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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Christine Young

Aired May 21, 2003 - 20:49   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Police in New Sweden, Maine, say that last month's deadly church poisoning case is looking more and more like a conspiracy. A long-time congregant killed himself and left a confessional suicide note that convinced investigators he did not act alone. Reporter Christine Young of affiliate WMTW has been following this bizarre story very closely, and she's joining us from Portland, Maine, right now. Good evening. Thanks for being with us.
CHRISTINE YOUNG, REPORTER, WMTW-TV: Good evening, Daryn.

KAGAN: What was in that note -- what is in that note that has police convinced that there might be more than one person involved?

YOUNG: Well, police are keeping that note very close to the vest. They won't tell us what's in the suicide note. That's the big question. But it's no surprise, it's no news, really, today that this -- the police believe that this is a conspiracy. They've been saying this all along, for at least two weeks now.

If this was not a conspiracy, the investigation would have died with the death of Danny Bondeson, the long-time congregant you were talking about who shot himself five days after the poisoning. But his note did convince investigators there was more to it.

Now, there is some news tonight. We have learned that on May 10, Maine State Police executed a search warrant in the Aimsberry (ph) home of Norma Bondeson. Now, that is Danny Bondeson's sister. She was a member of the church council. Now, they executed this search on May 10 in her home. We tried to get the search warrant affidavit. It has been impounded. But we know the police are still interested in Norma after searching her home, because my co-author on a book we're doing on this story and I went to church -- at Norma's church in Massachusetts, Topsfield, Massachusetts, this past Sunday, and lo and behold who was at services but two Maine State Police detectives interviewing parishioners and talking to the pastor.

KAGAN: OK. That's a whole different church than the one we're talking about up in Maine, right?

YOUNG: Right. But she lives in Massachusetts and she goes to New Sweden very often. That's her home, New Sweden. She's a retired military officer who's lived in Massachusetts for a number of years. So she's been attending church down there. And she has a home down there, and police searched her home after that. They went to her church services and started asking questions. KAGAN: OK, Christine, in the minute we have left, what can you tell me about the church politics that might be playing into this investigation in New Sweden?

YOUNG: Well, the police has also said for a long time that this is linked to divisions within the church. We think it could be there are factions within the Lutheran Church throughout the country, traditionalists versus progressives. And that played out in this church. And the church council, they didn't have a pastor -- they didn't have a pastor for two years, the church council was essentially running the church. It was a circle of 12 people.

On the day of the poisonings, they were set to meet. And some think that somebody was trying to purge the church council. The synod, the bishops' associate had written a letter to this church saying, "get your act together, stop fighting or you're never going to get a pastor and we may have to merge your church," and the church would then lose its identity.

So somebody was worried about that happening, didn't want that to happen, perhaps after some kind of power within the church, and decided possibly to purge the church council.

KAGAN: Are police close to making any kind of arrest?

YOUNG: They say they're not, but you never know. Sometimes they surprise us.

KAGAN: They do. And if they surprise us you'll be there with the news. Christine Young, thank you for joining us with the latest on that very bizarre story concerning the arsenic poisoning.

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