Wisconsin man arrested in attempted bomb plot

MADISON, Wis. --

A 76-year old Madison man was arrested on Monday in connection with an attempt to obtain an explosive device and send it to someone in Montana.

Jansson S. Wheeler, a former Madison alderman and local attorney, was arrested at his home in the 1600 block of Haas Street on Monday afternoon on suspicion of attempting to posses explosives.

Police said Wheeler's arrest follows an investigation that began after Wheeler posted a wanted ad on the Milwaukee section of the Craigslist website seeking someone to build him a bomb.

Authorities said that they believe Wheeler wanted to send the bomb to a Montana man who is a friend of the Wheeler's estranged wife. He wanted the bomb in a box and rigged to explode when it opened, according to authorities.

The police report indicates that an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives called the phone number in the ad and posed as a bomb maker.

Authorities said Wheeler offered to pay $500 for the bomb and described how he wanted it to work.

"(He wanted) a metal box that when the lid to the box was lifted, that there would be shrapnel that would blow," said Joel DeSpain, Madison Police Department spokesman.

On Monday, ATF agents and police officers delivered the fake bomb. The suspect was wearing latex gloves at the time of the arrest.

"At the time he was arrested, he was actually wearing latex gloves, so it appeared he was trying to not get his fingerprints on this device, which was inert at the time it was delivered. He had some sort of mailing package all ready that he was going to put this device in," said DeSpain. "Instead of walking away with a bomb, he walked off to jail."

According to a Dane County search warrant, Wheeler's wife, Dorothy, had recently told police her husband was angered after discovering she was having an extramarital affair. She had contacted officers after she said her husband made threats about shooting her and then taking his own life.

According to the warrant, Wheeler had requested his home health aide place an ad on Milwaukee Craigslist for him stating: "Wanted -- A mechanic or technician to construct an anti-personnel explosive device (AEPD). For details, specifications, and price negotiation, call …"

The ad then listed a phone number, instructing, "If call not answered, call back, do not leave a message."

According to the warrant, Wheeler asked the aide to place the ad in a way that could not be traced back to him, instructing her to make a fake e-mail account and open a Craigslist account.

Upon leaving the home, the aide immediately contacted her supervisor, who contacted police, according to investigators.

A court order specifically banned weapons in the home after Wheeler's wife said he made death threats.

Neighbors said Wheeler is feeble and rarely seen and that he was taking the pending divorce very hard.

"It's surprising, the fact that he'd go to that step, but I don't think he can take care of himself, by himself. So being on his own at that age, who knows what's running through his mind?" said neighbor Dave Ainslie.

Wheeler's cash bail was set at $30,000. His attorney said he'll try to get him out of jail at another hearing Thursday.

Wheeler's wife was granted a temporary restraining order on Monday protecting her from her husband upon his release.

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