A forensic examination of a computer in the basement of Thomas Biederman’s Russell home revealed it may have been used to obtain information on building pipe bombs, an Ashland Police Department detective testified Friday.
Detective Gavin Patrick, who performed the search of the hard drive from the computer, one of six seized by authorities from the Biederman residence, said there was also evidence that a number of videos pertaining to pipe bombs had been watched on the machine.
Patrick was one of several law-enforcement witnesses to take the stand on the third day of Biederman’s trial in Boyd Circuit Court. Biederman, 52, is charged with attempted murder and using a weapon of mass destruction in connection with a July 28, 2011, car bombing in the parking garage of the Ashland Skytower, at 12th Street and Bath Avenue. The explosion occurred after Biederman’s wife, Janie, who worked for an engineering and architectural firm with offices in the Skytower, touched the brake pedal of her 2007 Ford Mustang convertible.
The blast was determined to have been caused by a pair of homemade explosive devices constructed from PVC pipe, black powder and other items and wired into the vehicle’s left brake light.
The charges against Biederman are both Class B felonies that carry prison sentences of 10 to 20 years.
Under questioning by Boyd Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jason Greer, Patrick, a computer and electronic crimes specialist for the APD, testified the computer from the Biederman home had a separate log-on profile for each member of the family — Thomas and Janie Biederman and their children, Ryan and Jordan. Thomas and Janie Biederman’s profiles were labeled “Dad” and “Mom,” he said.
Under the profile marked “Dad,” Patrick said he located a file that was, in essence, a “repository” of terms that been typed into a Google search box in a toolbar on one of the machine’s Internet browsers. In that file, he said, were searches for pipe bomb detonators and pull-string detonators.
Additionally, Patrick said he located evidence of someone using the machine to perform a Bing search using the words “How to make a pipe bomb.”
Patrick also testified that whoever used the computer to search for information on pipe bombs had tried to eliminate evidence of having done so by using a program called “Internet Eraser.” The program was last ran on July 14, 2011, the same day as the last pipe bomb search, but after that search was performed, he said.
The pipe bomb-related videos were found in unallocated space on the computer’s hard drive, Patrick said. A number of them were hosted by Bing; one was hosted by YouTube, he said.
Patrick testified he performed “cursory” examinations of the other computers taken from the defendant’s home, but none turned up anything of evidentiary value.
Biederman’s attorney, Michael Curtis, asked Patrick if one of those computers was a Hewlett-Packard used by Thomas Biederman for his real estate appraisal business. Patrick replied that it was.
Curtis also asked if the pipe bomb evidence on the family computer could have gotten there as the result of a virus or an “outside attack.” Patrick said he wasn’t aware of anything like that ever happening, but couldn’t completely rule out the possibility.
Several witnesses with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives testified Friday via a video uplink to Judge George W. Davis III’s courtroom. One, Allison Rees, an ATF fingerprint specialist, told jurors she had examined several pieces of evidence in the case, including electrical components, a PVC end cap, some adhesive tape and the key fob remote control to Janie Biederman’s Mustang.
Rees said the only print she found on any of those items was a partial on the sticky side of some black electrical tape that came from the trunk of the Mustang. She said she compared it to sample prints from all four members of the Biederman family and was able to determine it wasn’t left by Janie, Ryan or Jordan Biederman.
Rees also said that while the print might have been Thomas Biederman’s, she couldn’t say for certain. She said she requested a clearer set of Thomas Biederman’s prints, but never received it.
APD officer Rob Brunty, the first to arrive at the scene of the blast, said one of the first things he saw when he got to the parking garage was Janie Biederman’s damaged vehicle. He said he also smelled burning gunpowder, and, when he shined a flashlight on the Mustang, he said he spotted a PVC tube with wires protruding from it.
Brunty said he then went to the Skytower and went up to the 10th floor offices of Middough Consulting, where he found Jane Biederman, who worked for the firm. He also saw her husband, whom he said “seemed to be concerned” about his wife and what had transpired.
Brunty said he asked Thomas Biederman if he or his wife had any “known enemies” who might have booby-trapped her car, and he replied that none came to his mind.
The trial is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Monday.
KENNETH HART can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2654.