Movies and television shows often paint a disturbing picture of individuals grappling with unrequited love. They are shown attempting to win their beloved's affection at any cost, and even resorting to horrific acts such as eliminating romantic rivals to achieve their goal. Sometimes, reality frighteningly emulates fiction. In one such example, a 32-year-old US man built and delivered a bomb to the boyfriend of the woman he desired with the intention of killing him.

Clayton Alexander McCoy, from Chesterland, Ohio, pleaded guilty on Wednesday, to transporting explosives with intent to injure and to the possession of an unregistered firearm/explosive device. McCoy's victim, a resident of Carroll County, Maryland, sustained several injuries due to the explosion of the bomb, and his home suffered substantial damage.

Building a Bomb

Solderig (Representational Picture)Pexelx/ ThisIsEngineering

According to McCoy's guilty plea, he knew the woman for several years through a live-action role-playing battle game/social club. He also knew the victim (addressed as Victim 1 in court documents), who was the woman's boyfriend and was part of the gaming platform. McCoy expressed his romantic feelings for the woman in October 2020. However, she declared that she did not share his feelings and revealed that she was in a relationship with Victim 1.

Upon being rejected, McCoy decided to eliminate his 'competitor'. He conceived a plan to accomplish this: build a bomb, deliver it to Victim 1, and kill him using it. In order to construct the explosive device, McCoy conducted extensive research on the methodology to build a pipe bomb and the materials required for it. To ensure that no suspicions were aroused, he obtained single items from several stores and paid for them in cash.

McCoy produced shrapnel—to fill the bomb with—by cutting scrap metal into small sharp pieces using an angle grinder. In addition to the shrapnel, he also loaded the pipe with ball bearings to magnify the lethality of the destructive weapon. Next, he packed the bomb in a white gift box and tied a red ribbon around it. The firing mechanism was armed in a manner that would cause the bomb to explode when the box was opened.

Unwrapping a 'Present'

A gift (Representational Picture)Pexelx/ Laura James

Before dispatching the bomb, McCoy built another one and tested it in his yard to make sure that the one being delivered to Victim 1 would detonate as expected. Following this, he placed the bomb-containing gift box within a larger cardboard box that had a shipping label with no return address.

McCoy drove from Ohio to Victim 1's home in Maryland—a seven-hour journey—in a pickup truck carrying the homemade bomb on 30 October 2020. At around 8:30 am in the morning, he placed the bomb on his target's front porch. The package was taken inside the house by Victim 1's grandfather. When the victim returned home in the evening, he found the package addressed to him on the kitchen counter. Upon opening the cardboard box, he found the smaller gift box inside it.

Victim 1 immediately texted his girlfriend to enquire whether the 'present' was from her. After that, he took the boxes to his bedroom to open them in private. As Victim 1 opened the gift box containing the bomb, it exploded. He was struck by the shrapnel and his legs, chest, and front side of the body were injured. The victim was rushed to the hospital where he was treated for his injuries. According to court documents, Victim 1 heard  a "whistling or hissing sound" before the explosion

Trauma and Destruction

A man in a hospital (Representational Picture)Pexelx/ Pavel Danilyuk

Though the victim was discharged from the hospital on 17 November 2020, he required the assistance of a walker for another two weeks following his release. Victim 1 underwent multiple surgeries for the removal of the shrapnel in his body. Despite this, several pieces of shrapnel remain embedded in his body, and he is set to undergo another surgery.

In addition to his physical trauma, Victim 1's home was also severely damaged in the explosion, and the damages amounted to approximately US$ 46,690. The house was rendered uninhabitable owing to the destruction caused, and the victim and his grandparents had to seek residence elsewhere till the repairs were completed in March 2021. Also, as a direct result of the explosion, the insurance company suffered a loss of nearly US$ 71,000.

Law Catches Up

Arrested (Representational Picture)Creative Commons

Eventually, McCoy came under law enforcement's scrutiny. A search warrant was executed at his home on 10 March 2021 and the materials utilised by him to construct the bomb were seized. While he admitted to knowing Victim 1, he denied having any knowledge of where the victim resided. He also denied playing any part in the bombing and claimed that he had learnt about the incident from mutual friends.

In order to detract attention from himself, McCoy told the authorities about another individual from the gaming platform. According to him, the person "did not like" the victim. However, McCoy's falsehoods fell apart after his navigation maps—that tracked his movements—established his whereabouts on the day of the bombing. Following this exposure, he admitted to building and delivering the bomb to Victim 1.

For the offence of transporting explosives with intent to injure, McCoy faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. He also faces a maximum of ten years in prison for the crime of possessing an unregistered firearm/explosive device. His sentencing is yet to be scheduled.