Ohio man accused of dropping pipe bombs onto passing tows

Federal authorities have charged an Ohio man who they say dropped pipe bombs onto tows passing below in the Ohio River.

None of the devices detonated. 

Nathaniel Blayn Becker, 42, of Marietta, Ohio, is accused of possessing an unregistered firearm and of attempting to destroy a maritime vessel.  

According to court documents, a deck hand working aboard the towboat Janis R. Brewer spotted a 1.25-inch-by-24-inch pipe inside an empty barge at about 0300 on Oct. 21. The vessels were upbound on the Ohio River near Parkersburg, W.Va. 

He notified the captain, who contacted law enforcement. The pipe was filled with a powdery substance later identified as ammonium nitrate.  

On Oct. 25, the captain and deck hand aboard the towboat Connie K. heard a clanking sound as they passed under the Interstate 77 bridge in Wood County, W.Va., across the river from Marietta. Documents show they later found two devices on the towboat’s deck containing a similar powdery substance.  

A third incident occurred on Oct. 26 when a deck hand aboard the towboat Findlay found two devices on a barge after passing under two bridges near Marietta. The devices were filled with a blue substance later identified as septic system treatment, the criminal complaint said.  

Authorities traced the components used in the devices to a Lowe’s store in Marietta. Security footage identified the man who bought the items on Oct. 20 and his vehicle. Cameras also captured the suspect grabbing a bag from his vehicle after making the purchases and walking toward the Interstate 77 bridge about a mile away.  

 “The man returned to the red Ford Escape at approximately 12 a.m.,” the complaint said. “The components purchased by the suspect match those exactly of the device that was recovered on Oct. 21, 2021.” 

Police arrested Becker on Oct. 27. He is being held pending his trial, which is scheduled to begin Feb. 28. Authorities have not released a motive.