The Austin Serial Bomber

This post examines the psychological profile of a serial bomber who is currently unidentified and actively terrorizing the citizens of Austin, TX.

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Timeline of the Bombings

March 2, 2018: Anthony Stephan House, 39, is killed when a package bomb explodes at 6:55am outside his residence on the 1100 block of Haverford Drive

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Anthony Stephan House, 39

March 12, 2018: Draylen Mason, 17, is killed and his mother seriously injured when a package bomb explodes in their kitchen after it was brought in from outside at 6:44am. This incident occurred in the 4800 block of Oldfort Hill Drive

March 12, 2018: Esperanza Herrera, 75, is gravely wounded when a package explodes at her mother’s residence in the 6700 block of Galindo Drive

March 18, 2018: Two men in their 20s are wounded when they inadvertently activate a trip wire bomb while out walking in the 4800 block of Dawn Song Drive. The injuries, although severe, are not life-threatening.

March 20, 2018: A postal employee is superficially wounded just after midnight when a package containing nails and shrapnel exploded on a conveyer belt at a San Antonio FedEX facility. The package was bound for an Austin address. A second parcel was located at another facility but had not yet detonated.


The Motive

Some in law enforcement are theorizing that the bombings are racially-motivated hate crimes as the first two victims, House and Mason, were close relatives of prominent Austin-based African-Americans. Officials believe the third package may have been intended for a different party than Herrera and that this other party may have also been an African-American individual, lending itself further to a hate crime motive.

If the first 2-3 attacks were racially-motivated, it appears the bomber is escalating and becoming indiscriminate about who he targets. The two men injured in the March 18th attack were Caucasian. Police have ultimately been unable to define a motive for the bombings and have appealed to the bomber to convey his intended message via the media. At this time, there are no suspects or persons of interest.

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Draylen Mason, 17

The Bombs

The first three bombs were not delivered via USPS, FedEx, UPS, or any other formal delivery system. They were cardboard boxes containing pipe bombs which were left overnight on doorsteps. These devices were detonated by movement, meaning that when the package was lifted or tilted, a circuit was completed and the bomb went off. The fourth bomb employed a trip-wire mechanism and was on a public sidewalk. The fifth bomb exploded while en route to Austin in a FedEx facility. The sixth bomb was undetonated and also located in the FedEx facility en route to Austin.

Authorities believe the bomber is increasing the sophistication level of his bombs, making them more complex. Frighteningly, this might mean that, in addition to movement detonations and trip-wires, the bomber might possess the skill to construct timer-based or remote-controlled devices. While the first three bombs were pipe bombs, the last two contained shrapnel and nails intended to cause maximum damage. The bomber’s ability to construct a trip-wire device and to include various shrapnel materials has led some to believe he may have a military background.

Investigators believe all of the attacks are related and that the bombs were crafted by the same person or persons.

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Aftermath of the trip-wire bomb; photo credit: CBS

The Timing

The first bomb detonated on a Friday at 6:55am. The second and third bombs detonated on the same day, a Monday, at 6:44am and 11:50am, respectively. The fourth bomb detonated on a Sunday in the evening via a trip-wire and the fifth and sixth bombs were discovered en route to Austin on a Tuesday.

Based on this information, it appears likely that the first three bombs were definitively crafted by the same individual and that this person likely has the weekends off from work. He is expected to arrive at work on weekdays in the morning and was able to quickly leave a package in the early morning hours while en route from home to work — three times — and not be missed from his station at work on a Friday or Monday morning. This indicates that he likely works a standard M-F, 9-5 job and that his home and workplace are centrally-located to the bombings.

It is unclear at this time if the last three bombs were crafted by the same individual. They are of a different mechanism and, given that the last two were mailed, I think it likely that the last two are the work of a copycat. If the most recent three bombs were the same work of the original bomber, he is moving outward to somewhere like San Antonio to mail his bombs in an effort to evade detection as he is aware that local Austin police are canvassing the nearby neighborhoods. Despite this, I do not believe he has any connection to San Antonio and hails from the central Austin area.

