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Alleged "Smiley Face" bomber to get another competency hearing

A court gavel
A court gavel

ROCHESTER, MN (WTAQ) - Remember the alleged “Smiley Face” pipe bomber?

After 11 years of being confined, a federal judge will soon consider whether former UW-Stout student Luke Helder is mentally competent to stand trial.

Helder, who’s now 32, was arrested in May of 2002 for placing pipe bombs in rural mailboxes.

Authorities said the bombs were planted in five states -- and if you looked on a map, the locations formed one of those round yellow “smiley faces.” Six bombs exploded.

Two women in Iowa were injured, along with four postal carriers in Iowa and Illinois. More bombs were found in Nebraska, Colorado, and Texas – but officials said they were not rigged to go off.

Helder was captured after a dramatic high-speed chase in the Nevada desert.

His home town is Pine Island Minnesota. He’s been in a mental institution at nearby Rochester Minnesota since 2004.

Helder has periodically been found incompetent to stand trial. He’s being charged in the federal court system in Iowa.

A 10 count indictment was recently unsealed charging Helder with transporting and using explosives in a violent crime and destroying property. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

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