IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Police at 'dead end' in attack on Ark. doctor

Detectives are "at a dead end" in their investigation of a bombing that injured the chairman of the state's medical board, a police chief said Friday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Detectives are "at a dead end" in their investigation of a bombing that severely injured the chairman of the state's medical board, a police chief said Friday.

No witnesses have come forward with information about who entered Dr. Trent Pierce's driveway to plant the homemade bomb, West Memphis Police Chief Robert Paudert told The Associated Press.

In a televised appeal for help Thursday, police asked neighbors to come forward if they saw anyone in front of Pierce's home between 7 p.m. Tuesday and 8 a.m. Wednesday — the time the bomb exploded.

Materials collected from the bomb site have been sent to a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives laboratory in Atlanta. An ATF spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.

Local, state and federal investigators have interviewed Pierce's colleagues across the state, searching for any kind of explanation for the bombing that left the family physician with severe burns and shrapnel wounds. Pierce lost his left eye in the blast in front of his Lexus hybrid sport-utility vehicle.

"We've got no information yet from anybody who saw anything," Paudert said. "We're at a dead end right now."

Victim unable to speak
A breathing tube still prevents Pierce, 54, from talking to investigators about what happened. However, Pierce can move his fingers and toes on command and was scheduled for another surgery later Friday to repair a broken wrist, said Scott Ferguson of West Memphis, a family friend. He remained listed in critical condition at The Regional Medical Center in Memphis, Tenn., hospital spokeswoman Kathy Stringer said.

"It's just been a remarkable change," said Ferguson, who also is a doctor. "They just said everything was charred and gone."

Ferguson said Pierce's family told him a tire had been left in the way of Pierce's SUV. Ferguson said Pierce apparently leaned down to move the tire out of the way just before the explosion.

Austin Banks, a senior special agent with the ATF, said Thursday that investigators want to learn more about the tire.

Banks described the bomb as homemade, not manufactured dynamite or a military-style explosive.

ATF agents and Arkansas State Police investigators continue to examine the board's disciplinary records, paying close attention to its split decisions. As a habit, Pierce cast a deciding vote only when the board's 12 other members couldn't resolve cases.

Bill Sadler, a state police spokesman, said investigators were looking over both past and future agenda items before the board. Detectives are specifically looking at items "where there has been some veiled threat or some unknown threat," Sadler said Friday. He declined to comment further.

Bomb heard mile away
The explosion could be heard a mile away in West Memphis, a small town just across the Mississippi River from Memphis, Tenn. Police impounded Pierce's SUV as evidence, its bumper and grill partially torn away by the blast.

Pierce, who is married and has two grown children, was appointed to the state Medical Board in January 1997 and reappointed in 2005 by then-Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The last major bombing case in Arkansas came in 1982, when the blasting cap of an explosive went off under the car of Alice McArthur, an oil heiress living in Little Rock. McArthur, who suffered minor injuries in the blast, was shot to death in a contract killing a few months later. Mary Lee Orsini received a life sentence for McArthur's slaying and died in prison in 2003.