When a white Florida woman admitted to making 24 pipe bombs found in her bedroom and planning to use them to hurt people, her local sheriff used what he claimed was the woman’s mental illness — a claim he would undercut with his own statements about her history — to defend her.
“While this case is certainly alarming it is not to demonize another individual struggling with mental health,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a news conference Friday.
He announced that Michelle Louise Kolts, 27, was arrested Thursday after deputies tracked her down at work and asked her to return home with them, where the woman reportedly confessed.
Chronister applauded Kolts’ parents for having the courage to call the police on a family member. He described their courage as a takeaway in this incident.
“It is to highlight the importance of speaking up when you see something that isn’t right and what can be prevented when you do,” Chronister said.
Authorities learned of Kolts’ plan when her parents found the explosives Thursday, called investigators and requested the sheriff’s office send the bomb squad, Chronister said.
“The amount of highly destructive materials we found in this home were astonishing,” the sheriff said.
The bomb squad found two dozen pipe bombs, smokeless pistol powder, fused material, 23 different knives, two hatchets, nun-chucks, two BB pellet-type rifles, six BB pellet-type handguns and dozens of books and DVDs about mass killing, bomb-making and domestic terrorism, Chronister said.
“What is even more frightening is that each pipe bomb contained nails, metallic pellets or a combination of both,” Chronister said, “and would have taken less than 60 seconds per device to add the powder and fuse materials she already possessed to detonate each bomb.”
“If used, these bombs could’ve caused catastrophic damage and harm to hundreds, even thousands of people, people right here in our Tampa Bay community,” the sheriff added.
Kolts didn’t specify how and where she wanted to detonate the bombs, Chronister said.
“We’re not aware of any type of hit list,” Chronister said. “Her statements are very generic.”
The sheriff told reporters deputies had responded to her home in August 2018, after a web printing company alerted them that Kolts requested several books on anarchism and making bombs.
“She became consumed with the Columbine and Oklahoma killings,” Chronister said.
Still, deputies “felt comfortable that she wasn’t a harm to herself or others,” Chronister said.
“So at that time, she wasn’t diagnosed with any type of mental health diagnosis at the time. She stated, at that time, her intentions weren’t to harm anyone,” the sheriff said. “Her parents said she was a little on the autism spectrum.”
“Fast-forward a year later,” Chronister said, “again, thank God these parents called us with what they suspected.”
Kolts was later charged with 24 counts of making a destructive device with intent to do bodily harm or property damage, Chronister said. She is being held without bond.
“Who knows the amount of harm that could’ve been done, had these parents not found the courage to call the sheriff’s office and seek help,” the sheriff said. “If you see something suspicious, please say something. They called 911 immediately.”