updated 4/3/2008 7:22:12 PM ET 2008-04-03T23:22:12

A former Iraq war contractor accused of trying to take bomb components on an airplane had a history of mental illness and was distraught over his mother's 2005 murder, according to a lawyer for the family.

Kevin Christopher Brown, 32, had been in and out of hospitals before his arrest Tuesday at Orlando International Airport, said H. Charles Johnson, who is representing the family in the murder case.

Brown was charged with one count of attempting to carry an explosive or incendiary device on an aircraft. On Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Karla Spaulding found probable cause to detain the former U.S. Army solder and Iraq contractor, pending a grand jury indictment.

Brown's attorney, assistant federal public defender Clarence Counts, argued there wasn't probable cause because the bomb components allegedly found in Brown's bags weren't assembled, and he couldn't reach them after checking the luggage.

"He didn't have any way of even detonating any explosive device, so there really was no danger to anyone on the airplane by my client," Counts said.

Kelly Boaz, an FBI task force bomb technician who inspected the bags, testified the items could have ignited if they met a heat source.

Mom was family's center
Johnson said Brown's father died when he was a baby, so the mother raised Brown and a brother alone.

"Sandra was the breadwinner for the family," he said. "She was always there for them."

Brown worked in Iraq as an equipment parts receiver from July to December 2007, according to his employer, Lear Siegler International. The company is a Georgia-based military contractor that provides veterans to work in Iraq.

Brown served in the U.S. Army from 1999 to 2003, at one point stationed in Germany. At the time of discharge, he was a logistical specialist with the 690th Medical Company based in Fort Benning, Ga., said Army spokesman Maj. Nathan Banks.

Brown had been receiving care at the Malcom Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Gainesville, said Mary Kay Hollingsworth, a regional spokeswoman for the Veterans Health System. Citing privacy laws, she wouldn't specify the time frame or nature of his condition.

Jail records list Brown's address as a Gainesville apartment for University of Florida students, where he had been apparently staying with his brother. Blake Bonsack, a 22-year-old roommate of Brown's brother, said the man was nice but a little odd.

"He was odd. He had a weird sleeping schedule," said Bonsack.

All the fixings for a bomb
Authorities say Brown on Tuesday was carrying virtually everything needed to make a pipe bomb in luggage he checked for an Air Jamaica flight to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Transportation Security Administration officers searched his bags after saying he was acting strange.

Inside, according to court documents, were galvanized pipes and drilled end caps, BB's, a model rocket ignitor, batteries and bomb-making instructions. Brown also allegedly had two vodka bottles containing the chemical nitromethane, a colorless liquid used as a cleaning solvent and drag racing fuel.

Boaz acknowledged in court mistakenly identifying the bottles in his affidavit as glass instead of plastic. But he said it was an unsafe way to transport nitromethane, though Brown told him he used the bottles partly because he was worried about the chemicals.

"He was concerned that the container he purchased it in would expand as the flight went up, and he was worried about it bursting," Boaz said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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