Dateline | October 04, 2013
>>> when connie hoagland's truck exploded outside a san diego day care center , investigators suspected terrorism. a suspicion that only grew stronger when they realized that this bomb might well be related to another unexploded bomb found two weeks earlier lying in the street just blocks from the hoagland's house.
>> this is a device we had not seen in the united states .
>> reporter: detective chris evert and bomb squad commander john wood had taken that earlier call. between them, they've investigated and disarmed hundreds of explosive devices . but this one was a first.
>> these particular devices had only been seen in war countries, afghanistan and iraq.
>> reporter: the small but powerful device was hidden in a fedex envelope, but what really got everyone's attention was the detonator linked to a cell phone . and that to you says what?
>> this is somebody that can build a bomb and it can sit there from anywhere in the word and set it off.
>> we have breaking news. a bomb squad investigates a spirchous object.
>> reporter: taking no chances they sent in a robot to disarm the bomb.
>> fire in the hole !
>> reporter: a firefighter was then put in one of those famous suits to make a final safety check and found the cell phone detonator had 18 missed calls. only a broken wire had prevented the bomb from going off.
>> we're like, wow, this is for real.
>> reporter: police ran the phone numbers , of course, but they belonged to untraceable throwaway phones available almost anywhere. the bomber or bombers had left no trace of themselves.
>> no fingerprints, no dna.
>> reporter: the only real clues were found on the fedex envelope, duct tape and soot, suggesting the bomb might have fallen off of the underside of a car. and so, two weeks later, when connie 's truck blew up at the day care home, investigators immediately wondered were these two sophisticated bombs really the work of terrorists? or was all this personal?
>> we went through all those gamuts and we had a lot of people just going out chasing every lead there was trying to get this stuff done.
>> reporter: and while he was still at the crime scene , detective luke had what seemed to be an odd visit from an old colleague, eric stallmacher. the former commander of the san diego fire department bomb squad . that's luke to the left of your screen and stallmacher on the far right.
>> he was the first one to contact me as soon as i got on the scene. i says, what are you doing here? he tells me he had retired to colorado, came back to visit some friends here in town and he heard about the bomb and he came over to try to assist us.
>> reporter: and there was one more thing.
>> he turns out to be an acquaintance of the hoagland family, so he knew the victim and the husband. first thing that popped into my mind is we have a bombing here, we have a bomb guy on the scene that's retired and now he's also has some nexus to do with the family.
>> that was definitely a curveball.
>> reporter: the current bomb squad commander john wood was also at the scene and had the same unsettling concerns.
>> one of our own sitting there going, wow, why did he show up? now he just became a suspect.
>> reporter: this guy used to have your job before you.
>> exactly. he's the one that appointed me before i left.
>> reporter: everybody here knows him, trusts him, likes him.
>> reporter: and he's a friend of the family and he'd know how to make that device.
>> reporter: stallmacher had a tip offering up a potential suspect, connie hoagland's exson-in-law who stallmacher claimed may have had it in for the family.
>> that was absolutely a lead we needed to follow up on immediately.
>> reporter: because he's the only person you could think of that didn't like connie and larry.
>> exactly. or so we were told and led to believe.
>> reporter: so beals hit the road found for vegas and a meeting with connie 's son-in-law.
>> he didn't have a negative thing to say about connie in any way, shape or form.
>> reporter: just as important, the son-in-law had a solid alibi.
>> corroborated his story as to where he was and he had received the backup that he was at a store at one time and clearly not in san diego , not in california and his alibi all checked out.
>> reporter: all of which put the guy who fingered him, staalmacher under more suspicion. investigators put connie 's truck up on a lift for a closer inspection. and in the soot dust on the floor pan , they saw an outline the size of a fedex envelope framed in traces of duct tape . the imprint of the earlier unexploded bomb. hardening their suspicion that whoever built the bombs was targeting connie or her family.
>> this appeared, for all intents and purposes, to be directed at one person. whoever the driver of that truck was. in this case, connie .
>> reporter: back at the hospital, the hoagland family, holding a vigil by connie 's bedside, was unaware there was a criminal investigation under way until luke and beals paid them a visit.
>> then they asked if she had any enemies, if anyone would want to hurt her, if we could think of anybody. and i couldn't think of anybody. there wasn't anybody.
>> reporter: definitely the only thing stranger than hearing that your mom's been the victim of an explosion is hearing that it was not an accident and that it was directed at her specifically.
>> i said, what? i couldn't -- i didn't believe it. i didn't understand it. and i just started crying because i didn't know who could do that, who would want to do that.
>> reporter: what made a strange case all the more bafflinge ining occurred four dafrs the bombing when a large fedex box was delivered to this san diego area high school addressed to one of their students. his name? jonathan hoagland. that got san diego 's bomb squad