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Ohio man convicted of dropping pipe bombs onto tugboats

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal jury has convicted an Ohio man for dropping pipe bombs onto tugboats traveling the Ohio River last fall.

U.S. Attorney for Southern West Virginia Will Thompson said Nathaniel Blayn Becker, 42, of Marietta, Ohio, was convicted following a two-day trial in U.S. District Court.

Nathaniel Blayn Becker

Becker was found guilty on two counts of possession of an unregistered destructive device and two counts of placement of a destructive device on a vessel.

Federal prosecutors presented video evidence of Becker purchasing pipe bomb components from a Lowe’s store in Marietta four times and carrying those components toward the I-77 bridge near Parkersburg. Becker was also on security video from Walmart. The pipe bombs were dropped on two separate tugboats on Oct. 21 and Oct. 25, 2021.

The bombs didn’t go off.

“We are fortunate that no one was injured. Such senseless potential for harm and destruction clearly required decisive action,” Thompson said. “The swift and successful investigation by the law enforcement agencies involved absolutely prevented this situation from becoming worse, and I commend them. I applaud Assistant United States Attorneys Joshua C. Hanks and Nick Miller, along with their trial team, for securing the guilty verdict.”

William Thompson

Thompson told MetroNews the case against Becker was in some ways very circumstantial but they had a lot of circumstances.

“Not only did we have him purchasing the materials, either the day before or day of, but we also have him basically on the river bank walking to the bridge either before or after (the pipe bombs were dropped),” Thompson said.

Becker testified during the trial. He denied dropping the bombs onto the boats. Thompson said Becker’s motive remains unclear.

“That’s a question that remains unanswered. Basically his testimony was, ‘Yes I bought this stuff but no I did not place these on the vessels or make pipe bombs,'” Thompson said.

A third pipe bomb was found on a third tugboat at around the same time but it was made of non-explosive materials and Becker was not charged.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger is scheduled to sentence Becker on Aug. 18. He faces up to 60 years in prison.

Becker was on probation at the time of the crimes. He had a standoff with police in Washington County, Ohio in August 2020 after failing to comply with a traffic stop.

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