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Avery County Man Receives Federal Prison Sentence for Making a Destructive Device

By Tim Gardner

An Avery County man has been sentenced to 97 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for making a destructive device and on related criminal offenses. The 97 months equates to 12 years and one month.

Thomas Dewey Taylor, Jr., 45, whose last known home address is 316 Snowshoe Loop, Newland, previously pleaded guilty to attempting to damage and destroy a building used in interstate commerce by fire and explosives, possession of an unregistered National Firearms Act weapon, and making a destructive device.

United States District Judge Martin Reidinger imposed Taylor’s sentence on May 30th in federal court.

Taylor, Jr.’s sentence was jointly announced by Dena J. King, United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina: Bennie Mims, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) at the Charlotte Field Division; Robert Schurmeier, Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (NC SBI), and Avery County Sheriff Mike Henley.

Taylor, Jr. remains in the custody of the United States Marshall’s Service and according to Henley, is currently being housed in the Avery County Detention Center (jail) pending placement by the Bureau of Prisons into a federal facility to serve his sentence.  

According to court records, Taylor was a former employee of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, Inc. (GMHG), located in Linville.  On September 27, 2021, Taylor disabled the alarm system to the GMHG office, turned off the main power breaker, and hid a destructive device in an office closet. The destructive device consisted of a 48-quart cooler housing fuses bundled together and tied to an electric burner hotplate. The fuses ran to fireworks with containers of ignitable liquids. The hotplate was plugged into an extension cord, which was plugged into an electrical receptacle in the closet. Also inside the cooler was a glass pitcher with rocks and a Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) pipe bomb. 

Polyvinyl chloride is a synthetic polymer of plastic. It is insoluble in all solvents.  However, it swells in its monomer and some chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents. It comes in rigid and flexible forms. Rigid PVC is used in construction for pipes, doors, and windows. It is also used in making plastic bottles. Adding plasticizers makes PVC softer and more flexible. It is used in plumbing, electrical cable insulation, flooring, inflatable products, and in rubber substitutes.

Court records also show that the destructive device was constructed so it would ignite once someone turned on the main power breaker, resulting in an explosion designed to cause property damage, injury, and death to any persons nearby.

Taylor, Jr. had been fired from his job as office manager for the Highland Games in August 2021 and was suspected of embezzling money and committing financial credit card theft. North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation agents were alerted, which prompted them to investigate and they found what was described as an improvised explosive device (IED) at the Highland Games office. 

Taylor, Jr. was then arrested on three counts of attempted murder and one count of possession of a weapon of mass destruction.  

King commended the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives at the Charlotte Field Division, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and the Avery County Sheriff’s Office for their work in the investigation of the case. 

Taylor was prosecuted in federal court by Assistant United States Attorney Alex M. Scott, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville, North Carolina.