Montgomery County

‘Person of interest’ in wife’s 2019 Fort Johnson death ordered held in Gloversville pipe bomb case

PETER R. BARBER/THE DAILY GAZETTEPipe bombs were discovered in this house at 14 Mclaren St. in Gloversville earlier this month, police say.


Pipe bombs were discovered in this house at 14 Mclaren St. in Gloversville earlier this month, police say.

ALBANY – The defendant in a recent federal Gloversville pipe bomb case, a man who is also a “person of interest” in an investigation into the 2019 death of his wife, was ordered held Wednesday pending trial in the federal pipe bomb case.

The hearing also offered new information from Michael D. Darling’s defense on the recent timeline of the death investigation, including that investigators contacted him again last month to discuss the death of his wife, Kristine M. Howland Darling, and that he was aware her family members made renewed public efforts in the case.

The defense attorney, Joseph M. McCoy, also contended in court Wednesday that Kristine Howland Darling’s death had been “fully investigated” and that his client had been “found not to be responsible in any way.”

The federal prosecutor in the pipe bomb case, Robert A. Sharpe, however, countered that “the government wouldn’t remotely agree” with the defense’s characterization that Darling was cleared in his wife’s death.

Independent of Wednesday’s hearing, Montgomery County Sheriff Jeffery Smith Friday confirmed Kristine Howland Darling’s death continues to be investigated, that investigators believe it to be suspicious and see Michael D. Darling as a “person of interest” in that investigation.

Darling, 41, of Gloversville, appeared in court via teleconference Wednesday for the detention hearing in the pipe bomb case and, after hearing arguments from the prosecutor and the defense, the judge ordered Darling held.

Wednesday’s hearing marked the continuation of the hearing begun last week, days after Darling’s Feb. 14 arrest related to six pipe bombs that authorities say were discovered in his 14 McLaren St. residence.

Gloversville police discovered the devices Feb. 12, which authorities say Michael Darling was not allowed to possess, as they checked on his welfare following reports from his family and girlfriend that he had left suicide notes.

The discovery led to a federal charge against him of possessing pipe bombs. He has been held since his arrest.

McCoy indicated that a friend of Michael Darling told the attorney he had known the pipe bombs had existed for at least a year, that the two would explode fireworks or similar devices in the woods for their entertainment.

McCoy also rebutted the assertion by prosecutors that a “mercury switch” found in Darling’s apartment could be used to target people. McCoy called that suggestion a “fantasy.”

Sharpe, however, questioned the idea that the pipe bombs were used for entertainment — they not only contained explosive powder, but also contained BBs. 

“We can’t fathom and we don’t logically understand why somebody would need to have BBs in the pipe bombs if you’re simply going to be exploding them out in the woods,” Sharpe said.

Family concerns over Kristine Howland Darling’s death surfaced in a recently created web page called “Seeking Justice for Kristine Howland.”

“This investigation opened some old wounds,” McCoy said, noting his client had tried to kill himself in the past. “This re-investigation, though he’s not physically responsible, brought back some bad memories, where he felt that maybe he couldn’t recognize the situation or could have been more responsive to the situation.”

Kristine M. Howland Darling, 44, the mother of a young teenage daughter, died at her Fort Johnson residence Feb. 6, 2019.

Her death involved a gunshot and has remained an active investigation by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department for two years, the sheriff said last week. The department is working with state police on the investigation.

A longtime friend, the administrator of the web page, on Friday described Kristine as a bubbly person who would not have killed herself, leaving her daughter — “her absolute world” — behind.

Michael Darling wrote his suicide note around Feb. 12, but dated it to Feb. 20, and then drove to North Carolina to visit his best friend, McCoy said.

Prosecutors contend Michael Darling left town with guns he wasn’t supposed to possess and gave them to the North Carolina man.

But McCoy said the friend spoke with his client and then accompanied him back home and convinced him along the way to seek help. The friend then dropped Michael Darling off at St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam, where he checked himself in. Police arrested Darling there Feb. 14.

McCoy expressed concern that his client’s continued detention would exacerbate his state of mental health and prevent him from receiving proper care.

At the hearing’s conclusion, Magistrate Judge Christian F. Hummel ordered Michael Darling held, based on the risk to himself or others that he found couldn’t be addressed in any other way. The judge, however, also expressed grave concern about the defendant’s mental state and told prosecutors to ensure that information was relayed to officials at the Albany County Jail, where the Darling is being held.

Sheriff Smith has encouraged anyone with information about Kristine Howland Darling’s death to contact investigators at 518-853-5500.

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