Bass or Young's supervisors, Wayne Kroeger or Roy Buesken. Young also mentioned Bob Kooken and Chad Pickering as possible suspects.

Young told investigators that over the years he dealt with numerous disciplinary actions. There were multiple incidents involving USFS vehicles, threats against a federal employee, using offensive language and failing to report accidents with vehicles.

After serving the 21-day suspension, which on May 30 was postponed, Young said he was supposed to have driving privileges returned.

When investigators on June 2 questioned Young's wife, Barbara, she said her husband never mentioned the bomb being found at the ranger station or his troubles at work.

During the June 2 interview, Steven Young later admitted to making the bomb in March at his home. He purchased the pipe from Ace Hardware in Libby. He filled it with reloading powder.

Young said he learned to build it from training literature from the USFS. He also said he'd been exposed to explosives in the military and as a blaster for the USFS.

Young said he wanted "to blow himself to smithereens," and he was surprised the bomb didn't blow up when he started the truck for Finley. He also said he didn't place the bomb on his own vehicle because then his wife wouldn't be able to sell it after the explosion. Young believed blowing up the USFS truck would look more like an accident.

A judge with U.S. District Court in Missoula has determined there's enough evidence for the case to continue, Glenn said. Young now faces a grand jury indictment. If the grand jury also determines there's sufficient evidence, the case will continue tin court.

Young also is charged with attempting to damage federal property, using an explosive to commit a felony, and possessing and making an illegal firearm.

He also was charged in 1984 with damaging a police vehicle.