Parents allegedly let teens make bombs

  • Article by: SARAH LEMAGIE and TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: October 15, 2009 - 11:50 PM

Calling it "educational," a Prior Lake couple allegedly helped their son and his buddies make pipe bombs that the teenagers used to blow up six south-metro mailboxes.

Calling it "educational," a Prior Lake couple allegedly helped their son and his buddies make pipe bombs that the teenagers used to blow up six south-metro mailboxes.

Robert and Roberta Masters are slated to make their first court appearance Nov. 2 for their role in events unlike anything Pat Ciliberto said he has seen in six years as Scott County attorney.

"I don't think you ... can have a rational discussion about why folks would knowingly allow juveniles access to Pyrodex and PVC pipe for the purpose of making explosive devices," Ciliberto said Thursday.

According to criminal charges filed against the couple, the teenagers planted the bombs in mailboxes in Burnsville, Lakeville, Credit River Township and New Market Township in May and June. In one case, the Bloomington bomb squad was called to remove a 6- to 8-inch pipe bomb.

One boy said the group started out with random targets, then began leaving the bombs in mailboxes of people they knew.

The couple knew the teenagers were building bombs and "told them to be careful," according to investigators, though one boy said the two adults may not have been aware that the devices were used to blow up mailboxes.

Robert Masters said it would be "a good educational tool for the kids to build pipe bombs," while his wife said she "did not want to stifle her son's curiosity," the mother of one boy told authorities.

Another teen's father told investigators that Robert Masters had apologized to him, saying that he had told the teenagers how to make smoke bombs, but that "the kids had taken it to the next level."

A woman who answered the phone at the couple's home on Thursday referred calls to attorney Earl Gray and said, "I have nothing more to say."

The couple plans to plead not guilty, said Gray, who said he is representing Robert Masters. "There's absolutely no evidence in the whole file that they knew of any of the bombings of mailboxes," he said, adding he expects both adults to be acquitted. He declined to comment further on the case.

According to the criminal complaint, on two trips to a Lakeville store, Robert Masters and his son allegedly bought one-pound containers of Pyrodex, a black powder used for muzzle-loading firearms that can't legally be sold to buyers under age 18.

Robert Masters, 48, allowed the teenagers to build the devices on a garage work bench at their Dakota Avenue home, a boy told investigators. Masters' wife, 52, allegedly advised them to go to YouTube to learn about bomb-making and said it was OK to blow up the bombs in the back yard.

Authorities executed a search warrant at the couple's home on July 1 and found 22 items, including white PVC pipe similar to that found at the crime scenes. They also seized illegal fireworks, funnels that appeared to have black gunpowder residue, and burned fireworks or combustibles in an outdoor fire pit.

The couple is also accused of trying to thwart the investigation. According to the complaint, they attempted to contact parents of other teens who were involved to "urge them not to talk to police, to get their stories straight and make amends with all the victims."

Robert and Roberta Masters were charged last month with felony counts of aiding an offender and possession or manufacture of explosive devices.

Because of their ages, the juveniles were identified only by their initials in complaints against the two adults. Seven teenagers, ages 15 to 17, face charges ranging from criminal property damage to possession or manufacture of explosive devices, and an eighth is still under investigation.

"This choice was a dangerous choice for everybody involved," Ciliberto, the Scott County attorney, said.

Sarah Lemagie • slemagie@startribune.com

Tim Harlow • harlow@startribune.com

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