MORGANTON, N.C. — A man has admitted to making over 250 bomb threats to businesses in Burke County.
Cody Startt, 27, pleaded guilty to 253 counts of terrorism, 251 counts of false bomb reports and two counts of false bomb report in a public building.
Startt will face judges in Caldwell and Catawba counties on an additional 150 counts, but has not plead guilty to those.
Morganton District Attorney David Learner said people in Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties dealt with Startt's “reign of terror” for more than two months. He also said the bomb threats cost businesses $750,000.
Morganton Public Safety Chief Ronnie Rector said his department responded to 269 bomb threats over the course of 45 days.
"The public lost trust in going to town,” Rector said. “We had so many people call us and just say, ‘Should we go out to eat tonight? Can we go shopping? Can we even go to the store?"
Law enforcement from across Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties, along with state and federal investigators, traced the calls to Startt.
He confessed to the crimes after police found him at a home in West Virginia using two different apps to first make the bogus calls and then listen to the police response. Investigators said he became a possible suspect because of previous convictions for the same crime in Catawba County.
One of those calls came into Bypass Package in Morganton, where even though no one was hurt, they said Startt's actions had an impact.
Startt’s attorney told the judge Monday that Startt had a mental illness and instead of taking his medication, he was using meth.
Startt apologized for his actions.
“If I could change anything about this I would. I wish I had never done it,” Startt said. “I was dumb and I didn't realize the impact it would have.”
Honorable W. Todd Pomeroy sentenced Startt to 11 to 21 years in prison. The judge also imposed judgments for an additional 10 to 20 years of suspended sentences for Startt and placed his on supervised probation for over a period of 36 months. If he violates the terms of his probation, those sentences will be activated, and Startt will serve at the end of his initial active sentence.
Startt was convicted in October 2015 on three counts of making false bomb reports in May 201. He admitted to violating his probation by absconding from supervision, being in arrears of court indebtedness and failing to complete court-directed community service.
Startt’s probation was revoked in July 2016 in Catawba County, activating a prison sentence of four to 14 months.
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