A love triangle among competitors in a medieval combat role-playing game inspired a gruesome pipe bomb attack last fall, according to a new federal indictment.
Clayton Alexander McCoy, of Ohio, was charged Thursday in federal court with allegedly trying to blow up his romantic rival last October, leaving the man with extensive injuries and serious burns.
The allegedly lovelorn bomber was an avid member of the Dagorhir live-action role-playing or “LARPing” community, according to a criminal complaint unsealed March 11. The filing describes Dagorhir as a “battle game with full contact melee fighting and ranged combat” that involves engaging opponents with weapons at a distance beyond hand-to-hand, “as its primary focus.”
On October 30, the victim opened a package left for him on his porch. As he unwrapped the package, it exploded, shooting triangular pieces of shrapnel and BB pellets into his body. The victim, who is identified in court filings only as “N.K.,” spent a month in the hospital recovering from the attack and is still undergoing rehabilitation.
“According to N.K., as he opened the smaller white box, a small nail that appeared to be inserted into the white box was pulled outward,” the complaint says. “When N.K. removed the nail, he heard a whistling or hissing sound followed by an explosion.”
Bomb technicians determined that the explosion was caused by a pipe bomb hidden inside the package. Investigators focused on McCoy after the victim’s girlfriend, who had met McCoy in Dagorhir seven years earlier, said McCoy had confessed a romantic interest in her roughly a week before the bombing. The woman had turned McCoy down and canceled a camping trip with him, saying she was in a relationship with her boyfriend.
The victim, who also met McCoy in the Dagorhir community, speculated from the hospital that McCoy could have used technical knowledge gained from building weapons and armor in the game to build a bomb, authorities said. Still, the man said he didn’t think McCoy was behind the attack.
“McCoy, like most members of Dagorhir, is proficient at wood and metal and may have the ability to have created the device that exploded,” the complaint reads.
The profile picture for a Facebook page bearing McCoy’s name shows a man in medieval-style Dagorhir armor, complete with a mock shield and what appears to be an ax. Other pictures on the page show the same bearded man in chainmail and other armor in mock-battle.
McCoy is a registered sex offender, according to the complaint, after being convicted in 2013 of one charge of “pandering obscenity involving a minor.”
McCoy was caught in large part by his phone, according to prosecutors. Using subpoenas to obtain McCoy’s Google data, investigators were able to track his smartphone’s exact whereabouts on the day of the attack. McCoy’s Google accounts placed him at home in Chesterland, Ohio, where he lives with his mother, early that morning. At 1:24 a.m., McCoy’s device was used to search for directions to an address in Manchester, Maryland, where the bombing would later take place, prosecutors said. Over the next seven hours or so, the phone traveled from Ohio to Maryland, and at 8:18 a.m., entered the victim’s neighborhood, and arrived at the scene of the crime a short time later.
The route appeared specifically designed to avoid tolls, says the complaint.
But that wasn’t nearly enough for McCoy to remain incognito. For starters, the Toyota pickup truck McCoy was driving, which is registered in his mother's name, was observed en route from Ohio to Maryland by a series of automated license plate readers (ALPR), the complaint states. One of the ALPRs snapped a photo of the vehicle, which appeared to be the same pickup captured on camera in front of the victim’s house by a neighbor’s Nest video doorbell. A week earlier, McCoy’s phone was used to search Google for “1994 toyota pickup gas tank capacity,” according to the complaint.
In a press conference on Thursday, Carroll County Sheriff James T. DeWees said the bombing caused panic throughout the community. The Christmas season was beginning, and many local residents were expecting packages of their own.
“Many in this region may recall how frightening this incident was and in the days following,” said DeWees. “Cases involving explosions often take months or even years to solve. And we’re all very grateful for the speed and deliberation by which this law enforcement team put this case together through methodical investigative work and through teamwork. Everyone here on this law enforcement team succeeded in not only holding and apprehending a dangerous criminal, but also hopefully provided reassurance to a community that was justifiably alarmed after the bombing.”
McCoy was unable to be reached for comment, and does not yet have a lawyer listed in court records. He is set to appear before a federal judge in Cleveland on March 12, and faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.