NEWLAND — Equipment purchased locally and consistent with manufacturing an improvised explosive device, as well as other specifics in the investigation of the Thomas Dewey Taylor case, have been revealed through court documentation in connection to the application for and execution of a search warrant of Taylor’s home.
As previously reported, Taylor, 43, was arrested on Sept. 27 and charged with possession of a weapon of mass destruction and three counts of attempted first-degree murder. He was initially issued a $500,000 secured bond before it being raised to $1 million.
According to a copy of search warrant application affidavit and documentation attested by North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent W.J. Waugh, filed in Avery County court and obtained by The Avery Journal Times, a subsidiary of Mountain Times Publications, Taylor was a 27-year employee and most recently office manager with Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. He had been terminated from his position on Aug. 4 for failure to perform job duties.
Additionally, the warrant application provides a detailed listing of probable cause, including the discovery of a manufactured explosive device in a closet located at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games office in Linville, prompting law enforcement to pursue a warrant to search Taylor’s home.
According to the documentation, GMHG President Stephen Quillin met with Avery County Sheriff’s Office officials on Sept. 24 in reference to an embezzlement case involving Taylor. During the meeting, Quillin showed ACSO detectives and agents with the NCSBI a photograph of a box containing commercial grade pyrotechnics which were located in a closet within the GMHG offices at 4210 Mitchell Avenue in Linville.
The search warrant application states that a meeting was arranged on Sept. 27 between NCSBI Special Agent in Charge G.A. Parsons and GMHG board member Sally Warburton to dispose of the items. Upon arriving at the GMHG office on Sept. 27, Warburton and her husband noticed that power was off in the building.
ASAC Parsons entered the facility to meet with the Warburtons to determine the location of the closet where the pyrotechnics were located, and upon entering the closet, Warburton thought that the pyrotechnics were no longer present. A red-colored cooler was located on the closet floor and, when opened, Parsons observed multiple pyrotechnics with fuses connected to a hot plate, which was plugged into an extension cord connected to a power outlet in the closet.
Inside the cooler were various ignitable liquids and other unknown liquids, and “various items used as shrapnel in incendiary/explosive devices,” according to the search warrant application.
The documentation stated that ASAC Parsons unplugged the hot plate, and, upon looking at the main breaker box, noticed the main breaker was switched to the “off” position. The documentation also stated that Taylor had been identified as a suspect in an embezzlement case involving fraudulent credit card charges while employed with GMHG.
According to the search warrant application, Waugh and US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent J. Brown interviewed GMHG administrative assistant Cassie Vance on Sept. 27. Vance admitted to having stored fireworks at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games office in 2020 and that they had been purchased by Taylor at Cloudland Volunteer Fire Department in Tennessee, adding that Taylor normally bought sparklers and Roman candles.
The search warrant documentation noted that “ATF Special Agent D. Schauble showed Vance a photo of the cooler located in the office closet, and Vance said she thought she had a red in color or blue in color cooler at her residence at 316 Snowshoe Loop which was similar to the image shown to her.”
Search warrant documentation noted also during the investigation, it was determined that the phone lines associated with the alarm system at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games office had been disabled at approximately 12:09 a.m. on Sept. 26, adding that an employee with MHS Technologies stated that prior to the phone lines being disabled, the alarm was disarmed using a code, and that Vance and Taylor knew the alarm code to the building.
The search warrant application relates that NCSBI SA W. Colvard went to the Family Dollar Store in Newland, and located a hot plate matching the one found in the cooler. SA Colvard spoke with the manager at Family Dollar, who stated that a hot plate was sold on Sept. 26, and that a receipt was located which showed “a Bene Casa Black Single-Coil Burner, three (3) 32-ounce bottles of Kingsford lighter fluid and a bottle of Pennzoil 10W30 motor oil were sold at the store on Sunday, Sept. 26, at approximately 6:36 p.m.”
A Bene Casa hot plate, two bottles of Kingsford lighter fluid and one bottle of the same weight and brand motor oil were located in the cooler, with the pyrotechnics. The documentation states that Colvard also spoke with two Family Dollar store employees working at the time of purchase, and one of which positively identified Taylor as the individual who had purchased the items.
Application for a search warrant for 316 Snowshoe Loop, Newland was reviewed and issued at 9:11 p.m. on Sept. 27 by Superior Court District 24 Judge Greg Horne, and was executed at the residence at 9:45 p.m. that evening. According to court documents, SBI agents seized a receipt, cell phone, computer, lock pick kit, PVC pipe and fireworks from the premises.
According to NCSBI, the investigation is ongoing, and Taylor’s next scheduled court date set for Tuesday, Oct. 26.
The full court documents can be found at tinyurl.com/34ckv43v.