Police seek explosives in Arias stalker case

Posted: Updated:
By Sarah Blais By Sarah Blais

PHOENIX (AP) -- Authorities continue to search for pipe bombs a New York man claimed to have dumped in a rural Pennsylvania waterway before he set out to kill two national TV commentators over their Jodi Arias trial coverage, police said Tuesday.

David Lee Simpson, 48, of Bath, N.Y., is jailed in Phoenix on five felony counts related to Twitter death threats against Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell, both hosts of shows on Turner Broadcasting's HLN network who regularly covered the nearly five-month trial and focused heavily on Arias' guilt. Authorities say Simpson told them he was in love with Arias.

An Arizona grand jury indicted him July 18 on three felony counts of computer tampering and two counts of stalking. Maricopa County authorities say he told them he was on his way to kill Grace when he was arrested in New York.

Investigators say he also threatened a Phoenix woman via Twitter. Simpson did not yet have an attorney and remained held Tuesday in a psychiatric unit of a Maricopa County jail. His arraignment was set for Thursday.

After his arrest and extradition to Arizona, authorities said Simpson indicated that he had placed several pipe bombs in rural northern Pennsylvania, but police knew of no connection to the explosives and the Twitter threats.

Bomb-sniffing dogs checking Simpson's two vehicles indicated the presence of explosives residue, Bath police investigator Heather Barry said Tuesday.

"We don't think this is just a wild claim of his," Barry said, adding that Simpson told police he panicked before launching his trip to kill Grace and dumped the pipe bombs in a rural Pennsylvania waterway. "Nothing has been recovered as of right now, but they're still working on it."

A message left for officers with the Athens Borough Police Department in Pennsylvania, who Barry said are looking for the explosives about 170 miles north of Allentown, were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Barry said authorities in New York may pursue their own charges against Simpson if they find explosives.

Simpson indicated he was in Arizona when he sent the threatening tweets in June, but investigators found he was still in New York at the time. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has said Arizona has jurisdiction in the case because the Twitter threats were against "individuals for conduct that was occurring" in the state, meaning it stemmed from coverage of the Arias case by Grace and Velez-Mitchell, who both were in the county at times.

A jury convicted Arias of first-degree murder May 8 in the June 2008 death of boyfriend Travis Alexander at his suburban Phoenix home. The same panel later failed to reach a unanimous decision on whether to sentence her to life in prison or death. Prosecutors now have the option of pursuing a new penalty phase aiming for the ultimate punishment, or avoiding it and leaving Arias with a life sentence.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.