SALT LAKE CITY — A Tremonton man accused of building explosives he intended to use against police has always had an obsession with such devices, his ex-wife says.
"He's always been this way. It's been his personality to talk about explosives. He's always been fascinated with them," Michelle Huggins, John Huggins' ex-wife and mother of his three children, said Sunday.
The former soldier, she said, still "played" Army long after leaving the National Guard.
John Huggins, 47, was indicted in U.S. District Court Friday with possession of an unregistered destructive device following a four-month investigation.
The charge carries a potential penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. The investigation is ongoing, and additional charges could be considered when Huggins' case is presented to a jury, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Huggins has been under investigation by Tremonton police and the FBI since February after a concerned citizen informed investigators of explosive devices being made in Huggins' trailer. Huggins had expressed plans to assassinate two police officers as well as to bomb the Tremonton Police Department and nearby bridges in order to "cause the community to rise up against the government," according to a federal felony complaint.
The FBI also became involved in the investigation and an undercover agent was introduced to Huggins. The two discussed bomb making, and after Huggins showed the agent a video of himself blowing up a vehicle, Huggins offered to make a bomb for the agent, according to the indictment.
On July 7, the confidential informant told police that Huggins had been manufacturing sharp metal shrapnel to put inside explosives. The next day, the informant told investigators that Huggins had manufactured an explosive device, which was described as "a PVC glue can that had a 5-Hour Energy bottle with explosives on the inside and that it was surrounded by the shrapnel," court documents state.
On July 10, the FBI undercover agent met with Huggins, who initiated a conversation about the explosive device and sold the agent a notebook containing detailed schematics, instructions and lists of items necessary to manufacture bombs, according to police. Huggins agreed to show the explosive device to the agent, who then took Huggins into custody and booked him into the Weber County Jail.
Police obtained a search warrant of Huggins' trailer and reported finding what appeared to be an improvised explosive device and explosive materials. Explosive chemicals were not found inside the device, but such chemicals were found elsewhere inside the trailer, according to police.
While he was still married, John Huggins served in the Army National Guard where he received multiple awards for leadership and marksmanship, Michelle Huggins said. But the Army lifestyle apparently stayed with him long after he retired from service.
"He loved being in the Army and when he was out of that, he still played it all the time," his ex-wife said. "He would dress up in Army (clothes) and go practice. We lived out in the country and he would just go be an Army boy in the afternoons. He was a survivalist."
Huggins later became employed at Autoliv, where he spent 14 years using explosives in research and development for the automotive safety technology company, Michelle Huggins said.
The couple was divorced in 2002, but John Huggins still maintains an active relationship with his three children, ages 10, 16 and 20. Love for his children is something that hasn't changed, Michelle Huggins said.
"It's always just been unconditional love," she said. "That's something about John that I can't say enough of is he's always showing his kids unconditional love. He loves his kids, and they love him."
While she doesn't defend her ex-husband's actions, Huggins said she hopes people will treat him fairly and that he'll learn from his mistakes.
"I'm sad for him and I'm sad that this lesson in his life is being thrown at him," she said. "Just looking at him, you can see that he's not the man that he was, and good people do bad things and say bad things, and that looks like that's what the case is."
Most of all, Huggins' concerns lie with her three children.
"My heart hurts for my kids the most," she said. "That's my biggest worry is my kids and their feelings."
John Huggins has pleaded guilty to similar incidents dating back to 2001, including discharging a firearm toward a building, simple assault, possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, unlawful possession of a handgun and recklessness with an incendiary device, according to Utah state court records.
Contributing: Sandra Yi
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