The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Montana trial first for area suspect
By the time Laurence Alan Stewart II is brought back to Stafford County to stand trial on charges that he tried to kill his former girlfriend and two Stafford deputies, his fate may have already been decided.
A trial for the 25-year-old Stewart is scheduled to start April 29 in Cascade County, Montana, where he is charged with seven counts of attempted deliberate homicide.
Under the code section Stewart is charged with in Montana, the possible penalties for each count are death, life in prison or a prison term ranging from 10 to 100 years.
Cascade County Prosecutor John Parker has not said which penalty he will seek for Stewart.
Stewart was arrested in Montana on Oct. 31, a day after police said he set off pipe bombs at three Fredericksburg-area residences. During a wild 40-mile chase in Montana, police said Stewart threw seven pipe bombs at pursuing officers; the bombs exploded, but no officers were injured.
Stewart was already the subject of a nationwide manhunt that began after the incidents in the Fredericksburg area.
Bombs went off at the Stafford homes of a county detective and his former fiancée, while another one exploded at the former Fredericksburg residence of another Stafford deputy. Property was damaged but no one was hurt.
Both deputies had investigated a complaint about Stewart in a previous incident involving the former fiancée. He expressed his displeasure with the deputies and others on a website he created.
He is charged with numerous offenses here, including two counts of attempted capital murder. He is expected to be brought to Virginia once Montana authorities have finished prosecuting him.
The Montana pursuit, which went through two counties, started when a state trooper stopped him for speeding. The officer checked Stewart’s identification and learned that he was wanted in Virginia. Police there said Stewart had stolen license plates on his car at the time.
Before the trooper could return to the car, Stewart took off, and the chase was on. Police used devices to flatten his tires, and the vehicle eventually ended up in a ditch.
Police said Stewart got out of the car and ran while carrying a handgun, but he was eventually apprehended without any shots being fired.
Stewart was already wanted in Stafford before the pipe bomb incidents, but only on relatively minor misdemeanor charges.
Meanwhile, his father, also named Laurence Alan Stewart, faces a charge in Stafford of possessing a firearm as a felon. A county grand jury is expected to take up the case on Monday.
The elder Stewart lists a Pennsylvania address, but was apparently staying with his son here at the time of the alleged Aug. 1 incident.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404