JEFFERSON-The Ashe County Sheriff’s Office believes it’s solved a mysterious bomb threat made against the Ashe County Courthouse earlier this summer.
Ashe County Sheriff James Williams, and ACSO Detective Chris Eldreth, said Justin Paul Holdaway, 26, of Fleetwood and Dakota Scott Combs, 19, of Lansing, were charged Friday with making a false bomb report against a public building, a Class H felony. The pair – both were already being held in the Ashe County Jail on unrelated charges – were given an additional $5,000 secured bond.
Williams and Eldreth said a third man, Jamius Robert Wright, 30, of West Jefferson, will also be charged with making a false bomb report against a public building, but Williams said he has yet to be arrested on the charge. Eldreth, however, said he’s confident Wright will be arrested shortly.
“All these guys are ‘frequent fliers,” Williams said.
Phony bomb threat
The Ashe County Court House was evacuated following a dubious bomb 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.”
Eldreth said the calls were placed using a TracFone style prepaid mobile device, which generally makes the job of tracing phone calls more difficult, but he was ultimately able to piece together identifying information with the help of US Cellular. That, combined with interviews, was enough to crack the case, he said.
“We were able to gather some stuff together and it all matched,” Eldreth said.
While Williams said his office at first investigated whether a female may have been involved in the phony bomb threats, that turned out not to be the case. Williams and Eldreth said the trio were able to use cell phone apps to make their voices unrecognizable.
As for motivation? Eldreth said Holdaway had a drug test with his probation officer on the day of the bomb threat, which could have been used to avoid the drug screen.
Both said they believe their is no connection between the courthouse bomb threat and an apparently similar threat made against West Jefferson’s Walmart in the weeks after the phony courthouse threat.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058.