A man who injured himself in an explosion at Petersburg’s rock pit last July will not be going to trial on federal explosives charges. 59-year-old Mark Wayne Weaver this week entered a guilty plea to one of the charges and a judge approved his release until his sentencing later this year.
Weaver was in custody in Anchorage and had been scheduled for a March trial on two counts of possessing a destructive device. He was medevaced out of town last July after he injured himself with an Improvised Explosive Device at the borough’s rock pit near the airport.
Weaver Thursday appeared at a change of plea hearing in Anchorage before U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess. Weaver agreed to plead guilty to one count of possessing an unregistered destructive device, namely the device he detonated at the rock pit. In a plea agreement with prosecutors, Weaver admitted to making the device with a commercial explosive and other components, taking the explosive to the rock pit and detonating it, injuring himself in the blast. Prosecutors say Weaver told investigating agents he was trying to kill himself, according to other court documents in the case.
A staff member at the medical center found Weaver lying in a pool of blood just outside the entry to the emergency room that Sunday afternoon. He had injuries to his arms, legs, torso and face, he was covered in blood and his clothes were shredded. Weaver told the doctor he had been in an explosion, had been blown eight feet and had been unconscious for half and hour to an hour before coming to and driving himself to the emergency room. He had significant blood loss and received four bags of blood.
Police officers found a five gallon bucket in Weaver’s truck containing what they later determined was a commercial explosive called Tovex, a modern version of dynamite. Federal law enforcement agents came to town to investigate. They destroyed about 50 pounds of Tovex and other explosive material seized from that truck along with Weaver’s shop and storage containers on Cornelius Road south of town.
Tovex can be used in construction projects. Normally it comes in ten pound tubes and requires a license and labeling under federal law. This explosives gel was out of its packaging, unlabeled and in five gallon containers. Weaver told agents he didn’t know how those explosives wound up in his storage containers but thought it had been there for decades. He told agents he was not trying to hurt anyone else but himself.
Agents also reported finding small detonation switches in Weaver’s pickup truck and on Cornelius Road that could be used to set off an IED. According to search warrants in the case, federal agents also found seven hollowed out World War II pineapple style grenade hulls. Officers also found primers and fuses, detonators and grenade refusing kits. Law enforcement also searched his home on North Nordic Drive. He was arrested August 27th in Tacoma, Washington.
In return for the guilty plea on one count, prosecutors agreed to dismiss a second count of possessing an unregistered destructive device, for the hand grenades. In court filings, Weaver’s attorney, Phillip Weidner argued those grenades were “drilled out and deactivated, and inoperable.” Weaver agreed to forfeit the hand grenade parts to authorities.
The one count he plead to has a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in jail and up to 250-thousand dollar fine.
Weaver’s attorney filed a motion asking that he be released until his sentencing and Burgess approved a 25-thousand dollar appearance bond for his release. The judge stipulated he not be allowed to travel to Petersburg and only to the big island of Hawaii unless otherwise approved. He’s required to wear a GPS tracking device and receive mental health and medical care in Hawaii where he owns property.
There’s some fear in Petersburg about his release and returning here. The prosecuting attorney, assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Bottini received letters of concern from community members last year asking that Weaver not be released. In an email to KFSK, Bottini writes that judge directed probation officers to take Weaver to the airport and watch him board a non-stop flight to Hawaii, where he needs to check in with the probation office.
A decade before Weaver was sentenced to jail on assault charges for abusing his wife and threatening her and her brother. The judge in that case ordered him to have no contact with 23 members of the community, including a number of people involved in the case who said they were afraid of him and who helped his wife and family leave town. His wife filed for divorce last year, almost three weeks before Weaver’s explosion at the rock pit.
Sentencing in this case is scheduled for June 16th in Juneau.