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Barnstead neighbors left to wonder days after bombs discovered

Last modified: 6/28/2014 1:06:51 AM
Midway down a small private drive on the southern edge of Halfmoon Lake in Barnstead, a 5-inch circle is singed into an otherwise pristine tree-rimmed tarmac. A sullied resinlike substance surrounds it. Nearby, scattered among the foliage: a cotton ball, a roofing nail and a few minuscule shards of glass.

It was at this spot sometime late Monday, the police say, that a homespun bomb exploded, shooting shrapnel several feet into the air. Neighbors say they awoke the next day to find a portion of the road, Halfmoon Bay Drive, littered with glass and debris. Two other similarly spent explosives were later recovered from a beach at the end of adjacent Dalton Road.

Just who detonated the devices and what their intentions were remains a mystery to residents in this reputably sleepy lakeside community. The local and state police continue to investigate and have reportedly begun receiving help from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Meanwhile, a wave of unease and anxious curiosity seems to have washed through the area, with several neighbors yesterday pointing to the same frustratingly unanswered question: Was this simply a prank or something more calculated?

“You want it to be stupid kids,” said Cliff Brown, a 67-year-old resident on Halfmoon Bay Drive. “But I think you also have to think it was somehow practice to hurt somebody.”

Brown, whose mailbox is a few feet from where he said the police discovered the first bomb, shortly after 7 a.m. Tuesday, said his is one of only two occupied homes on the drive. He and others described the community as a secluded mix of permanent and vacation homes. Residents on neighboring streets belong to the Locke Lake Colony Association, which owns Dalton Beach, where the other bombs were found.

Activity ramps up during the summer, Brown said, but it is still relatively quiet, especially on his street, one of the only paved roads.

“You can go days without seeing anyone,” Brown said. He added, however, that he did recall seeing three suspicious-looking teens walking in the neighborhood either Sunday or Monday during the day.

“Personally, I’m not really worried,” Brown said. “It’s people either being stupid or practicing for something. We’re hoping for the stupid.”

Brown said neither he, his wife nor visiting relatives heard anything Monday night or the night before, when one of the other bombs is believed to have been detonated, according to the police.

Others also recalled hearing nothing unusual either night. They said fireworks can routinely be heard in the area, especially this time of year, just days before the Fourth of July.

John Hartz, a Manchester resident who owns a vacation property on Dalton Road, said he thought a group of teens probably built and set off the devices after learning how to online.

“I’m carrying on like it’s kids,” he said from the seat of his truck, adding, “Ironically, we’re on our way to get fireworks. What are you going to do?”

Still, Hartz said he was shaken by the incident, and was toying with asking the police whether he could post a $500 reward sign for names of any of the suspects involved.

“In Manchester, there’s a shooting or a beating every night,” he said. “We come up here to get away from that. But that’s the world we live in.”

Hartz’s neighbors, Sandy and Marilyn Greenberg of Boston, said they knew very little about what had happened, but were especially concerned as they remember being sequestered in their city home just more than a year ago during the manhunt for the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings.

Acting Barnstead police chief Sgt. Joseph McDowell did not respond to several requests for comment this week. But in an interview with the Union Leader, he described the bombs as highly dangerous.

“They aren’t quite as sophisticated as the Boston (Marathon) bombs,” he said, according to the newspaper. “But they were clearly designed to use shrapnel to inflict a lot of harm on people. In what they could do to people, they are very ugly devices.”

Teresa Bailey, community manager at the colony association, said Dalton Beach is “one of our busiest.” The group owns two other beaches on Halfmoon Lake and six on Locke Lake, which joins Halfmoon Lake to the east.

“Everyone is keeping very vigilant, watching who comes in and out,” she said of residents in the area.

The police are asking that anyone with information call 269-4281.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)


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