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Explosives case headed to trial

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GREENFIELD — Plea negotiations in the case against a 20-year-old New Palestine man accused of making homemade explosives hit a wall Thursday, and a trial is scheduled for next month.

Michael Niemier, who was arrested in July on a Class C felony charge of possession of a destructive device, appeared headed to trial following a hearing in Hancock Circuit Court Thursday afternoon.

Niemier, who is represented by his father, attorney William Niemier, was scheduled to take a plea agreement at Thursday’s hearing, but the state and defense have so far not been able to agree on the terms, Prosecutor Michael Griffin said.

“There’s been a lot of investment of time by the defense in negotiating, and we’ve tried to be responsive,” Griffin said.

But the prosecutor’s office has now made its final offer, he said.

“At this point, we aren’t counting on anything,” he said, adding a trial is on the calendar for April 15 if an agreement isn’t reached.

William Niemier, who is also president of the Southern Hancock School Board, declined to comment.

The case began with an investigation by the Indiana State Police bomb team, which was called to a home in the 1500 block of Furry Road last summer after a neighbor heard an explosion and called 911.

The sounds were nothing new, the caller said; two to three explosions per week happened at the property.

It was the same home where a month earlier, a 12-year-old boy suffered hand and shoulder injuries when an explosive detonated.

The boy initially said he had found the homemade device but later admitted he had constructed it out of an empty carbon dioxide cartridge such as those used in air rifles. He filled the cartridge with gun powder.

When State Police arrived at the home, they met with two teenage boys who implicated Michael Niemier. They said a friend of theirs had set off several “sparkler bombs” on the property, according to court documents.

Investigators surveyed a field at the rear of the property and found several ruts in the ground consistent with explosives having been detonated, court documents state. They also found broken pieces of PVC pipe and sparkler sticks strewn across the area.

When police interviewed Niemier, the suspect admitted he had set off an explosive, according to police reports. He told officers he used to own a fireworks store in New Palestine and had taken leftover fireworks to his home after the store shut down, court records state.

Thursday marked the second time a change-of-plea hearing has been postponed in the case, according to court records. Niemier originally pleaded not guilty to the charge July 15 and was released on a $2,000 cash bond.

After a brief hearing before Judge Richard Culver Thursday, the parties agreed to reconvene April 3.

Niemier faces up to eight years in prison and $10,000 in fines if convicted of the felony.

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