No. 4 Crime Story of the Year: FBI offers $20K reward in Osage church bomb

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

OSAGE -- The No. 4 crime-related story of 2012 in Carroll County is a new twist on a case that first began in 2010, when a soda-can bomb was discovered inside an Osage church that was doubling as a polling site.

Previously, two men had been charged with less serious weapons-related offenses in connection with the bomb scare, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation apparently decided it did not have behind bars the mastermind of the incident. So in July of this year, the FBI offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the person responsible for planting the "sophisticated" bomb found inside a Pepsi can at Osage Baptist Church on June 9, 2010.

The bomb was discovered by a church worker the day after the church was used as a polling place for state Democrat and Republican run-off primary elections.

On the ballot for June 8, 2010, was Blanche Lincoln and Bill Hatler for the U.S. Senate seat; Cecile Bledsoe and Steve Womack for the District 3 U.S. Congress seat; Mark Wilcox and Pat O'Brien for Secretary of State; and Monty Davenport for Commissioner of State Lands.

No other bombs were found in any other polling place other than the Osage Baptist Church following the run-off elections, said FBI spokesman Kim Brunell in Little Rock.

In the release announcing the reward, the FBI in Arkansas said they "believe whoever is responsible for this act had a message to send to the community and to law enforcement."

The FBI sought and received approval for the reward in the hopes it will generate new information in the 2-year-old case.

"Announcing the reward would get people's attention, which it has so far and hopefully we will reach somebody that has some information that hasn't previously come forward," Brunell said. "The case has been open and it's taken some twists and turns, and we just want any and all new information. Simply asking for information might not catch everybody's attention. This is absolutely a priority for us to solve."

Anyone with tips, regardless of how insignificant they might be, is asked to contact the Carroll County Sheriff's Office at 870-423-2901 or the FBI's Little Rock Office at 501-221-9100.

ESCAPING DISASTER

The improvised explosive device was picked up by a poll worker and placed on the front desk inside the church.

The bomb was "handled three times and somebody else put it on my desk," said Church Secretary Betty Lowery. "It was just a Pepsi can. When I went to set it down, it wouldn't sit down and when I looked underneath, there was a pin sticking out and a little red wire and a blue wire. I took it to my pastor. He thought maybe it was a toy radio and after studying it, he took it to the end of the parking lot and called the sheriff."

The Bentonville Police Bomb Squad responded to the location at the request of the Carroll County Sheriff's Department and rendered the improvised explosive device safe.

The bomber is believed to be "somebody that's either from there or presently from there or lived there in the past," Brunell said. "The devise was really sophisticated. Whoever made it took steps to protect themselves."

The FBI released likely traits and characteristics of the offender that might prove familiar to someone who knows the person. However, the FBI notes to not discount someone if the suspect does not fit all the traits and characteristics listed.

The FBI notes that the suspect probably is skilled in electronics and possesses above-average knowledge of circuitry. He also is skilled working with small projects and models and may be known as someone who can repair electrical problems.

The FBI said the offender might have displayed such skills in previous crafts or projects with fireworks, including acts of vandalism.

"He may have used these skills to play pranks on others in the past," the release said. "In fact, some of these pranks may have been motivated by revenge. He may display the attitude of, 'I don't get mad; I get even.' Those living around him may have heard explosions or sounds like gunfire near his residence or in nearby rural areas."

The person may keep items around such as circuit boards; batteries; wires; ammunition; pyrotechnic powder and fuses; electronic switches; springs; glue/adhesives; and other gear such as wire cutters, tweezers, and a Dremel tool to cut materials.

Meanwhile, the Osage Baptist Church continued to serve as a polling place this year.

"The first Sunday [after the bomb was found] the FBI was here and they did a search before we opened up," Lowery said. "We carry on just like we did before."

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