“I was suspicious,” said Jim Coit. He was suspicious of his partner, Larry Hoagland. They both worked at Professional Photographic Service in San Diego.
In the two years that Jim had spent at PPS, he couldn’t help but notice all the travel his partner did. Since 2008, it seemed as if Larry had taken off every four or five months for somewhere, Los Angeles or San Francisco or Philadelphia. Mostly Philadelphia. Larry told Jim that he had a friend on the East Coast, someone he was helping with his camera and with using Photoshop.
But Jim Coit had found things over the past year that started him thinking.
On their shared website, Larry had posted a photograph titled “Pennsylvania Beauty.” It showed a dark-haired woman — Larry Hoagland’s wife Connie was blonde. And, of course, there were all those trips Larry was making to Pennsylvania.
The two men shared a desktop computer, used to send and receive emails; each man also had his own laptop computer for working on digital images.
The shared computer was on a desk in the office area they both used. Jim Coit snooped around in this computer. He looked in the email trash and found a message from someone named Lee Ann. There was a photo attached. The picture showed a dark-haired woman on the beach with her kids.
There were more trashed emails, communications to and from prospective employers in Philadelphia. Larry Hoagland was looking for work there. In one email, Larry stated: “I hope to be moved over by mid-October 2010! Exciting indeed!” That email was dated June 2010.
Jim Coit had believed that he and Larry Hoagland were working hard to make their San Diego photography business a success. So Jim confronted Larry. When were you going to let me know about this? Larry replied that times were hard, the economy had changed, and they had lost some clients. He was looking for additional work. Jim Coit came to believe that what his partner was looking for was a way out, “an escape route.”
Then Jim got a weird message. It was late in the day, Thursday, September 23, 2010. Jim received a text message from Larry saying that his wife Connie had been hurt and was in the hospital. Jim texted back, asking what happened. Larry replied that it was on the news — just check the news. Jim thought that was odd, but he did as Larry suggested.
News reports stated that Connie Hoagland had left her job at a daycare center that afternoon and gone out to her truck, which was parked on the street. There was a terrible explosion. Connie was injured and taken to a hospital. There were unconfirmed rumors that it was a pipe bomb.
Days went by. Jim Coit followed media reports about the explosion.
Somebody noticed the coincidence that a pipe bomb had been found on a street near Connie Hoagland’s home on September 8, two weeks prior to the explosion. The connection hadn’t been made immediately, because the explosion at the daycare center was ten miles away; a different team of investigators had worked that crime scene. But there was one bomb expert who’d gone to both places, and he recognized the coincidence.
Larry’s business partner, Jim Coit, discovered, on the company computer, 22 videos on how to build and trigger
a pipe bomb.
Investigators believed that the first pipe bomb (found September 8) had fallen off the underside of Connie Hoagland’s truck. They found remnants of the glue from duct tape beneath the driver’s-seat area — but only after the September 23 explosion. The first, unexploded bomb had been recovered in a street about three blocks from Connie’s home. Duct tape still crisscrossed one side of the bomb, which was recovered intact and still armed. A metal pipe had been loaded with gunpowder, but at least one wire had become disconnected — probably because cars drove over it as it lay in the street. This bomb had been designed to be exploded remotely, using a cell phone as the triggering device. The loose wire prevented detonation.
San Diego police detective Christopher Everett called the cell phone–triggered bomb a “radio-controlled device.” He said it was the first of its kind seen in the United States; previously, this sort of device had been used in Iraq and Afghanistan. This attracted attention from investigative agencies all over the country. Detective Everett noted that alligator clips had been used at the end of some wires. This was unusual, he said; typically, people spliced wire ends by twisting them together.
From the hospital, Larry Hoagland texted Jim to give him updates on Connie’s condition. Jim Coit received his last text message from Larry the Sunday night after Thursday’s bombing: “I’m so sorry for everything that has happened.”
First thing Monday morning, Coit had another look around the company’s computer.
“I was looking back through the Safari search history, really not wanting to find anything,” Jim said later. “Suddenly, I find myself staring at 22 videos on how to build and trigger a pipe bomb. I stopped breathing, and instantly thought, He did it! My adrenaline peaked when I realized he could walk into the studio at any moment. I did not want to confront this crazy man who had just tried to blow up his wife. I quickly took a screen capture, copied it to a thumb drive, and ran out of the studio.”
Larry Hoagland’s Wallet
According to the lead detective on the pipe-bomb investigation, Jim Coit gave him “a big lead.” Four days after the bomb blast, sheriff’s detective Robert Vaughan obtained search warrants for Larry Hoagland’s home and business.
