Skip to main content
Press Release

Man Sentenced To 10 Years For Using An Improvised Explosive Device To Damage A Building

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of North Carolina
Defendant Detonated a Pipe Bomb inside a Walmart in 2007

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – United States Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose announced today that Larry Dean Bowlsby, 49, of Warrenton, Missouri, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger to 10 years in prison for detonating an improvised explosive device inside a Walmart store in 2007. Bowlsby was arrested in Missouri on May 24, 2016, and pleaded guilty to the charges in the Western District of North Carolina on October 2016.


C.J. Hyman, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Charlotte Field Division; Robert Schurmeier, Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation; Chief Davis Woodard of the Sylva Police Department; and Sheriff Chip Hall of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office join U.S. Attorney Rose in making today’s announcement.


According to filed court documents and today’s sentencing hearing, sometime prior to September 26, 2007, Bowlsby constructed a destructive device, that being a pipe bomb. Court records indicate that on September 26, 2007, Bowlsby entered the Walmart in Sylva, N.C., accompanied by two minors. Once inside, Bowlsby took and used a shopping cart. He had placed the pipe bomb in the bag of one of the minors, but removed it once he was inside the store. According to court records, Bowlsby separated from the minors and took the cart and the pipe bomb to the camping supplies section of the store. He placed the pipe bomb among the small propane cylinders for camp stoves, ignited the device, and left the area. The device detonated and caused an explosion. Court records show that five people were nearby when the device exploded and had to be taken to the hospital for minor injuries inflicted by the explosion. Also, the Walmart store and some merchandise were damaged by the bomb. Bowlsby and the two minors drove away in Bowlsby’s vehicle.

According to court records, investigators captured video footage from the store security cameras that depicted Bowlsby and the two minors inside the store, and his vehicle in the parking lot. Law enforcement were also able to recover Bowlsby’s fingerprint from the shopping cart. Law enforcement ran the print against national databases in 2007 with no success; however, they ran it again in 2016 and the print matched Bowlsby.

According to court records, on January 9, 2008, the Colorado State Patrol stopped Bowlsby’s vehicle, which was the same as the one driven by Bowlsby during the 2007 incident in Sylva. Law enforcement located four incendiary devices made from tennis balls, black powder, electrical tape, and fuses. Bowlsby was arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to charges relating to the tennis ball bombs. Bowlsby’s fingerprints were entered into the national database, which enabled the successful fingerprint search in 2016.

Bowlby is currently in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.


In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney Rose praised the work the ATF, SBI, the Sylva Police Department and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, which handled the investigation.


Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Gast of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville prosecuted the case.

Updated April 14, 2017