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Utah prison inmate enters guilty pleas in Wal-Mart bomb scare

HEBER CITY — A Utah prison inmate has pleaded guilty to a pair of felony charges for a March incident that forced the evacuation of the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Heber City.

Larry Clifford Newman, 35, pleaded guilty Wednesday in 4th District Court to attempted possession of a hoax weapon of mass destruction and escape from official custody, both third-degree felonies.

Newman was part of an inmate work crew from the Utah State Prison that was removing asbestos from the old Wasatch High School prior to its demolition when he walked off the job site on March 28, according to police.

Based on tips from the public, officers tracked Newman to Wal-Mart and arrested him in a bathroom stall. They also found what appeared to be a pipe bomb, according to charging documents.

The device was made from two 12-inch-long pipe segments that had been capped on each end, Heber City Police Chief Dave Booth said. The pipes were fastened together and wires were protruding from the ends, the chief said, noting that there was also what appeared to be a strap that would allow Newman to fasten the device to his body.

The Utah County sheriff's bomb squad was called to the scene to handle the device. An X-ray was inconclusive. However, because the device did appear to pose a "credible threat," the bomb squad took the device to a safe place away from the store and destroyed it.

The device did not contain any explosive material, according to Booth.

Utah state court records indicate that Newman pleaded no contest in 2012 to theft, and guilty in a separate case that same year to felony drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia. He pleaded guilty again to attempted burglary in March 2013 and was sentenced to up to five years in the Utah State Prison.

Newman faces up to five years in prison on each felony to which he pleaded guilty. A sentencing hearing is set for July 23.


Twitter: GeoffLiesik