Dell v. Straub, 00-CV-71853-DT.

Citation194 F.Supp.2d 629
Decision Date28 February 2002
Docket NumberNo. 00-CV-71853-DT.,00-CV-71853-DT.
PartiesLawrence Eugene DELL, Petitioner, v. Dennis STRAUB, Respondent.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)

Lawrence Dell, Southern Michigan Correctional Facility, Jackson, MI, pro se.

Janet Van Cleve, Michigan Department of Attorney General, Habeas Corpus Division, Lansing, MI, for respondent.


FRIEDMAN, District Judge.

Lawrence Eugene Dell, ("petitioner"), presently confined at the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan, seeks the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In his pro se application, petitioner challenges his conviction and sentence on one count of attempted murder, M.C.L.A. 750.91; M.S.A. 28.286; and one count of placing explosives with intent to destroy causing injury to a person, M.C.L.A. 750.207; M.S.A. 28.404. For the reasons stated below, petitioner's application for writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.

I. Background

Petitioner was convicted by a jury in the St. Clair County Circuit Court of attempting to murder his estranged wife, Charlene Dell, by mailing a package containing a bomb to her workplace.

Glenn Burk, a postal carrier, delivered a large package to the ANR Pipeline Company in Capac, Michigan on February 7, 1995. Burk left this package with the other mail in front of Paul Roggow's office door. Roggow took the mail and placed it on Charlene Dell's desk. Roggow returned to his office to work on some paperwork, when he heard an explosion. Roggow noticed that a fireball came across the ceiling and down the halls. Debris, the ceiling, and the lighting fixtures came falling down as a result of the explosion. Roggow observed smoke and a strong odor that smelled like an "ether-type" starting fluid.

Roggow and fellow employee Dennis Castle came running out of their offices and observed the victim with her clothes and hair on fire. Roggow told the victim to drop to the floor and Castle put the fire out by smothering the flames with insulation which had fallen from the ceiling.

Roggow testified to an incident involving the victim and petitioner at the ANR office in Capac the previous summer. After this incident, the victim had appeared disturbed and did not want to be alone with petitioner if he ever appeared at the office again. After this incident, ANR sent security personnel from the Detroit office to review security procedures at the Capac office. They also issued a memorandum that petitioner was not to enter the Capac office.

Robert Derocha was the superintendent of the ANR Capac facility. In the summer of 1994, Derocha heard a "heated conversation" between the victim and petitioner at the office. Derocha left the office to give the victim some privacy. When he returned to the office, the victim appeared "very distraught, very anxious, fearful." Derocha testified that the victim began locking herself in her office. A corporate security manager from the Detroit office came to the facility and after reviewing the situation, made a number of security recommendations. All of the employees were instructed that they were to call the sheriff's department if petitioner appeared on the company premises. On the occasions when the victim was the only person in the building, it was to be secured to prevent access to the office areas.

Derocha testified that the bomb caused the steel liner walls to be shoved and pushed out and also blew out the ceiling. Conduit was blown off the walls in an adjacent garage area. The steel wall purlins and the structural steel purlins in the side were bent and sticking outward. The aluminum skin that covered both the sidewall and roof were buckled outward. A hole had been blown into the building above the victim's desk. Derocha testified that there was substantial structural damage around the perimeter of the entire building.

Dennis Castle had known the victim for 13 or 14 years and was aware that she was going through a divorce in the spring of 1994. Prior to the divorce, Castle testified that he and the victim were good friends. However, the relationship became intimate when Castle learned that the victim filed for divorce.

Castle testified that he did not open the package containing the bomb because in addition to the mailing label, the package had "Attention Charlene Dell" written on it with a felt tip marker. Castle recalled seeing a return address label on the package that appeared to be from the ANR Detroit office in the Renaissance Center. When the explosion occurred, Castle exited his office and observed the victim coming out of her office. Castle described the victim as "a ball of fire." Castle and Roggow put the fire out. The victim told Castle, "He got me, Dennis, he finally got me." The victim also said that the bomb looked like dynamite.

