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Published: Friday, 3/16/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Bomb probe leads to toy cars

Remote-control vehicles linked to blast that hurt lawyer, sons

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN AND MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
David McCain of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in Detroit explains how the remote-control device was used. David McCain of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in Detroit explains how the remote-control device was used.
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DETROIT -- Federal authorities have zeroed in on a remote-control toy car that can be bought at hobby stores in their investigation into the bomb that injured a LaSalle, Mich., lawyer and his two sons.

The device used to explode the Volvo station wagon of Erik Chappell has been narrowed to parts from one of three models of remote-control vehicles manufactured by Electrics RC Co., said David McCain, the special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms office in Detroit.

The three possible models, each available in two colors, are the Ruckus Monster Truck Orange and Green, Circuit Stadium Truck Red and Gray, and Boost Buggy Orange and Blue.

The costs of the toys are $129.99 for the Ruckus Monster and $119.99 for the Circuit Stadium and the Boost Buggy.

RELATED CONTENT: ATF suspect profile

Mr. McCain said Thursday the device was attached to the underside of Mr. Chappell's vehicle and contained electrical components from a high-end remote-controlled car when it detonated Sept. 20 on East Elm Street in Monroe near I-75.

"It was pretty sophisticated," Mr. McCain said. "You'd have to have some experience in electric circuitry."

Mr. Chappell, a Sylvania-based attorney, was able to escape the burning car with his sons, Grant, 14, and Cole, 11. The boys were more severely hurt, but have recovered from their injuries.

Mr. Chappell has said he believes he knows who's responsible.

Toy cars listed in the probe are, at left, the Boost Buggy; in back, the Ruckus MonsterTruck, and in front, the Circuit Stadium Truck. They are remote-control vehicles manufactured by Electrics RC Co. Toy cars listed in the probe are, at left, the Boost Buggy; in back, the Ruckus MonsterTruck, and in front, the Circuit Stadium Truck. They are remote-control vehicles manufactured by Electrics RC Co.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Mr. McCain did not say what type of explosive material was used in the bomb but said the improvised explosive device contained shrapnel inside.

In their investigation, ATF agents went to HobbyTown USA in the Spring Meadows Shopping Center several months ago, obtaining names of customers who purchased the remote-controlled car since it has been on the shelves, an employee there said.

ATF spokesman Donald Dawkins confirmed Thursday night that area toy and hobby stores are part of the probe that is nearing six months.

"We canvassed the area. But that doesn't mean we have completed that aspect of the investigation. We may have to revisit some of the stores," Mr. Dawkins said.

The truck and buggy-type toys are also readily available for purchase online from e-commerce businesses.

Mr. Dawkins said it could also be possible that the person or persons responsible for the crime may have bought the remote-controlled toys from a private seller, a garage sale, a flea market, online, or from someone who bought it from someone else.

"Everything is on the table. We are really confident that the components from these vehicles were used. That is why it is such an important lead to us," he said. "We know the components in the cars were used, but we don't know how they were obtained. That is why we are asking anyone who has any information to contact us."

Erik Chappell's car was blasted Sept. 20 on East Elm Street in Monroe near I-475. He escaped the vehicle with his sons, Grant and Cole. Erik Chappell's car was blasted Sept. 20 on East Elm Street in Monroe near I-475. He escaped the vehicle with his sons, Grant and Cole.
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No arrests have been made in the case, but the ATF on Thursday released a detailed description of personality traits of the suspect or suspects. It suggested that "the person responsible ... held such a grievance toward the victim, Erik Chappell, that he was willing to kill him and innocent children to exact his revenge."

The individual is likely to use the motto "I don't get mad, I get even," authorities said, and the suspect has probably been abusive -- verbally, mentally, and emotionally -- toward friends and family members.

Mr. McCain said Mr. Chappell, who also has two daughters, was targeted in the explosion. No search warrants have been executed in the investigation but authorities said they have conducted polygraph tests, although officials declined to say how many.

More than one suspect could be involved, Mr. McCain said, but he declined to answer questions about whether the suspect could have been a client or someone known to Mr. Chappell through his practice.

The agency does have a list of persons of interest, and, although several people in the investigation have been cleared, others have not been.

Authorities would not disclose names on the list.

The reward for information in the case was increased to $20,000 from the original $10,000.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com, 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @tdungjen_Blade.



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