Keeping cool in a bomb scare, AC man makes a call

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Residence near Fredericksburg where pipe bomb makings were found

Fredericksburg, Gillespie County,TX – Jose Raul Cadena didn’t know exactly what he was looking at, but he didn’t like what he was seeing.

An air conditioning technician, he knows quite a lot about many things mechanical, electrical and electronic, thermodynamic – and the basic nuts and bolts, the thread and solder skills of plumbing together devices such as thermocouplers and the copper tubing that carries refrigerant gas.

The reason for the service call to this spacious mansion and guest house with a magnificent pool, located on 60 scenic acres at 1142 Rocky Hill Lane, five miles outside this Hill Country mecca on the back road to Luckenbach, was simple enough.

The ticket read, “T-stat came off wall again – now doesn’t work.”

Again? Apparently, the service company had made a previous visit to address the same, or a similar problem.

And then he looked down at the ground beside the air conditioning unit and saw a foot-long piece of 2-inch diameter galvanized pipe with an end cap on one end that had been drilled. A piece of 24-gauge stereo wire trailed out through the hole, and the other end had no cap screwed on it.

Cadena could see residue from a lot of gun powder inside the pipe.

He didn’t need to look any further. Because he had touched it, Cadena took it to the Fredericksburg Police, who quickly agreed it was the makings for an explosive device and a prohibited weapon, possession of which are both violations of the Texas Penal Code.

Because the location of what Cadena had found is far outside the city limits, police reached out to the Gillespie County Sheriff’s Office. Following procedure, the investigator in charge summoned the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, who readily agreed to work with the deputies on the case.

SOMETIMES THE NARRATIVE that is couched in the official, dry-as-toast bureaucratic language of law men who are describing the facts to which they are prepared to testify is as chilling as anything authored by Stephen King or Edgar Allan Poe. As the story unfolds, one feels an electric trickle up and down the spine, the vision becomes sharper, sounds are more acute, one’s attention is honed to a degree of razor sharpness.

They have your full attention – and it’s all about “What if?”

Records show the search warrant came came August 28, more than a week after Cadena had made his discovery and alerted authorities. The paper trail shows that investigators had been busy getting their facts straight in the community.

For instance, there is a sales slip for various pieces of galvanized pipe, and end caps, as well as stereo speaker wire – all bought from Sutherland Lumber Company in Fredericksburg. The purchaser paid cash.

When the cops came calling, they found a lot of what their affidavit of probable cause listed as items to be sought.

There were two additional pipe bombs, drilled and fully assembled, with both end caps attached and speaker wire threaded through the holes. Both lay on the kitchen counter. They were very similar to the one that Cadena found near the air conditioner.

Agents found about 10 pounds of smokeless powder – the kind used to reload ammunition – of various grades, in the plastic containers in which reloading powder is sold. There were pieces of strings Christmas tree lights – the kind that twinkle on and off – pre-cut at various lengths.

Since the agents didn’t know what was inside the two assembled pipe bombs, they took the precaution to have the devices x-rayed. The McLennan County Sheriff’s Office bomb squad were standing by, having left Waco to perform the task there, at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Robert and Janet Wolters, five miles outside Fredericksburg, a journey of about 170 miles.

The x-rays showed they were empty. Apparently, bomb disposal units worldwide have discovered that you don’t just haul off and disassemble pipe bombs or explosive devices of any kind without first getting a good picture of what you’re dealing with – if there is time. Some bombers rig their weapons to explode when the fuse has been disconnected, or part of the bomb has been removed.

SUMMARY REPORTS of the interviews with the Wolters family members, including their two adult children, make note of the fact that none of them are “prohibited persons” who are not legally allowed to possess or purchase firearms, ammunition, or reloading supplies.

They first intereviewed Mrs. Wolters, who let them know that she and her husband moved to the place on Rocky Hill Lane after he inherited property with producing petroleum wells and leased deposits of oil and gas. He quit his practice as an opthamologist at that point, and they began to live on their income from the family’s mineral wealth.

The agent noted Mrs. Wolters “stated she does not have a good relationship with her son, Jacob Wolters.”

On the day the air conditioning tech discovered the pipe bombs, she had gone to a motel to rent a room. She furthermore stated that her son, Jacob Wolters, “messes everything up when he comes to visit.” He usually stays in the guest house when he is at his parents’ home.

And then, the screw turning ever tighter, she related that two weeks previously she found a silver piece of pipe in the yard. She told the agent she “did not know exactly what she had found in the yard aside from it being a pipe and stereo wire…she believes that Jacob Wolters has knowledge of how to make pipe bombs. Wolters further stated that Jacob Wolters is brilliant.”

He lives with “an older woman” and their children in the rural Travis County suburb of Manor, and commutes to his job at Rackspace, a cloud computing company in Austin. He previously worked at Dell Computers, according to the report.

When they interviewed his sister Anna Elizabeth Wolters, who had just checked out of a hospital and returned to classes, she was just as circumspect. She said Jacob had tried to cheer her up by detonating a pipe bomb in the yard, “but it didn’t work.”

The agent said she was not only very nervous, but she explained in surprise that she had no idea there is anything wrong with playing with explosives or improvising bombs, just for fun.

She declined to show them just where the detonation was to have taken place “in fear of incriminating her brother.”

Wolters’ father, Robert, said his “son should know not to pack the pipe completely full” – to leave space for compression and gas expansion, as in “reloading a cartridge.”

When agents confronted his son Jacob Wolters at his home in Manor, he appeared to be “extremely nervous.”

Materials obtained from the Gillespie County Sheriff’s Office through a public information act request included no return of service on an arrest warrant for any person as a result of the investigation.

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This is what the air conditioning tech saw next to the machinery

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