A Florida woman obsessed with the shooting at Columbine High School, collected terrorist manifestos, and had enough pipe bombs and bomb-making materials to harm “hundreds even thousands” of people, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff.
Michelle Kolts, 27, from the Tampa Bay area, was arrested on Thursday night and charged with 24 counts of making a destructive device with intent to harm: Each count represents the two dozen pipe bombs that authorities found in her bedroom.
Her parents discovered the devices in her bedroom on Thursday afternoon, and immediately called 911. When deputies visited their home, they found the bombs, bomb-making materials, 23 different knives, nunchucks, hatchets, bb-type rifles, bb-type handguns, plus “dozens of books and DVDs about murder, mass killing, domestic terrorism and bomb-making,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister at a press conference on Friday. Each bomb contained nails, metallic pellets, or a combination of both, and “would have taken less than 60 seconds per device to add powder and fuse material she already possessed to detonate each bomb,” Chronister added.
Her library included “The Turner Diaries,” often described as the “white supremacist handbook,” and the manifesto of Ted Kaczynski, the domestic terrorist dubbed the “Unabomber” who emailed or hand-delivered explosives to academics, business executives, and others over a 20-year period.
Law enforcement located Kolts at Chadwell Supply in Tampa, the building maintenance company where she worked as a laborer, and took her into custody. Chronister said that she admitted to building the bombs and said she wanted to use them against people. Police said that they don’t know yet if she had a particular target.
Thursday wasn’t the first time that authorities had visited the Kolts residence, however. Chronister said that Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department received a call from a publisher in August 2018, expressing concern that Kolts had been ordering a significant number of domestic-terror related reading material and manifestos.
“She had become consumed with the Columbine and Oklahoma killings,” said Chronister. At that time, Kolts had no diagnosis or history of mental health problems. After speaking with her and her parents, deputies felt confident she wasn’t a danger to herself or anyone else at that time. “Fast forward a year later, again, thank god these parents called us,” Chronister said. “She was on our radar, but never reached the level of threat at that time. It was just feeding her infatuation with mass shootings and mass killings.”
Female bombers, mass shooters and domestic terrorists are rare in the U.S., but Kolts’ case does recall two similar recent incidents involving young women. In April, an 18-year-old woman who was “infatuated” with Columbine triggered a panic in the Denver-area, forcing school lockdowns, after FBI said that she had traveled from Florida to Colorado with the intent of committing a mass shooting. After a brief manhunt, she was found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot in the foothills of Denver. Last month, an 18-year-old waitress in Oklahoma was arrested after bragging to her colleagues that she wanted to shoot up her former high school “for fun.” Police found an AK-47 and a 12-gauge shotgun in her bedroom.
Additionally, there’s an entire online subculture, mostly on Tumblr, consisting of young women who are obsessed with the 1999 Columbine school shooting and who fawn over mass shooters like they were pop stars.
“While this case is certainly alarming, it’s not to demonize another individual struggling with mental health,” Chronister said on Friday. “It’s to highlight the importance of speaking up when you see something that isn’t right, and what can be prevented when you do. Who knows the amount of harm that could have been done , or how many lives could have been lost, had these parents not found the courage to call the sheriff’s office and seek help.”
Cover image: Courtesy of @HSCOsheriff