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Note epicenter of the bombings (not including #5 because it was en route). Epicenter is around the UT Austin Campus or Capitol Building. If bombs #4-6 were crafted by a copycat, the original offender (creator of bombs #1-3) lives and/or works on the West side of Austin, near the Walnut Creek area where MLK-183 intersects East MLK.

Proposed Offender Profile

  • Male, age 20-40
  • Works or lives in Austin, TX in the epicenter of the bombings, located somewhere near the main University of Texas campus and the state capitol building
  • Has history of impulsive and compulsive behavior (addictions, gambling, speeding, shoplifting, etc)
  • Meticulous, intelligent, detail-oriented
  • Primary motive is to induce widespread terror
  • The act of bombing is driven by two primary factors: 1) the need to communicate a covert message, and 2) an intolerable urge to engage in compulsive behavior. In other words, he’s not likely to stop anytime soon or of his own accord.
  • Derives excitement, satisfaction, and pleasure from acts which instill fear and powerlessness in others
  • Preoccupied with media coverage of the bombings, experiences a thrill when reading about the impact of his crimes
  • Enjoys the ‘cat-and-mouse’ game with trying to stay one step ahead of law enforcement. Similarly, derives pleasure from ‘proving people wrong’ that his devices are not sophisticated enough — ups the ante.
  • Is not acquainted personally with his victims. If he does know any of his victims, it is one of the first two victims and the attack was semi-personal but his ‘message’ has now expanded and become more generalized
  • ‘Loner,’ introverted, keeps to himself
  • Low self-esteem masked by a veil of narcissistic tendencies
  • Bombings are not likely to actually be hate crimes or racially-motivated, even if that is an excuse the perpetrator uses
  • Lacks authentic ability to connect intimately or emotionally with others
  • Life struggles have revolved around themes of power, control, entitlement, and inferiority
  • History of child abuse and chronic oppression by adults, especially primary care givers
  • Perceives self as being smarter than average
  • Possible military, law enforcement, or engineering experience based on the sophistication of the bombs, especially the fourth bomb — the ability to plant a trip-wire bomb without detonating it requires a certain level of skill
  • Criminally-sophisticated, does not leave much physical evidence behind, covers his tracks. May not have a documented arrest/conviction history as a result.
  • Bombings will not stop on their own. The perpetrator will stop either when he commits suicide or is apprehended
  • Will have bombs planted as ‘booby-traps’ for when law enforcement is closing in. Will continue to terrorize even if he is apprehended or dies via the threat of outstanding and as-yet-not-located bombs.
  • Perpetrator is impulsive and his impulsivity may contribute to his downfall as he may become increasingly cocky and careless, especially as his behavior continues to escalate.
  • Because of the nature of bomb-construction, it is likely the perpetrator will have left valuable clues behind, whether in the form of DNA or fingerprints or in the form of behavioral indications (the way he rolls the wire or wraps one cord around another). Investigators will rake through all of the physical evidence for indicators of physical or behavioral clues and, given the physical and psychological interaction involved in constructing a bomb, it is likely the mechanism of terror will eventually become the direct tool which reveals the bomber’s identity. The fact that his chosen weapon requires so much interaction will be his eventual undoing.
  • Of note, the pace of the Austin bombings is unusual and more rapid than the norm indicating a higher proclivity toward impulsivity and immediate gratification. Similarly, the tight geographic area of the targeted bombings is unusual, indicating a perpetrator who is more egoistic and superficially confident than average
  • It is possible the first three bombs were planted by one individual and the last three bombs were planted by a copycat but most likely that all six bombs were manufactured by the same, solo assailant.

There is currently a $115,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the Austin bombings. Anyone with information is urged to call (512) 472-8477.


UPDATE: March 21, 2018

The Austin serial bomber, now named as Mark Anthony Conditt, committed suicide via self-detonated explosive device late last night as authorities were closing in for an arrest. Conditt is a 23-year old Caucasian male who was identified by law enforcement via CCTV footage of him dropping off the last two bombs at a FedEx store south of Austin. Eyewitness accounts, store receipts, cell phone data, and the CCTV footage assisted in narrowing the suspect pool to Conditt.

