What happens when a military demolitions expert comes home from Iraq and starts hanging out with his meth-cooking high school buddies?
According to an indictment in Eastern Missouri Federal Court and a local narcotics detective, he tries to booby-trap a meth lab with nine pounds of C-4 that he smuggled into the country when he returned from the war.
The man is 27-year-old Michael McPherson and, along with 21-year-old Natahsa Spence, he's charged with conspiracy to posses and possession of stolen explosives (see full indictment below).
The crimes allegedly happened between January and March of 2009.
Sgt. Jason Grellner of the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit says the case started with a tip that some local meth dealers had acquired automatic weapons and several pounds of explosives.
"It's the kind of crap we hear all the time," Grellner says. "Most of the time it doesn't pan out but it turns out these guys were a nightmare in terms of the scope of their operation and the things they were doing."
Grellner says he eventually learned that McPherson was "an ordinance disposal guy" in Iraq who had recently returned home to Gray Summit, Missouri.
"He was skimming C-4," Grellner says. "He'd get a request to do ordinance dispoals and he'd say 'We used 100 bricks,' when actually ten went into his bag and 90 were disposed of. He was somehow able to get ten bricks home. How that occurs I don't know. Do you mail it or carry it in your backpack or what?"
According to court documents, McPherson gave the explosives to Spence to hide. She stashed them "on a roadside and then moved them onto a trailer located on her parent's property," before returning them to McPherson.
Grellner says the C-4 was hidden "not more than 100 yards off I-44 on Highway 100."
McPherson's plan, Grellner says, was to eventually use the bomb-making material to booby-trap a meth lab operated by some of Spence's friends. Fortunately for the police, the bad guys were missing the mechanism needed to trigger the bomb.
"They didn't have blasting caps or boosters," Grellner explains. "C-4 is pretty stable. You can set it on fire and it won't explode unless it's got a cap or boosters. It was relatively safe to deal with but had they gotten to that point and gotten cap and boosters, well, they could have broken into a quarry and got them pretty easily." McPherson Indictment