Suspect flees; explosives found in Fayette County home

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A man who told investigators he "is not coming anywhere near Pennsylvania" had all of the materials needed to build an improvised explosive device stashed inside a Fayette County home, police said in court documents.

Southwest Regional police obtained a warrant on Thursday to arrest Jeff Wilson, 58, on charges of possessing a weapon of mass destruction, receiving stolen property, causing or risking a catastrophe and other crimes.

Investigators said they found 40 railway fuses, 46 railway torpedoes, two military M-18 smoke grenades, 76.6 feet of military detonation cord and 6.6 feet of military time fuse when they searched his daughter's home on Miller Street in Newell, where he had been living alone. They said they also found moonshine.

"Clearly something is amiss here," Chief John Hartman said. "Why did he have them? Where did he get the materials?"

Chief Hartman said police spoke briefly to Mr. Wilson over the phone on Thursday morning -- three days after they searched the home -- but learned nothing about his motives.

Mr. Wilson told police that he bought the detonation cord and smoke grenades at a flea market about 30 years ago, although he did not remember which one, and "received" the railroad fuses and torpedoes in 1975 because he wanted to "blow them up in the street."

Investigators wrote in a criminal complaint that Mr. Wilson kept many of the items stored next to ammunition for an AK-47 and a 50-gallon oil tank. If combined, police wrote, they could have destroyed the home where Mr. Miller was staying and several neighboring houses as well.

They also wrote that Mr. Wilson confessed to possessing moonshine but said he did not manufacture it, although officers found the illegal whiskey next to pumps, mason jars, pH strips and hydrometers.

Chief Hartman said police do not yet know how Mr. Wilson obtained the military grade explosives, which are illegal to possess, or whether others were involved.

Southwest Regional police continue to investigate with help from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. They suspect that Mr. Wilson has left the state.

The investigation into Mr. Wilson began when Southwest Regional police investigated a burglary ring and received a tip that Mr. Wilson might have stolen firearms, the chief said. Mr. Wilson was not charged in connection with the burglary ring.

neigh_washington

Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil.


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