Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Genius Bomber: The Mormon Forgery Murders

The Next Incident

More evidence had to be collected from Christensens body.   From inside the exploded chest cavity the chief medical examiner extracted wires, nails, bomb parts, metal pipe shards, and pieces of a battery.  The nail that had gone through the victims eye into his brain had been fatal.  Each piece was removed and placed into a separate bag for examination in the lab.

Yet even as they concentrated on this grisly task, they learned that a bomb in another area had killed a second personthis one a woman.

At the country home of Gary and Kathleen Sheets in Holladay, Utah, a package had been left that morning at Naniloa Drive on the wooden walkway near the three-car garage.  Neighbors who heard the explosion at about 9:30 a.m. later admitted they had ignored it, but an hour later, a friend coming up the driveway found Kathy, 50, lying face-up with eyes wide open in the driveway.  Pieces of the splintered garage overhang lay scattered on top of her.  Apparently, when she had picked up the package, she had set the bomb mechanism in motion, triggering the explosion.  It had ripped out her stomach and left breast, and severed her right arm.  Pieces of her ripped clothing were caught up in the tree, and her stomach had been opened up by a severe laceration.  Neighbors quickly identified her for the investigators.

Kathleen Sheets, victim
Kathleen Sheets, victim

A scrap of brown paper recovered from the scene indicated that the bomb package had been addressed to Kathys husband Gary, and his name had been written with black felt tip pen. 

To determine how sophisticated a bomb like this is, the lab does an analysis.   The substance is analyzed by means of whats known as gas, liquid or thin-layer chromatography. Each of these methods involves a different process, but they all work to separate the elements of a compound to compare them against the readings of known substances for identification.  There are many ways to make a bomb.  Watches and clocks are often converted into timers. Wires are attached to the moving hand and to a pin stuck at the time at which the bomber wants the device to activate.  One wire connects to the power source and the other to a detonator.  The moving hand ticks along until it makes contact with the pin and detonates the bomb. 

Many bombs are movement sensitive, so they must be carefully placed.   Homemade bombs are generally made from materials that can easily be bought in hardware or agriculture stores.  More sophistication in a device and the use of material that is difficult to purchase can indicate someone with skill and a possible position with the military.

By the end of the day, the investigators had found the mercury switch.

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