From the outside, the nondescript split-level house in a quiet Vadnais Heights neighborhood bears no resemblance to an armory. But when officers searched it Friday, they found dozens of firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition and at least one explosive device.

Discovery of the weapons cache followed a call made Thursday to the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office by a parent whose child had allegedly been threatened by a 13-year-old boy who lives in the home. Both children are students at the Academy for Sciences & Agriculture in nearby Maplewood.

Officers with a search warrant entered the Desoto Street home and found the weapons, some of which were unsecured, and other materials, including a ballistic vest.

The boy was arrested, as were his parents, Christopher Stowe, 41, and Lisa Stowe, 40, who are being held on suspicion of negligent storage of firearms, a gross misdemeanor. Christopher also may face a felony weapons charge, and Lisa one of obstructing the legal process, authorities said Saturday.

“We had a potential tragedy averted from our community today,” Ramsey County Sheriff Jack Serier said Friday afternoon at a news conference in St. Paul. He added there are no known threats to the students or school.

Authorities released photos of dozens of guns and other weaponry deputies found in the home. The parents were “absolutely aware” of the weapons, Serier said.

The sheriff said the St. Paul bomb squad conducted a more extensive search to make sure the house was safe.

He declined to elaborate about the explosive device, including whether it was homemade, or about whether the guns were legally owned.

The explosive device was “concerning on a couple of levels,” Serier said. “The first one, of course, [is] because it’s a huge threat to people living in a home [because] we believe [it] to be operational and ... lethal. The other part is, what is the purpose of having it?”

Serier offered no information about what further evidence or information might have been uncovered, including any potential plans to use the firearms.

On Friday evening, Becky Meyer, the academy’s executive director, sent a note to parents about the incident.

“Earlier this week we had a reported incident with a group of 7th and 8th grader students,” she wrote. “We followed the process, took the report seriously and investigated the event. We notified the parents of those students the same day. Additional information was gathered and the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department became involved in the investigation. AFSA is fully cooperating with the Sheriff’s Office.”

A well-liked family

On Friday evening, neighbors stood in their driveways and on street corners as news about the weapons cache and the investigation spread. For a time, a Ramsey County sheriff’s squad car blocked vehicle access to one street leading to the house. Later, passing cars slowed to a crawl for a better look at the home with the beige and stone siding.

A fleet of police vehicles parked at the Stowes’ home Friday afternoon first tipped off residents like Todd Smith that something was amiss.

“It’s crazy and sad at the same time,” said Smith, who lives nearby.

Neighbors said the Stowes have lived in the house for 10 to 12 years and also have an older teenage daughter. Nothing about them led anyone to believe that they owned an arsenal, neighbors said.

“It’s quite scary that this is happening in my neighborhood,” said Saralyn Larson.

Neighbors reported no issues or disputes with the family, aside from an incident in which the Stowes’ dogs apparently attacked a neighbor’s cat. Serier said the only calls to the home involved animal complaints and a report of a theft from a vehicle.

Christopher Stowe liked to hunt, while Lisa Stowe and their daughter often played softball outside.

Neighbors alarmed at guns

“It’s kind of scary,” said a neighbor who asked not to be named. “They’re nice people.” She said Christopher Stowe helped her with a flat tire.

A third neighbor, a man who also asked not to be named, said Christopher Stowe had helped neighbors with tree removal. He worked as a plumber and part time with a business partner cutting down trees.

“Our interactions with them have always been positive,” he said of the Stowe family.

Though several neighbors said they liked the Stowes, they also expressed alarm at the news that so many weapons, especially unsecured guns, had been found in their home.

“Anytime you have children, especially in our climate right now, you don’t keep that kind of stuff around,” said the second neighbor.

Serier stressed that parents have to keep firearms secured.

“It’s not only a legal issue, it’s a moral issue,” he said. “Guns in the hands of children can lead to tremendous tragedy.”


Staff writer Hannah Covington contributed to this report. 651-925-5034 612-673-4647