One thing seized was Larry Hoagland’s wallet. Investigators found two slips of paper in the wallet with phone numbers written on them. One number was for the cell phone attached to the first bomb; the phone was the triggering device. The other number was for a different pre-paid cell phone, which had dialed the phone attached to the bomb. The unexploded bomb had been called 18 times. All 18 calls bounced off a cell-phone tower near the business’s location, between 8:34 and 9:21 p.m., the night of September 7, 2010.
The detective asked Larry if he remembered putting those phone numbers into his wallet. “No, I don’t recall having those numbers,” he said. “It’s automatic for me just to stuff things in my wallet.” You don’t know how those numbers got into your wallet? “But I know where I got them from, yeah.” From where? “They were given to me by a transient that I call Jerry.”
Larry Hoagland explained that transients congregated around his workplace; they lived in RVs and vehicles parked in the area. The San Diego address for the now-defunct Professional Photographic Service was 1011 Buenos Avenue.
Larry Hoagland said that shady characters were attracted there because a neighboring company, Nabisco, discarded “broken cookie products” into a dumpster in the parking lot. Vagabonds had learned of the bonanza and swooped in like hungry birds.
Larry had an arrangement with one of the transients, named Jerry, to “watch out for the place.” In return, Jerry was allowed to keep his RV in the company parking lot. He was charged with preventing people from dumping trash.
Larry Hoagland said that Jerry had handed him a piece of paper. “And he said, ‘Here, here’s my phone number.’” Jerry gave Larry his wife’s phone number, as well. He recited that number aloud, so Larry wrote it down on a different slip of paper. “At that point, I must have stuffed the numbers in my wallet.” Larry claimed he’d never dialed those numbers.
When asked when he’d last seen Jerry, Larry Hoagland said, “End of September sometime.”
Larry denied doing all those searches on the company computer. He said he’d never looked up YouTube videos about bombs. Larry pointed out that his partner, Jim Coit, had been at the business the same morning the searches were done, September 3, 2010.
Patrick Lim, a computer wizard who worked for Naval Criminal Investigative Services, analyzed the computer. Somebody had gone onto the YouTube website at 8:48 a.m. after searching using the words “cell trigger.” Several YouTube links on the topics of bombs or trigger had been brought up. Somebody searched through the links for more than an hour, from 8:48 until 10:06 a.m. More than 20 links were clicked on. The titles of some videos included:
“Cell Phone Triggered Rocket Project”
“Using Cell Phone To Turn On LED”
“Cell Phone Triggered Circuit”
“Bomb Detonator Tips”
Another computer analyst found “The Perfect Woman” on Larry’s laptop. It was a mock-up of a magazine cover. At the top of the page, it read, “perfect woman.” A brunette smiled underneath. Another, smaller line on the cover read, “Great Style at Pee Wee Prices.” Larry’s pet name for his secret lover was Pee Wee.
As soon as investigators received the tip from Coit, they made plans to travel to the East Coast. That same night, they took a red-eye flight to Pennsylvania. Two San Diego police homicide detectives arrived in Philadelphia, looking for Lee Ann. In the morning, they went to Lee Ann’s workplace, an orthodontist’s office, but she wasn’t there. Her coworkers told detectives that she’d taken the day off for “stress.” Detective Troy DuGal and his partner next went to Lee Ann’s home.
“I met him in ’78,” Lee Ann said. “I was 17. I was at Chula Vista High School. [Larry] was my high-school sweetheart.” She said they’d dated for three or four years. “Oh, yeah, he’s my first love. Definitely.” Then she moved away. Lee Ann went to dental-assistant school. She married and lived on the East Coast with her husband and three kids for 24 years.
In 2006, she contacted her old high-school sweetheart. “I reached out to Larry.” She found him through Professional Photographic Service’s website.
“My relationship with my husband wasn’t good.” She communicated that fact to Larry. She knew he was married. Lee Ann said, “There was no intent for any relationship at that point.” She and Larry talked. “I think he loved his wife. I think he also loved me.”
Lee Ann arranged to meet with Larry. They decided on a hotel in Indianapolis. She drove. Larry took a plane. It was February 2007. “It was just a day, just to see each other.” But “I think it was more of an affair at that point. I was the mistress at the beginning.”