Michael Rumley, ANR's corporate security manager, testified that the standard ANR mailing label had a distinctive "C" logo above the company name. The "C" was lined up on the left edge of the company name on the mailing labels. The only place where this "C" logo was centered over the company name was on the company newsletter, Transmission Lines, which was mailed to the home of all ANR employees every two months. When Brumley was shown the return mailing label from the package that had exploded, he testified that this looked like the Transmission Lines logo. Brumley testified that the return labels on two other packages, which had contained explosives and had been mailed to ANR facilities in Reed City and Big Rapids, had the same logo on them.

After the explosion at the Capac office, Brumley alerted the other ANR offices to be on alert for similar packages. On February 9, 1995, the Reed City and Big Rapids offices each received a similar package. Later that day, Brumley was informed that the New Haven Post Office was holding a similar package which had been mailed to an unmanned ANR pumping station in New Haven.

Michigan State Police examined these packages using X-ray photographs. The bombs contained in the packages sent to Big Rapids and Reed City were substantially similar. The two packages were also similar to one another and similar to the remnants of the package which had exploded in Capac.

Michael O'Hara, a United States Postal Inspector, indicated that the device that injured the victim consisted of a pipe bomb, with six cans of starter fluid, a nine volt battery, and wire switches that were unique. Investigators also found a partial mailing label and a return address label in the victim's office. O'Hara examined the three disabled bombs and the remains of the Capac bomb. The three disabled bombs shared the same pipe size, the same kind of end caps, the same silicone sealer on one end, and they all had white paint on one end. O'Hara indicated that the New Haven device contained switches of the same type found at the blast site in Capac. The Capac bomb differed from the other bombs in that it had deep scoring in the pipe, the purpose of which would be to weaken the pipe to increase the chance of fragmentation for anti-personnel effect. The switches on the Capac device were set so that the bomb would go off whether the top or the bottom of the package was opened. O'Hara indicated that the three other bombs had been mailed from the Renaissance Center Post Office.

Agent Randy Evans of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms also testified about the similarities between the four bombs. The only differences between the bombs were that the Capac bomb had been designed to aid in fragmentation, and that somewhat different types of tape had been used in building the four bombs, one type of tape on two bombs, and one type of tape on the other two.

Employees from the Renaissance Center Post Office recalled a man mailing four packages from their office, two on February 6, 1995, and two on February 7, 1995. One of the clerks from the post office described the man as being a Caucasian, about five feet, nine or ten inches tall, with medium to dark brown hair, wearing sunglasses.

Drew Somerford, a forensic document analyst for the U.S. Postal Service, examined the mailing labels found on the three unexploded packages, as well as the remains of the labels from the Capac package. Somerford concluded that the labels had been produced by either a copy machine or a computer printer, and that they had been enlarged. Each label had been individually cut, either by hand or by using a paper cutter. The labels appear to have been made at the same time by using the ANR employee magazine Transmission Lines as a model. Somerford believed that all four labels originated from the same source.

Scott Peters, a forensic latent print examiner for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, testified that he found two latent fingerprints inside the package of the New Haven bomb, on the adhesive side of two pieces of tape. Peters also found one latent fingerprint on the package of the Reed City bomb on the non-adhesive side of the tape. These latent prints were matched with petitioner's exemplar prints. Peters determined that these three fingerprints matched petitioner's fingerprints.

The victim's co-workers testified about petitioner's behavior while the divorce proceedings were pending. Norbert Brinker testified that petitioner took photographs of him and the victim while they were at a sidewalk lunch stand and while they were en route back to the ANR office. Joel Walker was talking with the victim at a Little League parade when petitioner pulled up on a motorcycle and began screaming at them. About a month before the bombing, petitioner told Walker over the telephone that "If I can't have her,...

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