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Mike Sperry of Maine State Police Holds Briefing

Aired May 3, 2003 - 11:59   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. We want to take you straight to Caribou, Maine, where state police are updating reporters there on the latest updates involving the arsenic poisoning case there. Let's listen in.
COL. MICHAEL SPERRY, CHIEF, MAINE STATE POLICE: ... we'll try to provide the answers to those families. That is our goal as part of this investigation to provide those answers. We will continue to work throughout the weekend, into next week. An autopsy is scheduled for Mr. Bondeson on Monday. We'll have more information after the autopsy.

I will be glad to answer any questions now.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what that link may have been?

SPERRY: I think it's too early to provide that information at this time. We just received this late yesterday afternoon. We have more analysis of that information that we received from the scene and until we have that, I would be remiss to go further.

QUESTION: You're no longer looking for suspects?

SPERRY: That's not true. This is an open investigation. We are still looking at who's involved in this, but the shooting yesterday provided us significant information to guide us in that idea.

QUESTION: Did he shoot himself?

SPERRY: This was reported as a self-inflicted gunshot wound to us. We're still investigating that. And as I said before, we won't make a determination on that until the autopsy Monday.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) What time is that expected to happen? And what specifically are you looking for?

SPERRY: We obviously would be looking for information to determine whether or not it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. We'd also be looking for information to link Mr. Bondeson to the poisonings to church.

QUESTION: Sir, did he leave a note?

SPERRY: I wouldn't comment on a note at this time. But we do have information that would link him to the poisonings at the church.


QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to the house, correct?

SPERRY: We are looking into the information concerning a motive. And we have developed information in the last 24 hours that would indicate what the motive might have been, but that's still an open investigation. We're still continuing with that.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) release for the state police department that you've obviously had a huge development here. This community has been on edge all week. Can you talk about that a little bit?

SPERRY: I think this has had a huge impact on this small community. And we're attempting to provide as many answers for this community so they can start to heal. As we go forward, hopefully we could provide more of those answers and bring a conclusion to this investigation.

QUESTION: Any idea how long?


SPERRY: I think I withhold that information for right now as part of the ongoing investigation.

QUESTION: Any idea how long the search will take at the house today?

SPERRY: We could be there for several days.

QUESTION: When did you develop the information linking the shooting to the church?

SPERRY: This was developed late yesterday.

QUESTION: According to your...

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the one that actually put the arsenic into the church?

SPERRY: I think it's too early to make a determination on that. We have further investigation to do based on what we found yesterday. And at that -- as this investigation progresses, we'll be able to give more information.

QUESTION: Have you determined when exactly the arsenic was placed in the coffee? Has that determination been made yet?

SPERRY: No, but we're continuing to work on narrowing that time line down and refocusing into a narrower time line. And we've had success in doing that.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) before his death in regards to the poisoning at the church.

SPERRY: I don't believe so.

QUESTION: Do you know if he was at church last Sunday?

SPERRY: I don't believe he was.

QUESTION: Did he attend the bake sale the day before, on Saturday, I believe, do you know?

SPERRY: I wouldn't comment on that.

QUESTION: Were any of his relatives made ill?


QUESTION: Are you interviewing any of his relatives?

SPERRY: We're interviewing all his relatives, family members, and all the people who were at the church during the period of time that we're looking at.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or the fact that you're saying it is still open lead you to believe there may have been an accomplice?

SPERRY: I think it's too early to make a conclusion on whether it was one or several people that were involved in this.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) members of the church to come forward and give DNA samples? Is that still active? Is the FBI still involved? Or are things, in fact, slowing down?

SPERRY: The FBI is still very much involved. We are still going for DNA samples and fingerprints from the members of the church for both crime lab analysis so we can exclude people or include people in some of the items which we've seized.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) said (UNINTELLIGIBLE) direction in this investigation prior to yesterday's shooting. Was this gentleman part of this direction that you were headed, do you know?

SPERRY: I think overall we felt from the very beginning of this investigation that, once we knew it was a homicide investigation, that we were fairly certain that the people who were involved were people from the community.

QUESTION: Did people in New Sweden know this man?

SPERRY: Yes. It's a very small community, most people know everyone or are related to everyone.

QUESTION: What was their opinion, through your interviews? I mean, what kind of guy is this person?

SPERRY: I think I'll decline to comment on that at this time. We're still developing that information.

