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Feds search for motive in bombing of Mich. lawyer's car

/ Source: staff and news service reports

Federal agents on Thursday searched for a motive behind the Michigan car bombing that seriously injured an attorney and his two sons.

Investigators were poring over what remained of Erik Chappell's Volvo station wagon after the Tuesday evening blast, looking for clues about how the bomb was made and who might have planted it, said Donald Dawkins, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"There was a lot of power behind it. The victims are very fortunate, very blessed, to be alive," Dawkins said.

"We're still trying to put the device together out of the many, many pieces we've found," The Toledo Blade quoted Dawkins as saying.

Many details remained unclear on Thursday. It was not known when the device was planted on the vehicle, how it was detonated or how sophisticated it might have been.

Authorities have not publicly identified the victims, but Dawkins said they are a father and his two sons. Local media identified the father as Chappell, 42, an attorney who specializes in business disputes and family law. WXYZ-TV reported Chappell was when the car exploded.

The two boys remained hospitalized on Thursday. Chappell was discharged Wednesday morning.

Many leads but motives unclear
Authorities told the Blade that as of late Wednesday they were working a number of leads and had received many calls from members of the public. Dawson said there were a number of "ideas we're working on" that could be related to a motive.

Dawkins declined to comment as to whether Chappell could have been targeted by a client or because of his job, the Blade said.

Chappell's law office, Lyden, Liebenthal & Chappell, declined comment. The firm is based in Sylvania, Ohio, and has an office in nearby Monroe.

Chappell's notable cases include disputes involving zoning issues on fireworks businesses. He represented Gateway Fireworks in federal court when the company wanted to open a store on Sterns Road near U.S. 23 in Whiteford Township in Monroe County, the Blade reported.

Chappell was also representing Springfield Township businessman John Miller, who operates fireworks stores in Ohio and Michigan, in an ongoing case in Monroe County involving a store in LaSalle Township, according to the Blade.

Image: Erik Chappell

In another case, Chappell was representing a woman who wanted to open a hot dog stand in downtown Monroe but couldn't get zoning permission from the city council, according to WXYZ-TV.

The explosion took place near a highway underpass in Monroe, about 35 miles southwest of Detroit, the Monroe Police Department said.

"For the person who did it, it went off when they wanted — unfortunately for everyone else," Dawkins told the Blade.

Dawkins told the newspaper that the ATF is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved. Those with information are asked to call the ATF at 313-202-3400.

Plea for help in emergency call In a 911 call to Monroe County Central Dispatch, Chappell describes his own and his boys' injuries and pleads for a quick response.

"My car blew up with two kids. You've been called on it already, but I'm telling you what is going on with my boys. I've got two significant leg injuries. ... They are chewed up pretty good," according to a recording of the call and posted on its website.

"We're on the way, sir. They should be there any moment," the operator tells him.

Chappell then asks if the 911 center has authority to send an air ambulance. The operator tells him it's up to the emergency medical crew.

In a separate 911 call, a different man reported the boys’ injuries, according to the Detroit Free Press.

"One's got a severe laceration just below the knee," the paper quoted the unidentified man as saying. "The other subject has a severe laceration to his left buttocks."

The operator tells the man to use a clean towel and apply pressure to the wounds.

Full recovery expected
The principal at the boys' school, St. Michael the Archangel Catholic School in Monroe, issued a statement Wednesday saying the boys and their father "are all in stable conditions and are in good spirits."

"All are expected to have a full recovery. I have spoken with Mrs. Chappell twice today, and she has kept me abreast of their improving conditions," according to Principal Michelle Sontag.

"When they return home, we will arrange to help them in whichever capacity is necessary. Perhaps we will deliver cooked meals, arrange tutoring while the boys are recovering at home and continue to shower them with prayers," Sontag said in the statement.

Chappell is also a boys' football coach for the Catholic Youth Organization, local news reports said.

Monroe is a city of more than 20,000 that is one of Michigan's oldest communities. It has a historic downtown and is home to furniture maker La-Z-Boy Inc.