CHARLESTON, W.Va. – After a two-day trial, a federal jury convicted an Ohio man of all four counts in a federal indictment charging him in connection with pipe bombs found on tugboats on the Ohio River.
Law enforcement officers recovered the destructive devices from two different tugboats moving barges on the Ohio River on October 21 and October 25, 2021. Evidence at trial revealed Nathaniel Blayn Becker, 42, of Marietta, Ohio, appeared on security video purchasing pipes and other relevant components of the devices from a Lowe’s store in Marietta on four separate occasions and close in time to when the devices were found. Around the time of the first incident, exterior security video from Lowe’s and the Walmart in Marietta showed Becker carrying pipe bomb components toward an Ohio River bridge. Investigators believe the destructive devices were dropped from the bridge.
Becker was found guilty of two counts of possession of an unregistered destructive device and two counts of placement of a destructive device on a vessel. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 18, 2022, and faces up to 60 years in prison.
The jury also heard that similar devices were discovered on a third tugboat moving barges on the Ohio River on October 26, 2021. However, those devices were found to contain non-explosive septic tank cleaner and therefore Becker was not charged.
Becker was on probation at the time of the offense, following his August 2020 conviction in the Washington County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas for failure to comply with an order or signal of a police officer. Becker had brandished a knife at an officer during a traffic stop and then led police on a car chase before barricading himself in his residence. Becker was arrested after a stand-off that ended when police forced entry into the home.
“We are fortunate that no one was injured. Such senseless potential for harm and destruction clearly required decisive action,” said United States Attorney Will Thompson in making the announcement. “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.”
Thompson also thanked Lowe’s, Walmart and the tugboat owners – Crounse Corporation, Campbell Transportation Company and Marathon Petroleum Corp. – for their extensive cooperation in the case as well.
United States District Judge Irene C. Berger presided over the jury trial. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) conducted the investigation with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the West Virginia State Police, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Parkersburg Police Department, the Wood County Sheriff’s Department and the Washington County, Ohio, Sheriff’s Office.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:21-cr-00234.