Lee Ann wanted more. By the end of July, she’d decided to divorce her husband. Lee Ann spoke with Larry by phone and texted him “a lot.” Larry flew out to the East Coast every few months. Lee Ann wanted to marry Larry Hoagland. “I think that was our ultimate goal, yes.”
Larry talked about divorcing his wife. But he wanted to go through bankruptcy first. He was $40,000 behind on the rent for his business, and more than $100,000 upside-down on his house. There were two mortgages on the home. His credit-card debt had grown to $75,000.
Still, sometimes Larry sent money to Lee Ann. She admitted to receiving almost $1000. Lee Ann was working three different jobs, trying to make ends meet. She was a dental assistant, she worked in a restaurant, and she crafted jewelry to sell.
Lee Ann waited and waited for Larry’s bankruptcy and divorce to be finalized. “It seems like it was always delayed.” Meanwhile, her faraway lover sent her reassuring videos.
Larry sent a video of himself apartment-hunting, to prove that he had separated from his wife. He sent another video of himself meeting with a divorce attorney, to prove that he had served divorce papers on his wife. But it was all lies. Larry Hoagland, 48, still lived with his wife, and 52-year-old Connie knew nothing about either Lee Ann’s or Larry’s plan for divorce.
This deception continued for years. But Connie had suspicions. Larry stayed later and later at work. He made all those business trips. He acted secretive when using his cell phone — calling and texting — and he had a password lock on the phone. Finally, Connie flat-out asked him if he was having an affair. She remembers his calm response: “Oh, why would you ask me that?” He denied it.
Longtime lover Lee Ann learned that Larry Hoagland was still living in the house with his wife when San Diego detectives told her. That was on September 28, 2010, five days after Connie Hoagland was injured by a bomb blast.
Not Lady MacBeth
These are excerpts from different text messages that Lee Ann sent to Larry in June 2010: “I am exhausted of your whining…I can’t handle your insecurities…I feel you expect me to be fine with all this and all lovey dovey. I can’t. I have been disappointed too many times…I think sometimes you want me to give up. I am sick of babying you. You have to do what you have to do…I just can’t count on you…You are insecure after all of this…I thought things would be different and I thought you were stronger and more motivated than you are…I love you but you are weak and I need you to be a strong motivated man.
Larry’s longtime lover Lee Ann wanted to
“I am tired of all your words.”
In July 2010, she texted: “Three years of this I am getting worried and tired of all this” and “I just hate this situation. I don’t know if you are going to leave me hanging here forever.”
By August 2010, Lee Ann claimed she was trying to break up with Larry. She was embarrassed when friends pointed out that she was “the other woman” to a man cheating on his wife. She wanted Larry properly divorced, and then she wanted him to marry her. “You know, it wasn’t happening, and I was tired of the excuses.”
Her text messages in August 2010 included: “You are not the man I thought you were…I need someone energetic [who] knows what they want in life and goes for it and does not wait till it’s too late. I am sorry Larry…I realized this weekend that the 3 years was fun but I was having an affair with a married man and people warned me about that. I thought we were different…I thought about it a lot last night and came to the conclusion that you are just waiting around another month going through the motions. I feel like you are wasting precious time and should be doing something not sure what but trying harder to make us happen…”
On September 1, 2010, Lee Ann sent this: “I can’t heal until you do things right by me that is the bottom line. Time not words. I have heard a lot of words over the years it’s overdue for change.” One week later, the first pipe bomb was found in the street a few blocks from the Hoaglands’ home.
Larry Hoagland was a steady, devoted sort of man. He first worked at Professional Photographic Services as an apprentice in 1981, when he was 19. Back then, he made photo prints by hand.
Larry and Connie married in 1985. He was 23, and she was 26. They raised three kids. They were active in their church. Larry Hoagland said he considered his 25-year marriage to Connie “very happy.”
Larry worked steadily at Professional Photographic Services and became a partner in 2006. Coincidentally, that was the same year Lee Ann contacted him and told him her marriage was failing. “I told her Connie and I were also drifting apart,” Larry said.
According to Larry, he and Lee Ann decided to make their relationship “permanent” in 2008.
Throughout 2010, Larry described his marriage to Connie as “very friendly but [full of] tension. We drifted apart.” He said he did not hate his wife. “Oh, no. We never argued.” They had “discussions” but never a “heated argument.”
He said he “never really believed in divorce,” but eventually came to the conclusion that he “just wanted to move on.” Larry said he wanted to “just leave.” He planned to “serve papers and drive off.” He hoped for a “very quiet exit.”