In the CCTV images at the FedEx store, Conditt is seen wearing what appears to be latex gloves and a wig in an effort to conceal his identity and prevent any DNA, fingerprint, or other trace evidence from remaining on the packages. He dropped off two packages, addressed from the alias ‘Kelly Killmore,’ around 7:30pm on Sunday, March 19, 2018 before leaving. The two bombs were later intercepted within FedEx facilities; one when it detonated while on a conveyer belt mildly injuring a FedEx employee and the other was located undetonated in a separate FedEx facility near the Austin airport.

Despite methodical attempts to conceal his identity, Conditt was ultimately identified as he exited a Home Depot store after purchasing materials which would later be used in his trip-wire bomb. Although he entered the store in full disguise with a wig, upon his exit a CCTV camera captured an image of the license plate on his car. This license plate was connected to a cell phone number registered to Conditt which he later turned on, allowing authorities to track his location.

Law enforcement tracked Conditt to a Red Roof Inn just north of Austin in Round Rock, TX last night where they encountered him sitting in a vehicle in the parking lot. Local police who initially saw Conditt called for backup before moving in to make an arrest. As reinforcements arrived on scene, Conditt drove the vehicle from the hotel lot and onto a main highway. Police officers, fully aware that Conditt’s car likely contained explosives, rammed his vehicle in an effort to contain him and prevent mass casualties. As two officers approached the disabled vehicle, Conditt detonated a bomb while an officer fired at the vehicle. One office sustained minor injuries when he was thrown by the force of the explosion; Conditt died.

Conditt’s parents purchased property in the western Austin suburb of Pflugerville last year and neighbors report he was residing there during the time the bombings started in a home which he and his father built together. Two roommates also resided in the home and Conditt reportedly had a room allocated in the home for furtively constructing his explosives. Conditt has no arrest record or documented history of mental health issues.

The eldest of four children, Conditt was home-schooled by his parents, Danene and Pat, and attended Austin Community College from 2011-2012. Last August, he was fired from his job at Crux Manufacturing for failure to meet employment expectations. He was reportedly raised in a conservative, Christian home and may have been considering missionary work as a young adult.

Information about Conditt’s beliefs are limited. A smattering of social media posts from 2012 suggest Conditt was a proponent of the death penalty and against gay marriage and abortion. He self-identified as ‘conservative’ but also ‘not politically-inclined.’

Information obtained from Conditt’s personal computer indicated he was researching additional places to mail bombs to and had a running list of intended targets. It remains unclear how he chose his victims and what criteria was used. Authorities have also reported that in the hours preceding his suicide, from approximately 9-11pm on March 20, 2018, Conditt recorded a 25-minute video. According to the Austin police chief, the video showcases a “very troubled young man who was talking about challenges in his life that led him to take the actions he took. There were also indications of actions he was willing to take in the future.”

The police chief went on to state: “He doesn’t mention anything about terrorism or anything about hate. It’s an outcry of a challenged young man. There were no indications of why these specific addresses, or those that were placed in the community, there was no reasons given for why he selected those individuals. There were indications, that he stated in the video, that he felt like we were getting very close to him. It was a confession, because he was admitting to what he had done.

Based on the detailed manner in which Conditt spoke of each bomb’s construction, law enforcement feels confident he was the engineer of all six explosive devices. Further indications — such as the repeated inclusion of nails as shrapnel and the use of ‘exotic’ foreign batteries shipped from Asia — confirm that all six bombs were made by the same individual.

Authorities have warned the public that there may be more bombs outstanding which have not yet been identified. They are also working under the assumption that Conditt’s motives were hate-based and racist.


