Prosecutor says vengeance spurred 'Plan B': A plot to kill
- Cofflin was not shy about his plans, describing them to a friend and his former attorney and even the police after he was arrested.
Enraged that his longtime partner had obtained a protection-from-abuse order (PFA) against him that forbade him from living in their Loganville home, Howard Timothy Cofflin Jr. started methodically planning vengeance on both her and the Pennsylvania State Police as a way to "send a message."
That's what chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker told jurors Monday afternoon during his opening statement in Cofflin's terrorism and attempted-murder trial.
"It's war," Barker said, adding Cofflin even had a name for his scheme — Plan B.
Cofflin told a friend about his plans, then told his former attorney about it and even told police all about it after he was arrested, according to the prosecutor.
Barker said Cofflin told state troopers, "I'm going to send a message. I have the intelligence, I have the intent, and I have the patience to do it."
Deadly mission: His mission, according to Barker, was to kill Tina Marie Snyder — his girlfriend of 22 years and the mother of his adult daughter — then "kill as many PSP troopers as he could."
Cofflin told troopers he'd started to assemble an AR-15 rifle, since the PFA prohibited him from buying weapons, and planned to assemble what he called improvised explosive devices (IEDs), Barker said.
Cofflin bought the parts to assemble an AR-15, nd also bought 200 rounds of ammunition for it, as well as laser sights, six magazines for the weapon and two pieces of body armor, according to the prosecutor. He also planned to use large propane tanks and the explosive Tannerite to make shrapnel bombs, Barker said.
Cofflin, 57, a mechanical engineer by training, remains in York County Prison without bail, charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder of a law-enforcement officer, two counts of terrorism, three counts of aggravated assault and one count each of making terroristic threats and threatening to use a bomb.
He's also charged with making terroristic threats and harassment for the initial encounter with Snyder that led to the PFA being granted.
"He's guilty of it all," Barker told jurors.
Just fantasy: But public defender Jim Rader said during his opening statement that Cofflin telling others he planned a war with police was a cry for help — "the evolution of anger and frustration in one man's mind."
Rader said because of the PFA, Cofflin had "everything" taken away from him.
"(He was) living between this sad, pitiful reality and this dark fantasy ... that would restore his dignity," Rader told jurors. "In his own way (it was) a cry for help ... trying to seek attention."
Cofflin "was going in and out of this dark fantasy," Rader said, adding it was merely that — a fantasy.
Snyder was one of three prosecution witnesses called to the stand Monday.
She testified she and Cofflin argued Aug. 14, 2015, after their house became flooded, and police ended up being called. She said she obtained a PFA against him that became permanent on Aug. 27, 2015.
Ominous texts: Six days later JoAnn Moore, a friend of Cofflin's, forwarded to Snyder a number of text messages between Cofflin and Moore that made Snyder fear for her life and call police, she said.
"I was terrified," she told jurors.
Jurors were shown those texts, and Barker asked Snyder to read them aloud in court. In them, Cofflin tells Moore he thinks he's losing his mind and that he's "getting sicker" from not eating or sleeping.
"I keep thinking and planning crazy things," he texted Moore, adding he had "nightmares every night" about killing Snyder and cutting off her head. "I know how this is going to end for me, and I had weeks to think about all of this. ... They are going to pay heavily for what they have done to me."
Cofflin texted Moore that she and her husband should have no further contact with him, because "you don't want to be associated with me and this mess."
'Anger, rage and hate': He texted her a photo of an ax he said he'd just bought and said he needed to "be smart about this" or his plan would not succeed.
"I will not have remorse," he texted. "I have only anger, rage and hate now."
Moore, in reply texts, pleaded with Cofflin to obey the law and to think of his daughter, but Cofflin apparently was unmoved.
The Loganville home he shared with Snyder was to be the site of Cofflin's "final battlefield," Barker said, and Cofflin was close to being able to execute his plan.
"Only one phone call stopped him in his tracks," Barker said. "That is how police were able to foil Plan B."
Alerted by attorney: In October 2015, attorney Seamus Dubbs, the lawyer Cofflin initially hired to represent him in the Snyder incident, warned state police of Cofflin's threats, saying the Pennsylvania Bar Association's ethics hotline advised him he could waive attorney-client privilege and report the threats, police said.
It was on Oct. 22, 2015, that Cofflin confided to Dubbs he’d acquired body armor and was building an assault rifle and that when he was done, he was planning to use force to take back the house he’d lived in with Snyder, documents allege.
Troopers tracked down Cofflin at his mother's house in Dundalk, Maryland, where he'd moved after the PFA was granted and brought him in the next day for questioning, documents state. Police said that at one point in a recorded conversation he “freely” laid out his plan to troopers.
Supplies: Cofflin said he'd bought a gas mask, body armor, night-vision goggles and more, according to police. He told police he’d been trying to get tungsten bullets that he said could pierce riot shields and body armor, according to police.
Cofflin also had been working on building IEDs made from propane tanks augmented by the binary explosive Tannerite, which he believed he’d be able to buy at a gun show, documents allege. Police said he planned to put nails and bolts on the outside of the homemade bombs in an attempt to cause further damage with shrapnel.
Testimony from prosecution witnesses is set to resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.