INVESTIGATORS CHARGE FOUR IN PIPE BOMB INCIDENT
As it turns out, the homemade pipe bomb shoved into the muffler of a car at an apartment complex near DeLand last weekend was payback for a drug rip-off. A week after the blast tore up the rear of a car and left shrapnel and other components of the bomb scattered throughout the parking lot of the Mallards of Brandywine, investigators have unraveled the sordid tale. On Saturday, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office obtained warrants charging four people in the caper. Two of the defendants are in custody and the other two are still at-large.
The pipe bomb was detonated shortly after 3 a.m. on April 3. One witness saw a woman tinker around the vehicle and then jump into an awaiting car and take off. Moments later, there was a loud explosion. While no one was injured, the rear bumper and muffler of the targeted vehicle -- a beige-colored Honda Accord -- sustained significant damage. The car’s two rear tires also were slashed. A large portion of the pipe body, an approximately 8-inch-long metal cylinder, was located under the car. A second vehicle parked nearby sustained minor damage.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office immediately launched an investigation and brought in the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for assistance. And it didn’t take long to discover the motive for the bombing. The day before the explosion, the boyfriend of the woman who owns the targeted car drove the vehicle to Deltona to pick up a mother-daughter team -- 49-year-old Lisa Milligan and 24-year-old Cassondra Rassi -- who had been involved in previous drug deals with the man and his girlfriend. The man said he knew of a pharmacy in Orlando where he could get a prescription filled for 90 tablets of the narcotic pain reliever, Roxicodone. Milligan fronted the man $400 to buy the pills and the three then drove to the pharmacy. While inside the store, the man made an excuse to go back to the car. He then took off with the money and left the women stranded at the pharmacy. Milligan later left a threatening message on the cell phone that the man had been using, saying he had “signed his own death warrant.” The next day, the pipe bomb was detonated.
Based on interviews, investigators learned that a friend, 24-year-old John Jenkins, drove to Orlando to pick up the stranded women after they had been ripped off. On the drive back to Volusia County, they talked about getting revenge and decided to bomb the car of the woman whose boyfriend had taken their money. Jenkins said he knew how to build a bomb. So they drove to three stores, buying gunpowder, fuses and other bomb-making components. Then they went to Milligan’s house in Deltona, where Jenkins built the bomb. Then, another friend, 20-year-old Elizabeth Peterson, came over and agreed to participate. The three women then drove in Peterson’s car to the victim’s apartment. When they got there, they slashed two tires on her car. But the noise from the tires being slashed scared them off, so they left. But they returned a short while later, and Milligan got out, lit the pipe bomb and stuffed it in the muffler.
Already on probation for selling drugs, Milligan was the first to be rounded up. Sheriff’s investigators picked her up late Friday afternoon on a warrant accusing her of violating the terms of her probation. After questioning Milligan, investigators continued to work the case Friday night. On Saturday, they presented their evidence to Circuit Court Judge Randell H. Rowe III. The judge issued arrest warrants for all four defendants. Jenkins is charged with making, possessing, throwing, projecting or discharging a destructive device and conspiracy to make, possess or discharge a destructive device. The other three defendants are charged with conspiracy to make, possess or discharge a destructive device and being a principal to making, possessing or discharging a destructive device. Bond for all four defendants has been set at $100,000.
Milligan was served the warrants in her jail cell in Daytona Beach. Jenkins turned himself in at the jail Saturday night. Rassi and Peterson are still at-large. Anyone with information on their whereabouts is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office or Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida, toll-free, at (888) 277-TIPS. Resident can also text a tip by texting “TIP231 plus the message” to CRIMES. Tipsters who provide information to Crime Stoppers will remain anonymous and can qualify for a reward of up to $1,000. Meanwhile, the investigation continues. On Saturday, agents with the Sheriff’s Office, ATF and Fire Marshal’s Office searched Jenkins’ home in Lake Helen and seized evidence in the case.
Update: 04/11/11 - 2:00 p.m.
Volusia County Sheriff’s investigators located Cassondra Rassi at a house in Deltona shortly after 9 a.m. Monday morning and took her into custody without incident. During the arrest, deputies also found a plastic bag in the room where Cassi was located that contained eight Oxycodone pills, a small amount of marijuana and a pipe. In addition to the two open warrants (please see news release below), Rassi also is being charged with two narcotics offenses and possession of narcotics paraphernalia.
The fourth defendant, Elizabeth Peterson, remains at-large. Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office or Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida, toll-free, at (888) 277-TIPS. Resident can also text a tip by texting “TIP231 plus the message” to CRIMES. Tipsters who provide information to Crime Stoppers will remain anonymous and can qualify for a reward of up to $1,000.
Update: 04/12/11 - 10:30 a.m.
The fourth defendant, 20-year-old Elizabeth Peterson, turned herself in on Monday at the Volusia County Branch Jail in Daytona Beach.