Court docs: Mentally ill man told fire marshals he built pipe bombs

Staff writer

James City County Fire Marshals have charged and arrested a Toano man after they investigated two explosive devices found in the trunk of a car in the Mirror Lakes subdivision of Toano.

Adam Thomas Helms, 30, has been charged with manufacturing an explosive device and possession of a firearm after being involuntarily committed, according to filings in Williamsburg-James City County General District Court.

On Friday, James City County Assistant Fire Marshal Michelle Toutaint visited Helms for a welfare check at his home in the 200 block of Loch Haven Drive off Croaker Road in James City County, the filings state.

Helms told a Community Services Board case manager he built a pipe bomb in the trunk of his car, according to the court documents.

A Community Services Board staffer called 911 and Toutaint was dispatched to investigate as the Fire Marshals Office investigates explosive devices, James City Fire Marshal Kenny Driscoll said. Toutaint arrived first and other fire marshals and police officers arrived soon after.

Helms invited Toutaint into his home to look at bomb-making materials including a fuse, metal piping with end caps, sulfur and black powder. He told the investigator he learned how to make the pipe bomb on the internet.

Helms then told Toutaint he had an unloaded muzzleloading gun in the trunk of his car, the filings state. He later told investigators he knew he couldn’t possess firearms due to “his mental health diagnosis.”

Toutaint obtained a search warrant to search Helm’s property and the James City County Fire Department, Newport News bomb squad and local police cordoned off a section of Loch Haven Drive in Mirror Lakes to dispose of two explosive devices.

One of the devices was complete while the other was incomplete, according to a prior news release.

Helms was arrested and transported to the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail the same day and booked at 6:22 p.m., according to jail records.

According to the court documents, Helms is indigent, unemployed and has lived in Williamsburg for nearly his entire life. He lived alone at the Loch Haven Drive address before his arrest.

Leanne Gilmour, Helms’s next door neighbor, said Helms had lived with his grandparents who raised him. Helms’s grandfather, Larry Conner, died in January and Helms had been living alone since.

Gilmour said she’d enjoyed having the family as her neighbors. Larry Conner and his wife, Barbara, would take care of Gilmour’s pets if she had to take a trip.

Barbara Conner died in 2012, according to an online obituary that lists both Larry Conner and Helms.

For Gilmour, the incident came as a shock as she considers the tight-knit community its own little family. Folks look out for each other, she said.

Other neighbors refused to speak about the incident.

Helms will continue to be held at the jail without bond after a Monday morning arraignment hearing, according to Driscoll and court records.

Helms was previously charged in 2018 for a firearm crime after he was involuntarily committed, the filings said. He has no criminal record in Williamsburg-James City County or York general district courts, according to online court records. Helms told a magistrate he stopped speaking with his probation officer.

Driscoll said his office was coordinating with the Commonwealth’s Attorney Nate Green and federal authorities in the case.

If convicted, Helms faces as much as 11 years behind bars and $5,000 in fines, according to the Virginia Code.

Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329, by email at srobertsjr@vagazette.com and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.

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