A Glen Burnie man who admitted to building bombs in his home was sentenced in federal court Thursday to nearly four years in prison.
Todd Dwight Wheeler Jr., 28, wasn't the "next mad bomber," according to his attorney. Laura Robinson described Wheeler as a man with a troubled history, drug addiction and a fascination with explosives.
Police and fire officials began investigating Wheeler after he was taken to Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie on New Year's Day with a burned hand.
At Wheeler's home in the Harundale neighborhood of Glen Burnie, police say, investigators found a dozen homemade bombs, jars filled with chemicals, two improvised detonators, needles, bomb-making manuals and a disconnected booby trap on a rear door that they say could have fired a shotgun shell. They also found a pistol, a flare launcher and a signal launcher, they say.
At his grandparents' home in Millersville, police say, investigators found chemicals used to make explosives.
Wheeler admitted to investigators he had set off five improvised explosives at his home, police said. He told them the last one "blew off his pants."
Wheeler told U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles on Thursday that he apologized for putting his neighbors at risk by experimenting with bombs and explosives.
"I understand I could have hurt somebody," Wheeler said.
Wheeler was charged with more than 20 state violations, but many of the charges were dropped after his guilty plea in May to one federal charge of illegal possession of a firearm. Officials said in court documents that Wheeler was barred from owning firearms after a drug violation.
Wheeler could have been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, but Robinson and Assistant U.S. Attorney A. David Copperthite asked for a sentence at the low end of sentencing guidelines.
Quarles sentenced him to 46 months in prison and three years of supervised release.
Copperthite said he was struck by photographs of Wheeler over the years that showed the toll drugs took on him.
"You could see his deterioration along the way," Copperthite said.
Wheeler looked markedly different in court Thursday from his January booking photo, when he was thin, with blank eyes. In court, he was heavier and attentive to the proceedings.
The man who built bombs "doesn't seem to be the same person sitting here," Copperthite said.