Larry confirmed that the plan was for Lee Ann to fly out to California. Then they would drive off together and leave San Diego behind. So, when were you going to inform Connie that you wanted a divorce? “It sounds so cold, [but] just about when I was leaving the house. That sounds so cowardly.”
Larry admitted that he told a lot of lies, to both Lee Ann and his wife. Connie believed all those trips to Pennsylvania were paid for by a client named “Bob.” Why did you tell all those lies for all those years? “Just to keep peace, I guess.”
Things Are Picking Up Speed
On September 21, 2010, Larry texted to Lee Ann that he loved her. He said he was going to Fry’s, an electronics store. There he bought some alligator clips. He paid cash. Investigators found this interesting, since alligator clips were used in both pipe bombs.
On September 22, Larry texted encouragement to his faraway love. “Things are picking up speed.”
On September 23, the day of the bomb blast, Larry texted Lee Ann 25 times. In almost every message, he told her that he loved her. It was a little before 8:00 p.m., California time, when Larry told Lee Ann that his wife had been in some sort of accident and was now in the hospital.
The Day of the Explosion
The Hoagland home became crowded in 2010. Larry and Connie still had their youngest child, a 15-year-old son, at home. And their two adult daughters, 24 and 20, had moved back in after one divorced and the other lost her job. The older daughter brought her three-year-old baby with her.
Connie was in fact relieved that Larry was traveling so much and that he so often worked late. He had become so short with her. Finances were bad. “He kept telling me, ‘We have no money, don’t spend any money.’” They began to miss their house payments in late 2009 and started bankruptcy proceedings in January 2010.
Connie liked her job at the residential daycare; she’d worked there for 15 years. Usually, she brought her grandson to work with her, but that Thursday morning, the little boy went to the zoo with his mom.
When Connie drove her teenaged son to high school that morning, she saw that annoying black wire hanging down again from under the dash, beneath the steering wheel. “I remembered it hanging there before.” She’d first noticed it some days before. She pushed the wire aside with her foot to use the pedals. Connie asked her son to remind her later to have Dad look at it.
A Perfectly Good Truck
Afterward, investigators were able to track Larry Hoagland’s movements the day of the bombing by following his cell-phone usage.
Larry was at home using his phone from 4:55 to 6:35 a.m. He didn’t leave the home on Celia Vista Drive until after his wife had already driven off to work. “I was usually the last one leaving the house,” he later said.
At 8:05 a.m., Larry and his phone traveled east about nine miles. His calls bounced off a tower that was in the same area where his wife worked. Connie had parked her Ford truck on Via Hacienda as usual, at about 7:00 a.m. Larry said he was “scouting a location” at a nearby park for a possible photo shoot; he said he was “always looking for new backgrounds.” While there, Larry phoned his wife and spoke to her for a couple of minutes. “I told her that I was out and about.” In a half hour, Larry’s cell phone was traveling in the opposite direction, now moving west toward Professional Photographic Services.
During work hours that day, Larry’s phone calls bounced off towers near his business.
At about 4:00 p.m., Larry again phoned Connie. “He said, ‘I’ll be home at 5:30.’” She thought that was unusual, because he never came home before 6:30. She hurried out to her truck and found it already unlocked. “I thought, ‘Oh, that’s odd.’”
Larry Hoagland got a call from the owner of the daycare business at about 4:25 p.m., telling him that his wife had been injured.
From 5:22 to 11:00 p.m., September 23, 2010, Larry’s cell phone used the towers around the hospital where his wife had been admitted.
In the Hospital
Connie arrived at the hospital with gaping wounds in her feet and legs and severed arteries. The bomb had been placed under the dashboard of her truck, beneath the steering wheel, right above her feet. When she turned the key in the ignition, there was “a big BOOM!”
Doctors struggled to stop the bleeding. They tried to remove the bomb parts from her body.
“You could see shrapnel in several of the X-rays,” said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Richard Allen. “It was considered a contaminated wound.” The doctors feared infection.
Days passed in the hospital. The doctors removed more flesh as it died off — they called this “progressive necrosis” — the damaged tissue excised as it was discovered, to save the healthy tissue. The gaping holes in Connie’s body grew larger.
The first time doctors tried to take healthy tissue from one part of Connie’s body and transplant it to areas where tissue was missing, the surgery failed. The doctors waited, then tried again.
One of Connie’s lower leg bones, a tibia, was shattered. They inserted a titanium rod for support.
At one point, Connie got a blood clot in her lungs, an “embolism.” They saved her from that death threat.
