A man who built what prosecutors described as a sophisticated pipe bomb and left the device inside his pickup near Pine Grove Middle School in Baltimore County was sentenced on Thursday to serve nine years in prison.

“The facts of this case are terrifying,” Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert E. Cahill Jr. said as he handed down the punishment for Joseph Richard Vickery, 44, on a charge of attempted manufacturing of a destructive device. “It strikes fear into the heart of everyday Americans.”

Cahill sentenced Vickery, of Wilmington, North Carolina, to serve 25 years in prison, with 16 years suspended, plus five years’ supervised probation. He must undergo screening for mental health issues and complete any recommended treatment.

The investigation started after Vickery’s wife, Kristen, texted her mother, “And idk what psycho shit he is planning i saw him looking up how to mwke flash bang, bombs, he has a gun and a crossbow he just bought more.” She reported to the Mount Airy Police Department that she believed that her mother was the intended target of the bomb because of recent issues with her son-in-law.

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Law enforcement obtained emergency authorization to ping his cellphone and traced it to the Rodeway Inn on Whitehead Court below Security Boulevard in Woodlawn.

Detectives conducted surveillance and watched his wife throw garbage in a trashcan on the sidewalk near the hotel room. They found receipts for items including two propane cylinders, rubber gloves and a radio-controlled car.

Due to the serious public safety risk, investigators again received emergency approval to ping his cellphone. Police detained Vickery in the area of Pine Grove Middle School on Sept. 20, 2022, and he told them that there was an explosive device in his 2001 Ford F-150.

Law enforcement rendered the bomb safe. They executed a search and seizure warrant for the pickup and found a Diamondback Firearms 9 mm handgun as well as five magazines loaded with ammunition.

Vickery said during an interrogation at Baltimore County Police Department headquarters that he researched improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, on the internet and built the bomb. But he claimed that he did not intend to hurt anyone and planned to blow it up in a remote area.

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Assistant State’s Attorney Madison Frank asked for a prison sentence of nine years.

The sentencing guidelines, she said, called for a punishment that ranged from four to nine years in prison.

“Clearly, this is a case that calls for punishment,” Frank said. “This reckless behavior could have caused harm to hundreds of people.”

Vickery, she said, was a contractor who worked at the school as an electrician. She described the bomb as sophisticated. But she also said that the device was volatile and called the decision to leave it in his vehicle as “completely negligent at the very least.”

At the hearing, Frank handed the judge remnants of the bomb, a binder filled with documents that outlined Vickery’s internet search history and a blueprint for the device.

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“This is the real deal,” she said. “This isn’t some amateur cooking something up in his mom’s basement.”

But Joe Pappafotis, Vickery’s attorney, requested a sentence of 6 1/2 years in prison, stating that his client accepted responsibility and wanted to put the case behind him.

Pappafotis asked the judge to impose a punishment based on what his client did in the case instead of speculation.

“Looking at it with a critical eye,” Pappafotis said, “there are degrees of culpability.”

Vickery did not make a statement before sentencing. He will receive credit for the time he’s spent incarcerated in the Baltimore County Detention Center.