Package bomb in Tennessee claims second victim; reward offered for leads

Several federal agencies are investigating a package bomb that exploded at the home of a Tennessee couple. John Setzer, a retired bankruptcy lawyer, was killed Monday at the scene. Marion Setzer, his wife, died Wednesday.

Larry McCormack/The Tennessean/AP
Law Enforcement cars fill the front yard of a rural home in Lebanon, Tenn., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014. A package bomb killed a couple outside their home, in what police say appears to be an isolated attack.

The death toll from a mail bomb left at the home of a retired Tennessee lawyer has climbed to two, as Marion Setzer, like her husband earlier, died of injuries sustained in the blast.

Mrs. Setzer died on Wednesday evening, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation told news outlets. Two days before, her husband, John Setzer, died at the scene when a package he was carrying exploded just outside their rural home in Lebanon, Tenn.

Officials said Mr. Setzer retrieved the package on Monday at about 5 p.m. from his mailbox, according to The Tennessean. As he carried it to the front door, it exploded, killing him and injuring his wife.

State and local authorities, the FBI, the US Postal Service, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are all investigating the case, CNN reports. Still, few details in the case were available on Thursday.

Investigators have yet to identify any suspects or indicate a motive for the crime, news outlets reported. A friend of the couple, Ken Caldwell, told a local CNN affiliate that the bombing “doesn't make sense at all,” and Mr. Setzer’s former law partner, George Cate Jr., told the outlet that he knew of nothing in his colleague’s past that would have motivated a targeted killing. Setzer had handled bankruptcy cases during his law career, CNN reported.

Investigators told news outlets that a note had been recovered the scene that could have been attached to the bomb, but they have not made public its contents. It was also not clear if the package was delivered via postal service or if someone had put it in the mailbox.

Police have offered an $8,000 reward for information in the case, a local Fox News affiliate reported.

A mail bomb is “an extremely rare occurrence,” with about 16 mail bombs per year during the past few years, out of 170 billion pieces of mail processed in each of those years, according to the US Postal Service.

Possible warning signs for mail bombs include excessive postage – because would-be bombers tend to avoid engaging with a window clerk to send it over the counter – and a fake or absent return address, the USPS says. Package or letter bombs might also bear the words “personal,” private,” “Rush – Do Not Delay,” or “fragile – handle with care,” according to the postal service.

In recent years, mail bombs have largely been the grim purview of political terrorists. In October, four letter bombs were mailed to top British officials in restive Northern Ireland in just one week. None detonated. One of the most high-profile mail bombing cases in the US was that of anarchist Ted Kaczynski – later called “the Unibomber,” after the FBI’s ID for the case – who sent a series of mail bombs to addresses across the US from 1978 to 1995.

But apparently isolated incidents, like the one in Tennessee this week, are not unheard of, and not all of them have been solved. Local media outlets have revisited several of those cold cases in recent reports, including a 1998 mail bombing that killed a local businessman in Arkansas and one in 1994 that killed a lawn-mower repairman in Colorado. 

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