Pipe bomb found in rural Missouri mailbox

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

CAULFIELD, Mo. -- A pipe bomb found in a rural southern Missouri mailbox likely was a targeted threat, not a random terrorist act, a sheriff's investigator said Tuesday.

A woman checking on a bluebird nest in her plastic mailbox found the device Monday when she opened the mailbox door. It did not explode and nobody was hurt.

Authorities were pursuing several leads on the assumption that the suspect knew the woman, said Don Reid, a criminal investigator with the Howell County sheriff's department.

"There were several other mailboxes in the area that would have been easier targets if you didn't want to be seen," Reid said. "So we feel whoever did this knew who lived there."

The leading theory among investigators is that the woman may have been targeted because she was a witness in a lawsuit, Reid said.

Highway shut down

The pipe bomb was found about two miles east of Caulfield, along U.S. 160, in south-central Missouri. The highway was closed to traffic for five hours Monday and neighbors were told to stay in their homes.

Reid said the mailbox was six inches from a neighbor's mailbox, which was not disturbed, and just 30 yards from a mobile home.

State road workers had noticed several suspicious vehicles in the area shortly before the pipe bomb was found, he said.

The device was taken to an FBI lab to determine whether the substance inside the pipe was a blasting agent, Reid said.

A woman saw something shiny around noon Monday when she peered through a small hole in the mailbox to see if a bird that had built its nest inside was there. The woman's routine was to return later if she saw the bird, Reid said.

After seeing something shiny, she pulled down the lid slightly and saw what appeared to be pipe bomb. The woman then called her husband, who contacted the postmaster in Caulfield.

The discovery of the device comes in the same month that a college student was arrested and accused of planting pipe bombs in mailboxes in Iowa and four other states.

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