Loganville man who planned 'war' on PSP will likely die in prison

Liz Evans Scolforo

It's likely Howard "Tim" Cofflin Jr. will spend the rest of his life in prison for planning to murder his longtime ex-girlfriend and kill as many state troopers as possible to send a message to judges and the court system, his prosecutor said.

Cofflin's scheme, which he called Plan B, amounted to terrorism, a York County jury determined Thursday morning.

Howard Timothy Cofflin Jr.

Jurors took about three hours over two days to find Cofflin, 57, formerly of Loganville, guilty of two counts of attempted first-degree murder — one count each for ex Tina Snyder and state police. They also found him guilty of attempted murder of a law-enforcement officer, two counts of terrorism and one count each of making terroristic threats and bomb threats.

Additionally, Cofflin was convicted of making terroristic threats and harassment in a separate case for threatening Snyder in text messages to a third party.

Presiding Common Pleas Judge Harry M. Ness set sentencing for 9 a.m. April 26.

Outside the courtroom, chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker did some math on the fly and said he believes the maximum sentence Cofflin could receive is 47½ to 95 years in prison. But even a lesser sentence would likely mean the middle-aged Cofflin will die in prison, the prosecutor confirmed.

"He's committed to his mission," Barker said, referring to the fact that Cofflin told investigators he's a patient man who wouldn't be stopped. Barker said that's why Cofflin shouldn't be set free.

"He wanted to convince courts (not to) grant PFAs," the prosecutor said. "That's why this is terrorism."

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Enraged by PFA: Barker told jurors Cofflin was enraged that Snyder had obtained a protection-from-abuse order (PFA) against him in August 2015 that forced him out of their Loganville home and into his mother's home in Dundalk, Maryland.

The PFA was the result of a domestic incident in which state police responded to his former Highland Road home, a move Cofflin saw as amounting to a war against him, according to the prosecutor.

Barker reminded jurors in his closing argument that Cofflin meticulously researched Plan B. He showed them the numerous items Cofflin had already bought to carry out what he called his "ultimate crime," including parts to assemble his own AR-15 assault rifle, since the PFA prohibited him from buying weapons.

Propane tanks are displayed as Pennsylvania State Police Capt. Adam Kosheba speaks during a news conference regarding the arrest and  charges being filed against Howard Timothy Cofflin Jr., at the Pennsylvania State Police Department in Loganville on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. Cofflin was charged based on evidence found and threats made regarding his intention to kill his ex-girlfriend, Pennsylvania state troopers and county judges. (Dawn J. Sagert - The York Dispatch)

Cofflin also bought six 30-round magazines for the rifle he was 80 percent finished building, as well as two bulletproof vests and 200 armor-piercing "cop killer" bullets, the prosecutor said. He also planned to use large propane tanks and the binary explosive Tannerite to make shrapnel bombs, which Cofflin referred to as improvised explosive devices, Barker said.

Public defender Jim Rader declined comment until after sentencing. During his closing argument Wednesday, he called Cofflin's talk about Plan B "the rantings of a delusional person" and described it as a cry for help.

One phone call: Had Cofflin's former defense attorney, Seamus Dubbs, not alerted authorities to Plan B, Snyder and troopers would most likely be dead, Barker said.

"Just one phone call" made the difference, Barker said.

Dubbs testified Tuesday that in early October 2015 Cofflin "informed me he was in the planning and operational stages ... of an attack on his ex and state police."

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Then on Oct. 21, 2015, Cofflin told Dubbs he'd acquired body armor and still needed to do some work to finish building an AR-15 assault rifle, "and as soon as he was done with that, he was going to act," Dubbs testified.

At that point, Dubbs alerted police to Cofflin's scheme, he said.

"In my opinion, I had to (do it)," the attorney testified. "It was more than just bluster. It was more than just anger. ... I didn't believe I was having any effect on dissuading him."

Evidence boards are displayed during a news conference regarding the arrest and charges being filed against Howard Timothy Cofflin Jr., at the Pennsylvania State Police Department in Loganville on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. (Dawn J. Sagert - The York Dispatch)

'I'm going to war': Also during trial, jurors listened to Cofflin's taped interview with police after he'd been arrested.

"I'm going to go and kill (Snyder) ... and take back possession of my property," Cofflin says on the tape. "If I get out of here, that's still my mission."

He freely admitted conducting surveillance on the state police barracks in Loganville.

"I've already staked out their headquarters. I already know where they fuel their cars," he says on the tape. "I'm going to war with them."

Cofflin is a mechanical engineer.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.