QUESTION: Was their a suicide note at the scene? Was there a suicide note at the scene?

SPERRY: In terms of a suicide note, we have information that links him to the church poisoning. I'd hold off on the suicide note until I have further information from the medical examiner and at that time we may be able to release information concerning that.

QUESTION: Was there a note at the scene of any sort?

QUESTION: Can you say if Mr. Bondeson has a criminal record at all?

SPERRY: We're looking into that at this time.

QUESTION: Was he interviewed before he died?

QUESTION: What are you looking for in the house?

SPERRY: We're obviously looking at two focuses with the search warrant. One is to determine whether or not this was a self-inflicted gunshot wound or if someone else was involved in this shooting. The other focus is a link to the poisoning or arsenic that was in the church.

QUESTION: Has there been a link reported to you, to the police? Who was it who told you, that reported the shooting?

SPERRY: A family member.

QUESTION: Can you say who?


QUESTION: Was he alone when he died?

QUESTION: What -- was Mr. Bondeson a farmer?

SPERRY: I believe he did have -- did live on a farm...

QUESTION: Did you know how anyone in this area would have access to arsenic?

SPERRY: From our discussions with the Department of Environmental Protection and the Bureau of Public Health, arsenic was a chemical which was used in pesticides for a number of years in Arusta County, in the farming. It hasn't been used in a few years, but there's an abundance of arsenic around in various farms from that prior use.

QUESTION: So it could have been many people in the area then?

SPERRY: In terms who have may have access to the chemical, yes.

QUESTION: Colonel, in interviewing townsfolk, are you finding that they're being forthcoming with your investigators?

SPERRY: Very cooperative. Very cooperative. QUESTION: Just to be clear, the shooting victim, he was a member of the church?

SPERRY: Yes, he was.

QUESTION: But he was not there on the Sunday of the poisoning?

SPERRY: Correct.

QUESTION: And you're not commenting on whether or not he was there the day before, at the bake sale?


QUESTION: Can you comment on who was at the house this morning, was that the brother of Bondeson that was there this morning and what was he doing there, if it was?

SPERRY: I wouldn't comment on anyone that was at the scene.

QUESTION: Colonel, if there is a note, would you anticipate that being made public, if it'd ease people's mind. Is that something you would be open to releasing?

SPERRY: Any suicide notes in the state of Maine come under the jurisdiction of the medical examiners office. And the decision on releasing contents of that note would be up to the medical examiner, if it existed.

QUESTION: Do you know if any of Mr. Bondeson's family was at church that day? Did they have any of the coffee?

SPERRY: I think I mentioned earlier that to my knowledge, no family members of Mr. Bondeson had coffee that day or were ill.

QUESTION: From the information you had, whether it's a note or other information, have you been able to establish a motive?

SPERRY: I think we're working on motive, but obviously, as you're going through an investigation of this type, the motive usually develops as you determine the facts and circumstances of what happened. And we're still working on the facts and circumstances of what happened.

QUESTION: Can you tell us if, or when, the last murder happened in New Sweden, if there...

SPERRY: I wouldn't be able to comment on the exact nature, but we have very few homicides in the state of Maine. We average around 25 a year, and in the last few years, we've had less than 10, 10 to 11 homicides a year in the whole state.

QUESTION: Colonel, have you located any arsenic at the home of Mr. Bondeson?

SPERRY: We just started our search this morning at the home at the home. We're executing a search warrant there as we speak.

QUESTION: Have you been able to find...

QUESTION: It sounds like, you know, from listening to what you're saying here, that you've got this case 95 percent, 98 percent cinched up. Is that a fair assessment that you're just sort of waiting for the autopsy to...

SPERRY: In 26 years in police work, I would tend to think that the real work is just starting.

QUESTION: Have you been able to locate his sister?

SPERRY: We have talked with family members.

QUESTION: Are there other suspects or is he really the only one you're looking at right now?

SPERRY: We could not rule out that there are other suspects at this time. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: You've been listening to state police out of Caribou, Maine, what they're continuing their investigation of arsenic poisoning involving a church in New Sweden, Maine. There, one man, a 78-year-old man, died from that arsenic poisoning, and at least 15 others were sickened.

And now state police are saying that the death of a 53-year-old man by the name of Daniel Bondeson last night -- he was found in his home with a reported self-inflicted gunshot wound -- that his death is now related to this investigation. An autopsy will be conducted.


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