Proposed Offender Profile Revisited

  • Male, age 20-40 √ (23)
  • Works or lives in Austin, TX in the epicenter of the bombings, located somewhere near the main University of Texas campus and the state capitol building; lives or works on the West side of Austin, near the Walnut Creek area where MLK-183 intersects East MLK. √ (Lived in western suburb of Austin, Pflugerville, only 12 miles from the Walnut Creek area I noted in the proposed profile)
  • Has history of impulsive and compulsive behavior (addictions, gambling, speeding, shoplifting, etc)
  • Meticulous, intelligent, detail-oriented √ (former employer described Conditt as “a smart kid who showed a lot of promise” but “prioritized things in his own way,” ultimately leading to his firing for not meeting employment expectations)
  • Primary motive is to induce widespread terror 
  • The act of bombing is driven by two primary factors: 1) the need to communicate a covert message, and 2) an intolerable urge to engage in compulsive behavior. In other words, he’s not likely to stop anytime soon or of his own accord. 
  • Derives excitement, satisfaction, and pleasure from acts which instill fear and powerlessness in others 
  • Preoccupied with media coverage of the bombings, experiences a thrill when reading about the impact of his crimes 
  • Enjoys the ‘cat-and-mouse’ game with trying to stay one step ahead of law enforcement. Similarly, derives pleasure from ‘proving people wrong’ that his devices are not sophisticated enough — ups the ante
  • Is not acquainted personally with his victims. If he does know any of his victims, it is one of the first two victims and the attack was semi-personal but his ‘message’ has now expanded and become more generalized 
  • ‘Loner,’ introverted, keeps to himself √ (was home-schooled, neighbors and acquaintances repeatedly used the word “quiet” to describe him as well as “studious, deep thinker, introverted, low-key, not a popular guy, and blended right in”)
  • Low self-esteem masked by a veil of narcissistic tendencies 
  • Bombings are not likely to actually be hate crimes or racially-motivated, even if that is an excuse the perpetrator uses 
  • Lacks authentic ability to connect intimately or emotionally with others 
  • Life struggles have revolved around themes of power, control, entitlement, and inferiority 
  • History of child abuse and chronic oppression by adults, especially primary care givers ? (home-schooled, despite unusually close emotional and geographic proximity to parents they were reportedly unaware of his struggles or intent; parents assert in their public statement that they are “a normal family in every way” — what might have been going on behind the scenes? What might the family’s perfect outward presentation have been masking? In what ways might Conditt have not sensed permission to live a life that felt authentic to him?
  • Perceives self as being smarter than average
  • Possible military, law enforcement, or engineering experience based on the sophistication of the bombs, especially the fourth bomb — the ability to plant a trip-wire bomb without detonating it requires a certain level of skill √ (Crux Manufacturing, where Conditt was temporarily employed, specialized in engineering and he had experience as a computer technician)
  • Criminally-sophisticated, does not leave much physical evidence behind, covers his tracks. May not have a documented arrest/conviction history as a result. 
  • Bombings will not stop on their own. The perpetrator will stop either when he commits suicide or is apprehended 
  • Will have bombs planted as ‘booby-traps’ for when law enforcement is closing in. Will continue to terrorize even if he is apprehended or dies via the threat of outstanding and as-yet-not-located bombs. 
  • Perpetrator is impulsive and his impulsivity may contribute to his downfall as he may become increasingly cocky and careless, especially as his behavior continues to escalate. 
  • Because of the nature of bomb-construction, it is likely the perpetrator will have left valuable clues behind, whether in the form of DNA or fingerprints or in the form of behavioral indications (the way he rolls the wire or wraps one cord around another). Investigators will rake through all of the physical evidence for indicators of physical or behavioral clues and, given the physical and psychological interaction involved in constructing a bomb, it is likely the mechanism of terror will eventually become the direct tool which reveals the bomber’s identity. The fact that his chosen weapon requires so much interaction will be his eventual undoing. 
  • Of note, the pace of the Austin bombings is unusual and more rapid than the norm indicating a higher proclivity toward impulsivity and immediate gratification. Similarly, the tight geographic area of the targeted bombings is unusual, indicating a perpetrator who is more egoistic and superficially confident than average 
  • It is possible the first three bombs were planted by one individual and the last three bombs were planted by a copycat but most likely that all six bombs were manufactured by the same, solo assailant. 

In Honor of the Victims

Anthony Stephan House, 39 & Draylen Mason, 17

One thought on “The Austin Serial Bomber

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