A Harrisburg man distraught about his wife faces criminal charges after police Tuesday found and defused a pipe bomb in his SUV parked on a Pine Grove Mills street.
Residents living on and near Wyandotte Lane, a quiet Piney Ridge neighborhood street next to a corn field, were evacuated for about two hours while bomb technicians partially disassembled the foot-long, 2-inch diameter bomb without any injuries.
About 15 to 18 homes were cleared until about 7:15 p.m. while police worked.
“It went very smoothly under the circumstances,” Ferguson Township Police Chief Diane Conrad said.
Frederick Rice, 53, was arraigned before District Judge Steven Lachman for possessing a weapon of mass destruction, explosive or incendiary material and offensive weapon, as well as for “recklessly endangering another person.”
According to the criminal complaint, Rice was visiting a friend, Carl Dowling, at 204 Wyandotte Lane.
“We received information secondhand from someone who spoke with (Rice) and advised us that there was a pipe bomb, or pipe bomb components, in the vehicle,” Conrad said.
Police said they found Rice asleep in Dowling’s home when they arrived. After police spoke with Rice, he told them he had a “pipe filled with black powder on the front passenger floor of his Ford Expedition” parked in front of the house, according to the criminal complaint.
Rice said he made the bomb, that the control device to set it off was in the center console of his car, and that it could be detonated by remote control, the complaint said.
According to the complaint, Rice said he built the bomb because he was angry about his wife having an affair — the same account Dowling gave police at the scene.
“Rice relayed to Dowling that he had a pipe bomb, and that the bomb was in his Ford SUV,” the complaint said. “Rice told Dowling his plan was to use the bomb to kill his wife’s paramour.
“Rice went on to say that his plan was to attach the bomb to the paramour’s vehicle and detonate the bomb via remote control once he knew the paramour was in the vehicle.”
Police contacted Rice’s sister, who confirmed that her brother was having “marital problems” with his wife and was fixated on her suspected infidelity, the complaint said.
While talking to police, Rice encouraged officers to go get the pipe bomb from his car, the complaint said. Conrad said he then voluntarily went with officers to the Ferguson Township station while his car was searched and the bomb defused.
Officers called in three explosive technicians — one from the Penn State police bomb squad and two from state police, one of whom was flown in from Hershey, Conrad said.
After arriving at about 1 p.m., police closed off a block of Wyandotte, telling residents to stay indoors.
“I was shocked,” said Doris Kuhns, who lives on the corner of Wyandotte and Plainfield Drive.
At about 5:15 p.m., after the technicians found and analyzed the pipe bomb, police evacuated residents to a nearby Lions Club and barred traffic to the neighborhood along Plainfield from state Route 45 to West Whitehall Road.
“I like they’re being cautious,” said Renee Chek, who lives on Plainfield two houses from the entrance to Wyandotte. She was unable to return to her home with her husband and three young sons from a soccer camp.
“You never know what it is. It’s a little scary being so close to our home.”
Chek said her first inkling of trouble, early in the afternoon before leaving for soccer, was the sight of media vehicles parking along Plainfield across from her home.
“I thought, ‘OK, this isn’t normal. Something is going on,’ ” she said.
Opening the Ford’s passenger side door, the technicians found a silver metal pipe, sealed on both ends and wrapped in electrical tape with wires, the complaint said.
Using X-rays, among other methods, police determined the pipe contained a large amount of gunpowder and an electric match. Nearby lay a dismantled portion of the remote control, containing two exposed wires and a battery pack, according to the criminal complaint.
According to the complaint, the Penn State technician, identified as “Officer White,” decided that the device was “capable of causing substantial harm.” He said he had experience with devices half as big that were “capable of completely destroying a vehicle to the extent that (they) will tear through the floor and roof if exploded inside a vehicle.”
After the bomb was defused, Rice was arrested and taken to the Centre County booking center.
Alpha Fire Company, Centre LifeLink EMS and Centre Region Office of Emergency Management assisted at the scene.
“The neighborhood was very cooperative,” Conrad said. “Everything went very smoothly, so we appreciate everyone’s cooperation.”