An Idaho Falls man accused of rigging a gasoline bomb that could have leveled half a city block said he changed his mind and disarmed it, according to court testimony.
Charles E. Schroeder, 47, turned himself in to police March 22, a day after they disarmed a 60-gallon gasoline bomb in the attic above his restaurant, Charlie’s.
His attorney, Roger Cox, on Tuesday said in a bond reduction hearing the bomb was not rigged. Schroeder waived his preliminary hearing on a charge of attempted first-degree arson.
But police said the bomb was ready to blow on March 21, when employees of the neighboring Cuttery hair salon complained of a strong gasoline smell, leading to its discovery.
“Contrary to what Mr. Cox said, that bomb was ready to blow,” said Bonneville County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Joe Oddo. “The risk to this community was extremely high.”
According to police reports, Schroeder confessed he had originally planned for the fire to start early March 20. The device held gas in plastic containers rigged to a timer powered by rooftop lights.
But he said he changed his mind while he and his girlfriend were in a Jackson, Wyo., hotel on Sunday.
Schroeder said he called his son, told him there was a problem with the business lights and asked him to turn off the breaker switch controlling the lights and the bomb timer. Schroeder said he disconnected the timer wires when he returned to Idaho Falls on Sunday.
Schroeder said he set up the fire to cover up his business failures, according to police reports. He had a business insurance policy.
Oddo said the blast could have destroyed half a city block and if it ignited during the daylight hours, it may have killed up to 100 people.
Seventh District Magistrate Keith Walker granted the defense motion to reduce Schroeder’s $100,000 bond to $75,000.
Schroeder has a 1981 conviction for delivery of LSD in Coeur d’Alene, Oddo said.