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Family looks back on car bomb

LaSalle Twp. dad says ’11 violence boosted vigilance


Erik Chappell of LaSalle Township, Mich., and and sons Grant, 14, left, and Cole, 12, gather with the casts Cole had to wear as a result of the car-bombing Sept. 20, 2011. All three were injured.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
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LaSALLE, Mich. — Life in the Chappell family has nearly returned to the way it was before a bomb was detonated in the family car.

Grant Chappell, 15, is playing football on Monroe High School’s freshman team and Cole Chappell, 12, a seventh grader, is doing the same at Monroe Catholic Elementary Schools.

The boys’ spare time is consumed with television, video games, and navigating sailboats near their Lake Erie home.

Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the day that Grant, Cole, and their father, Erik Chappell, escaped their burning Volvo station wagon after it exploded on Elm Street near I-75.

“We knew it [the anniversary] was coming,” Mr. Chappell said during an interview Friday night in the family's home. “A couple weeks before that I really started to remember all of the things relative to what occurred. I think it would probably be safe to say all the remembering had culminated on the actual anniversary date.”

Mr. Chappell, a Toledo and Monroe lawyer, suffered minor injuries, but the boys, who were more severely hurt, underwent multiple surgeries at Toledo Hospital.

Shrapnel from the device ripped into Cole’s left leg, breaking four bones in his foot as well as the tibia. He would undergo several operations to remove the sharp metal objects, followed by months of physical therapy.

Grant, the front-seat passenger, suffered deep wounds to his buttocks. He underwent two operations and was released after a 10-day stay. Cole went home a few days later.

The experience has made the family more vigilant.

Maureen Chappell, the boys’ mother, said she is more observant about her surroundings when she is outside the home with her family. She said that while watching her children play sports she sometimes wonders who else might be doing the same thing and what their motives might be.

“We are lot more aware of what is going on,” she said.

Even with authorities offering a $20,000 reward for information, the case remains unsolved and no arrests have been made.

However, Donald Dawkins, spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in Detroit, said the agency is looking at “persons of interest.”

He insisted that agents are actively working to solve the car bombing.

“We have not received what we need to make an arrest. It is still an ongoing investigation. But we don’t have the information that we need to make an arrest,” he said.

Six months ago, the bureau went public with what agents found in the debris recovered in the blast.

The explosive device, they said, contained electronic components from remote-controlled vehicles, readily available for purchase from hobby stores and the Internet.

Mr. Dawkins said the toy car parts are still part of the investigation.

“I don’t know if the person or persons who committed this crime are feeling at ease because we haven’t made an arrest. But they shouldn’t be,” he said. “We won’t rest until we make an arrest in this investigation.”

According to Mr. Chappell, authorities knew almost immediately that the explosion wasn’t an accident. Evidence left on the ground and in the destroyed car pointed to a device being intentionally planted.

It was several weeks after the crime that Mr. Chappell surmised from an interview with ATF agents that his sons were targeted in the blast.

He said the agents asked if one of his kids had left a remote-controlled toy in the Volvo, indicating a timer wasn’t used to detonate the device.

“When they asked that question it kind of felt like I got kicked in the gut again. The question you have to ask is how anyone could do this to children?” Mr. Chappell said.

There have been changes in the Chappells' lifestyle because of what happened.

A security system was installed in the house before the boys came home from the hospital. Mr. Chappell, who had always kept guns for hunting, now keeps a more powerful firearm in the home for protection.

“Our sense of security has changed quite a bit since the event,” he said.

Contact Mark Reiter at: or 419-724-6199.

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