MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A 61-year-old man on federal probation for a firearm possession conviction was sentenced to prison Tuesday in Berkeley County Circuit Court for attempting to make small bombs in his backyard.
Larry Junior Whalen of Martinsburg was ordered by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes to serve one to three years and pay court costs as part of a binding plea. The defendant entered a guilty plead under Alford circumstances to one count of attempting to manufacture a destructive device.
In an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges prosecutors have sufficient evidence to gain a conviction.
Assistant Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy D. Helman told Wilkes that Whalen had prior felony convictions, but indicated the state had agreed not to ask the court to impose a more lengthy prison sentence as part of a recidivist action.
On July 3, 2010, Martinsburg police found an empty shotgun cartridge, a hacksaw, a knife blade and a small pile of gunpowder, among other items on a table in Whalen’s backyard upon responding to investigate a report of several loud explosions at 831 New York Ave., according to court documents.
Police also found shards of plastic pipe, which smelled of gunpowder and appeared to be full of soot, according to court documents.
— Matthew Umstead