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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Maine State Police Spokesman Holds Press Conference

Aired May 5, 2003 - 14:04   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: A mystery in a tiny town in Maine. Do police have a break in the case of the mass poisoning at the church? We're monitoring that whole thing for you very closely.
We're awaiting a news conference on the latest on that investigation. We'll have a live report. As a matter of fact, it is going on now. Are we going to stop and listen or not? OK. We are going to listen.

QUESTION: Is that how it appears to you? I mean, stupid question of the year.

DENNIS APPLETON, MAINE STATE POLICE: Well, yes, it's the question of the year. And I'm just not prepared to say -- I'm prepared to say that we feel strongly that Mr. Bondeson is linked to the poisoning at the church.

QUESTION: He is your suspect?

APPLETON: He is linked to the -- and I don't rule out any other people.

QUESTION: There was a published report that indicates there was a suicide note apologizing. Can you comment on that?

APPLETON: Again, I won't comment on any evidence that we've gathered, whether it was there or not.

QUESTION: Can you comment on the evidence that was found at the farm? Was there arsenic found at this farm of the same quality or purity?

APPLETON: Again, I won't comment on the evidence we gathered as a result of the search warrant.

QUESTION: Can you talk about how accessible the church was? Did anyone have the keys? Was it kept locked?

APPLETON: I guess I would feel the church was fairly accessible. It was kept locked, but I would more deem it a lock to keep honest folks out.

QUESTION: How many people have the keys to that church?

APPLETON: I don't know how many have it, but it's fairly accessible. QUESTION: I was told that the study door was left open, which is the back door, during services, always.

APPLETON: During services, the church, as far as I know, is unlocked.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

APPLETON: Well, there is a couple of doors in the back that people could have entered without anybody knowing.

QUESTION: When you say Bondeson was linked to the poisoning, could you clarify what you mean?

APPLETON: No.

QUESTION: Was he linked to the poisonings, or was Bondeson himself linked to the poisonings?

APPLETON: I guess I'm going -- I'm prepared to say -- and maybe -- we feel Mr. Bondeson is linked to the poisonings.

QUESTION: What do you hope to determine by continuing the DNA testing of the other parishioners then? Do you feel there's other people that you still think might be involved? Is that why you decided to continue those tests?

APPLETON: I think we feel that there's a potential for more than one person to be involved. We haven't ruled that in or out, but we think that potential is there. And because of the bizarreness of this, we've got to continue our investigation. And we also (AUDIO GAP). They may not tell us anything after we compare them, but we will continue to do a full and thorough investigation of this, probably long after some of the answers are -- or questions are answered. Excuse me.

QUESTION: Were the items collected at the church or at the farm?

APPLETON: Both.

QUESTION: Can you determine the source of the arsenic yet?

APPLETON: No. But we're looking into it.

QUESTION: Is there anything that could be a source at this point? Something that needs further investigation and further inquiry, but something that appears to be the source?

APPLETON: I guess I'll say we have materials that we're going to get laboratory testing on.

QUESTION: He works at a nursing -- as a nursing aide in a nursing home. Have you questioned people at the nursing home?

APPLETON: We have talked with fellow employees at the nursing home, and the employer. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

APPLETON: Yes.

QUESTION: Anything going on at the nursing home that we -- that might be involved?

APPLETON: Not that we've been made aware of.

QUESTION: Can you tell us the autopsy report today? They normally don't take so long, if they started between 9:30 and 10:00.

APPLETON: The autopsy on Mr. Bondeson, the actual autopsy itself on him is completed. In fact, they will very -- in the very, very near future anticipate releasing the remains of Mr. Bondeson to a funeral home once that's established who that is. They're examining more forensically some items such as the weapon and some other items that were taken there, including some clothing. And they just -- perhaps using a little more caution or an abundance of caution so that when they -- they don't have to get the eraser out next week and change this.

O'BRIEN: We have been listening to Dennis Appleton, he is the chief investigator on that case in New Sweden, Maine, with the Maine State Police, bringing us up to date on what's going on in the investigation. You heard him referring frequently to a Mr. Bondeson, Daniel Bondeson, specifically, 53 years old, who apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Friday.

As Mr. Appleton just reported a few moments ago, there is a link between Bondeson and the poisonings of 16 churchgoers in New Sweden at a Lutheran church, one of whom was a fatal poisoning. The others remain in the hospital after that arsenic poisoning. Mr. Bondeson apparently shot himself on Friday. And beyond what we just heard from Dennis Appleton, we don't know much more about the link to the poisonings. But I guess you guys can put the -- connect the dots on that one for now. We'll keep you posted on that investigation as it unfolds.

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