UPDATE: Suspect Will Get Mental Health Evaluation
By DAYNA WORCHEL and KENNETH DEAN
A 52-year-old Henderson man who is suspected of manufacturing and placing more than 30 explosive devices throughout East Texas will undergo a court-ordered mental health evaluation in a medical facility within the Bureau of Federal Prisons, U.S. Magistrate Judge John David Love ruled today.
Kenneth Hawk, from the U.S. Public Defender's office, was appointed to be the attorney for Larry Gene North in the initial phase of the legal proceedings against him.
“I am seeking a mental health evaluation to determine his competency because I have questions about his ability to assist in his defense,” Hawk said to Judge Love.
Hawk said in the courtroom that he had spent about 25 to 30 minutes with North before his appearance on Thursday, and had also visited with his family.
During a press conference at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tyler this morning (see video above), some of the points revealed include:
* North's motivation for allegedly placing 36 explosive devices around East Texas may have included the fact that "he did not care for the U.S. government."
* North is believed to be responsible for the rash of both pipe bombs and Molotov-cocktail-type devices.
North was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday morning prior to his arrest, which occurred at 11 a.m. after he was observed placing an object in a U.S. Postal Service mailbox in the Tanglewood East Shopping Center in Tyler.
North faces felony charges in a months-long string of pipe bombs deposited in U.S. Postal Service boxes and other East Texas targets.
U.S. Attorney's Office officials said North is suspected of placing an explosive device in the Lone Star Baptist Church in Henderson County on Feb. 11, 2010, and in the Duncan Cemetery in Rusk County on Feb. 19.
State and federal agents arrested North after an explosive device was discovered in a box at the Tanglewood Shopping Center on Loop 323 at Fifth Street in Tyler. Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, FBI, U.S. Postal Inspector's Office and Texas Rangers were part of the arrest.
A robot plucked the device from the box and placed it into an explosive-safe transport container, which agents took to the Smith County Peace Officer's Firing Range behind the Smith County Low Risk Jail on Public Road off of U.S. Highway 69 north.
Agents then arrested North near the Smith County Peace Officer's Building on North Pointe Drive just outside Loop 323, which is close to the Low Risk Jail facility.
Tyler ATF agent Clay Alexander said at least one more explosive device was found in the handicapped-equipped van North was driving. Because of North's size and no special ramp available, trusties had to lift the man into the back of a Smith County Sheriff's Department van.
As he was wheeled into the van, North, who is balding with some wispy-gray hair, sneered and made an obscene gesture to the nearby media.
In search of evidence, agents, armed with a federal search warrant, also converged on North's home at 2863 County Road 401 in Henderson.
The explosive devices Wednesday marked more than 30 discovered in recent months. Officials have said the devices, if detonated, could have caused substantial property damage and killed anyone near them. Some devices have been hoaxes, such as the one discovered Tuesday off County Road 304 in Rusk County.
In addition to the pipe and bogus bombs, Molotov cocktails have been discovered in mailboxes as well.
"We are still investigating to see if he was involved in (Molotov cocktails) found in East Texas," Alexander said. "A lot of manpower went into this investigation from the ATF, FBI, U.S. Postal Service, Texas Rangers and other agencies. This has been a team effort much like we had with the church arsons a few months ago."
Alexander gave no investigation details but said multiple agencies "used a wide array of investigative techniques" to lead them to their suspect. He would not release information on what interviews with North revealed about the motive in the case.
In the late 1980s, Henderson police arrested North on a charge of unlawfully carrying a prohibited weapon, state records show. He was convicted of the Class A misdemeanor charge in 1989, but information was unavailable on whether he was sentenced to jail or just paid the $100 court fine.
Officials said the U.S. Attorney's Office is determining the felony charges North will face.
Updated Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 2:40 p.m. CDT