JEFFERSON-Ashe County investigators have reached a proverbial dead end.
Following extensive interviews, detectives have determined a West Virginia man charged with making more than 400 false bomb threats in the Hickory area most likely is not the culprit in a similar hoax at the Ashe County Court House in late June.
This week, a Burke County Grand Jury handed up felony indictments against Cody Matthew Startt for three counts of terrorism and three counts of making false bomb threats, according to the Hickory Daily Record.
The paper said Startt, 27, of Matoaka, West Virginia, is suspected of making more than 400 false bomb threats in Burke and surrounding counties in May, June and early July. He was arrested at his home on July 6 by the Hickory Police Department, the FBI and West Virginia State Police on the probation violations related to his prior convictions of making false bomb threats.
Last month, Williams said his office was working with state and federal investigators to determine if Startt might be responsible for the similar threat in Jefferson.
“We determined he wasn’t involved in it,” Williams said of Startt’s possible connection to the court house bomb threat.”He’s been interviewed about it. We reached out to those talking to him. We talked to everyone involved and I think he admitted to most everything he has done, but he has nothing to do with the one here. Since he admitted to so many, if he did do this he would own up to it. But you never know in a case like this.”
The Ashe County Court House was evacuated following the dubious threat on June 22.
Williams said last month the threat that cleared the courthouse was received by phone and was initially reported to 911 dispatch at 11 a.m. on June 22, and was quickly followed by two additional mobile calls that Williams believe originated within the same vehicle.
“On the first call we couldn’t hear anything,” said Williams. “On the second call, it sounded garbled like someone was driving down the road with the phone out the window like they were trying to mask their voice. It was a female who said she heard two guys talking about planting a pipe bomb in the court house.”
A short time later, authorities received a call from a male saying there was a bomb in court house.
“At the time, we decided out of abundance of caution to search the court house,” said Williams. “Of course, we found nothing.”
It wasn’t the last time a call of that nature would be placed in the county. An eerily similar call was made to a clerk in the West Jefferson Walmart in early July. The store was quickly emptied and a search yielded that this, too, was a hoax.
‘A dead end’
Williams said the investigation into the court house threat is now being led by Sgt. Det. Chris Eldreth. Since coming onto the case, Williams said Eldreth has been working with area phone companies in trying to trace the identity of the caller, but this has proven difficult because the hoaxers were using track phones, said Williams.
“We’ve just reached a dead end on leads,” said Williams.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.