GLOVERSVILLE — A Gloversville man accused of possessing pipe bombs at his residence last weekend was linked Thursday to an investigation related to the death of “one of his prior wives” two years ago, a federal prosecutor said Thursday.
The man also briefly fled to North Carolina with bags of illegally possessed guns about the time investigators discovered the pipe bombs at his residence, the prosecutor said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A. Sharpe Thursday offered both the separate death investigation connected to pipe bomb suspect Michael D. Darling and the alleged flight to North Carolina in arguments that Darling should be held pending trial in the pipe bomb case.
The judge’s final determination on Darling’s custody status in the federal case won’t be determined until the hearing concludes next week. Darling, however, will remain in custody until at least then.
Darling, 41, of 14 McLaren St., Gloversville, is in federal custody on one count of possession of an unregistered destructive device. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison, if convicted on that count. No other charges have been filed against him in the pipe bomb case or any other investigation.
Gloversville police discovered the pipe bombs, described as six in all, at Darling’s residence Friday afternoon while checking on his welfare after his girlfriend and family reported he had left a suicide note.
Police entering his residence with his girlfriend did not find him, but saw the pipe bombs in plain view, federal authorities have said.
Sharpe indicated he hesitated to offer the death investigation at Thursday’s hearing, but suggested it offered insight into his risk of fleeing to avoid prosecution.
Darling was aware of the ongoing death investigation and had retained counsel related to that before the discovery of the pipe bombs, Sharpe said.
Sharpe also offered the death investigation as a possible motive for possessing the pipe bombs at issue in the federal case. Among the materials investigators found in Darling’s residence was a special type of switch, called a mercury switch. The federal filing related to the arrest listed the switch separate from the pipe bombs that were discovered.
He described the mercury switch as something that can be used to detonate a a device when moved, meaning it can be used to target whoever discovers and moves the device by making it explode. Also, the completed devices had BBs inside them, Sharpe noted.
“We’re not certain beyond the fact that he obviously had indicated that he was going to harm himself, that this wasn’t something for police that might arrive to investigate, whether it be the other matter, or whatever,” Sharpe told the judge at Thursday’s hearing.
Sharpe also indicated that Darling referenced the prior wife’s death during a pre-trial services interview ahead of Thursday’s detention hearing.
In that interview, Darling “referenced that one of his prior wives had purportedly, in terms of what he’s communicated, committed suicide approximately two years ago. The government has been advised that that’s not necessarily the position of law enforcement,” Sharpe told the court, “that that incident continues to be investigated.”
Darling’s attorney in the pipe bomb case, Joseph M. McCoy, did not respond to the death investigation information at Thursday’s hearing and McCoy did not return a call for comment later.
Sharpe did not identify the prior wife who died by name, but information provided by Sharpe in court Thursday fits the February 2019 death of Fort Johnson resident Kristine M. Howland Darling.
An obituary for Kristine M. Howland Darling available online indicates she died unexpectedly Feb. 6, 2019. The obituary identifies the woman’s husband as a Michael Darling.
Also, a Facebook page titled “Seeking Justice for Kristine Howland” was created last month, Jan. 11, with the stated mission “to make the public aware that her death remains under open investigation to this day” and to bring justice in Howland’s death.
Law enforcement who may be investigating the death could not be reached later.
The conclusion of Thursday’s hearing was delayed at the request of McCoy so he could properly respond to the allegations that Darling fled to North Carolina. McCoy indicated that the hearing Thursday marked the first he had heard of those allegations specific to the time of the pipe bomb charge and he needed more time.
Regarding the North Carolina allegations, Sharpe indicated police had received information that Darling had been seen leaving his Gloversville residence sometime on Feb. 12 with large bags authorities believe potentially contained either firearms or potentially other pipe bombs.
Police then received information that Darling had left to travel to Denton, N.C., where he met up with a couple who had prior ties to the Gloversville area, Sharpe said.
Along the way, authorities believe Darling stopped off in Lynchburg, Va., and turned off his phone for some period of time, Sharpe said.
In Denton, authorities believe Darling provided the man with a bag or bags containing firearms, a 20-gauge shotgun and a .308. The bag was then given to the woman to hold on to, Sharpe said.
Darling has previously been convicted of a felony and cannot possess firearms, Sharpe noted.
Investigators believe both Darling and the man from North Carolina returned to Gloversville together and visited Darling’s residence again before the man dropped Darling off at St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam over mental health concerns.
Police also tracked down the North Carolina man before he left New York state and interviewed him, Sharpe said. Darling had provided the man with his car, car keys and keys to his house. Investigators also recovered 12-gauge shotgun shells in the car, which Darling is not allowed to possess either, Sharpe noted.
Police, in a release Friday, described the situation as the officers discovering “suspicious items they were not equipped to address.” Police responded by evacuating residents from the immediate area and called for additional resources. The police release then did not describe the situation further.
Police in a second release later indicated a return to the address Sunday. Sharpe said Thursday that the return was due to police believing Darling and the North Carolina man had been there. Nothing further was found.
Darling is due back in court next week.