Murder Charges in Deadly St. Louis Fireworks Explosion

click to enlarge Terrell Cooks, left, and Seneca Mahan are charged with murder after the house where they were running a fireworks manufacturing operation exploded Friday. - St. Louis County Police
St. Louis County Police
Terrell Cooks, left, and Seneca Mahan are charged with murder after the house where they were running a fireworks manufacturing operation exploded Friday.

The St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has charged two men with murder for running an illegal fireworks manufacturing operation that exploded Friday, killing four people, three of whom were teenagers.

Around 1 a.m. Friday, witnesses reported hearing an explosion on the 6600 block of Parker Road, in unincorporated St. Louis County near Black Jack. Police and fire crews responded to the scene and discovered the house and its garage were both destroyed. Debris was spread "a significant distance from the site of the explosion."

First responders discovered the bodies of William Jones, 21, and Demario Cook, 18, who had been present in the house when it exploded. A third victim, Christopher Jones, 17, was transported to the hospital but succumbed to his injuries. Travell Eason, 16, also perished due to injuries resulting from the blast.

Many others were injured in the blast, including a 12-year-old who lives next door.

According to a St. Louis County Police Department probable cause statement, one of the men now charged with murder, 43-year-old Seneca Mahan, was next door when the explosion occured. He admitted to police that he and 37-year-old Terrell Cooks had been running a fireworks manufacturing operation out of the house that exploded.

Both men admitted to supplying the raw materials to juveniles and young adults and directing them in the assembly of "ground salutes," a firework that emits a bright flash and loud noise when it goes off.

The probable causes statement says that both men supplied the young people with compound chemicals used to make explosive powder, then directed them to load the powder into a canister and attach a fuse.

After the explosion occurred, law enforcement saw Cooks moving large quantities of chemicals used to make explosives into a vehicle, according to the probable cause statement. A search of his residence turned up "explosive weapons and components to manufacture them."

Cooks and Mahan both admitted that the fireworks they were creating exceeded the explosive limits set by state law and that after manufacture, they sold them to a third party. Neither had the proper license for manufacturing fireworks or working with explosives.

Both men have been charged with three counts of murder, two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and unlawful possession of an illegal weapon.

The charges were issued before the fourth victim succumbed to his injuries, and the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will almost certainly add a fourth murder charge.