While doctors were trying to put Connie back together, Larry was in the hospital hallway, texting his gal on the East Coast.
Two days after the bombing, at about 3:00 a.m., Larry texted to Lee Ann: “This is a very big mess. Two Sheriff deputies are guarding her room now. The bomb people swept the house and perimeter. Yes this is a mess but yes I will worry about you. I love you and need you and need to be there at my home.”
Later that afternoon, he texted: “Got to the hospital at noon and there is still a codename and password for entry and two Sheriff deputies are assigned to guard the room. Supposed to have a meeting later with all the kids and a ATF agent. Love you.”
Larry was not allowed access to his wife. He had to phone one of his daughters, who was in the room with Connie. He asked if he could tell his wife “three things.”
Connie took the phone. “He said, ‘I just want you to know I’m having an affair.’” Larry wanted to tell Connie before she heard it elsewhere. Then Larry said, “But I’ve been dedicated to you since Thursday.” That was the day of the bomb blast. Lastly, he said, “I didn’t do it.” Connie said the call did not last a minute. “It was that short, and I just hung up.”
On September 25 and 26, Larry sent more messages to Lee Ann, reassuring her of his love.
Larry later confirmed that he did rededicate himself to his wife the day she was bombed. He said that when he contacted the woman on the East Coast, “it was in the context of a friend consoling another friend.” Larry explained: “At that point, I had no idea how long Connie was going to be in the hospital.”
After pipebombing his wife,
Larry took a picture of himself in the hospital hallway and texted it to his girlfriend, Lee Ann, in Pennsylvania.
He was arrested later that night.
Larry Hoagland’s last two text messages to Lee Ann were sent the evening of September 27, from the hospital’s hallway. He told her: “I miss you too” and “Good night my love.” He sent a photo of himself. Larry held his cell-phone camera up to a mirror high on the wall, up near the ceiling. In the photo, he looks forlorn and small. The bright white of the hospital tile floor overwhelmed his silhouette.
Deputies took him into custody later that night.
Fifty-two-year-old Connie was in the hospital for 35 days. Doctors performed seven surgeries. The tiny woman lost 30 pounds.
When she spoke about it later, she said over and over that it was a “miracle” she survived. “And God protected me.” Connie choked up when she later testified at her husband’s trial. She wept. “I’m just happy I’m alive.”
Larry Hoagland went on trial more than a year later. The jury found him guilty of premeditated attempted murder and explosion of a destructive device causing great bodily injury. The verdict was announced May 7, 2012.
A probation officer interviewed Larry Hoagland as part of a report to be submitted to the trial judge before sentencing. The officer found Larry “very pleasant and cooperative” and “superficially charming.” He told her he was active in his church, where he led Bible studies and prayer groups and taught Sunday school. He said that during his time in jail, he wanted to make a difference in other men’s lives. “I am trying to do on the inside what I did on the outside. I have compassion for these men. I want to keep doing it, but from the outside. I don’t belong in here.”
“He quoted scripture and described himself as a godly and honorable man,” the officer reported. “He adamantly denied any attempt to, or involvement in, the harming of his now former wife, Connie.”
Connie divorced Larry while he was in custody.
The probation officer continued, “He hopes to have his conviction overturned on appeal and be able to reconcile with his wife and children.”
Larry told her, “I did not try and kill my wife. I want so bad to reconcile with my family. I did not do this. I am still hopeful of the appeal system.”
Larry suggested to the officer that it might have been his former business partner who collaborated with one of the transients to hurt Connie in an effort to ultimately hurt him. “He believes his partner felt betrayed when told that he, Hoagland, was looking for a job in Pennsylvania,” she wrote.
Connie Hoagland’s life was saved after 7 surgeries and 35 days
in the hospital.
She quoted Larry as saying to her: “I have come to the conclusion that Jerry [the transient] had something to do with it. Perhaps my former business partner, Jim, felt betrayed and abandoned. I think he would try and hurt me…Who would gain from hurting Connie, and me being out of the picture? Jim. He wanted to move the business to where his wife was. Nobody looked into that.”
The probation officer noted the Hoaglands’ $300,000 life-insurance policy. The benefit would go the surviving spouse, if Connie or Larry died.
The officer’s report concluded: “He completely lacks any sense of moral responsibility. He is absolutely a danger to the community and is deserving of the maximum penalty.”
In El Cajon’s East County Superior Courthouse, on June 5, 2012, Larry Hoagland, 50, was sentenced to 13 years plus life. He will be eligible for parole in 20 years.