The former office manager of the popular Grandfather Mountain Highland Games was jailed on felony weapons and attempted murder charges this week after an improvised bomb was discovered at the games’ Blue Ridge mountain office.
Thomas Dewey Taylor, 43, was taken to the Avery County jail with bail set at $1 million. The state Bureau of Investigation charged him with possession of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder Monday night, said Sheriff Kevin Frye.
Stephen Quillin, president of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, said Taylor was dismissed as office manager for the organization in August. Taylor’s arrest was connected to an incident at the office on Mitchell Avenue in Linville, Quillin said.
SBI agents had been told a former Highland Games employee was suspected of embezzling money and committing financial credit card theft.
As they investigated, they found an explosive device with ignitable liquids. The homemade bomb also drew agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games features traditional Gaelic piping, drumming and dancing but is most famous for its Scottish-style athletic challenges, especially the caber toss, which involves throwing a 16 to 20-foot pole.
Organizers held the 65th annual games in July after COVID-19 triggered a year’s hiatus, and Taylor described the torchlit “raising of the clans” ceremony for radio station WFDD.
“The ceremonial, I think it’s really pretty,” says Taylor. “It’s one of the best picturesque events. When it’s foggy up there it’s actually prettier. They say if it’s raining up there then it’s more authentic Scottish weather. That’s what we’ve always said. It’s like you get your fill. ... Because if you’ve ever been to Scotland it is very similar to here.”