BOMBER ACTED ALONE, POLICE SAY

CAROL DEMARE Staff writer
Section: MAIN,  Page: A1

Date: Wednesday, January 8, 1997

CLIFTON PARK -- After two weeks of tracking leads, interviewing hundreds and scraping together bomb components from two town residences, investigators culminated the probe of the Christmas Eve package-bombing Tuesday by formally linking the crime to a disgruntled man who they say acted out of revenge and then killed himself. In a bizarre tale of a payback scheme that left a young girl severely burned and around-the-clock police protection for her family, a task force of federal and state investigators formally announced it had conclusively linked the crime to a business associate who had been fired five years ago from a high-paying job by the girl's uncle.


Christopher P. Gilson, the 58-year-old family acquaintance who apparently committed suicide five days after the blast at the home of Jude and Mary Reardon, acted alone in building and targeting the bomb, investigators said during an afternoon news conference at the Clifton Park Town Court. They also explained how lab tests on bomb parts precisely tied Gilson to the bombing.


``The New York State Police Hazardous Devices Unit and the ATF bomb experts processed the Reardon residence following the bombing and secured numerous items of evidence that made it possible to reconstruct the bomb and its associated packaging,'' said State Police Major Peter A. Lawrence, Troop G commander.


After lab analysis, it was determined that ``the package bomb that exploded at the Reardon residence was constructed at the Gilson residence,'' Lawrence said. ``Forensic tests provided conclusive evidence that the materials utilized in building the bomb were the same as the materials seized as a result of the search at the Gilson residence. This evidence and intelligence developed as a result of the multi-agency investigation has led to our determination that Christopher Gilson alone was responsible for building and delivering the hazardous device that exploded . . .''


Household items -- seized from Gilson's residence at 1 Brookline Drive, Clifton Park, on Friday -- included clear packaging tape, staples and speaker wire. They were compared with bomb parts at the Maryland lab of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and a match was made, police said.


Jordan Reardon, the 10-year-old daughter of Jude and Mary Reardon, received cuts and burns over 27 percent of her body when she opened the package addressed to ``Jude Reardon and Family'' shortly after 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 24 in the kitchen of the family home at 11 Timber Terrace. She is expected to make a full recovery.


Gilson apparently harbored a grudge toward John C. Reardon III of Ballston Lake, the twin brother of Jude and godfather of Jordan, police said. John Reardon fired Gilson from a $100,000-a-year job at the former GE Consulting Services in 1991, and Gilson wanted to get back at the family, they said.


Gilson had worked at various small sales jobs since his firing in 1991. He sold computer parts, printers and construction supplies. And at the time he delivered the package bomb, State Police said, he was unemployed, having lost his sales job a month earlier.


Hines indicated that police don't believe Gilson mistakenly placed the bomb in Jude Reardon's mailbox. Investigators feel Gilson was smart, knew what he was doing and would not have confused the twin brothers.


Gilson died from a shotgun blast to his chest on Dec. 29. Members of the Saratoga County Sheriff's Department found his body in woods off of Staniak Road in the town of Halfmoon. Initially, officials and pathologist Dr. Barbara Wolf, who conducted an autopsy, said he died in a hunting accident. It was theorized he slipped on a wet ridge, and his Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun discharged. At the news conference Tuesday, Wolf changed her ruling to suicide, although no note was left.


``We're 100 percent satisfied on this case,'' said State Police Captain Jeffry Hines, head of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation at Troop G in Loudonville. Investigators also determined the bomb was hand-placed in the roadside mailbox, he said.


In an interesting twist, the Times Union has learned that within days of the explosion, investigators had narrowed the bomber to a local individual because of a tiny scrap of newspaper that was retrieved from the scene and had been included in the bomb package.


The shredded and burned scrap found with bomb fragments had three discernible words -- ``Peters, Knick and rodeo,'' according to Hines.


The piece was traced to a Nov. 4, 1993, issue of Preview, the weekly entertainment supplement of the Times Union. The story dealt with a rodeo at the Knickerbocker Arena in which a Schuylerville cattle roper, George Peters, was performing.


``That's when we realized we had a local,'' Hines said. The task force kept the tidbit quiet, however.


Police were circumspect in revealing what led investigators to Gilson, other than numerous leads were tracked down and hundreds of people interviewed. One lead indicated ``a vindictive or revengeful type thing on the part of Mr. Gilson to take out a penalty on Mr. Reardon,'' Hines said.


Neighbors also reported spotting a strange car in the area on Christmas Eve. That car was similar to one that Gilson drove, Hines said. Gilson lived in the Country Knolls West subdivision, about two miles from Jude Reardon's home in the Country Knolls South subdivision.


The bomb was constructed so powder would go off once the package was opened. Police don't know how Gilson learned to make the bomb but said books on bomb-making can be found in libraries.


Walter ``Bud'' Bleyman, agent-in-charge of the Albany ATF office, described the explosive as ``fairly sophisticated,'' saying it was ``basically made out of household products including some explosive powder.''


Some 25 components of evidence were recovered and classified, Bleyman said. Microscopic comparisons were made, and items ran the gamut from a cut-off section of plywood to a can opener used in the device.


Lawrence and Hines declined to discuss specifics about Gilson's life and whether there was anything in his history, such as mental illness, alcoholism or criminal behavior that could have foreshadowed the bombing incident. He may have worked on the bomb for months, Lawrence said.


Neither of the Reardon brothers could be reached for comment Tuesday. But after the news conference, Jordan Reardon and her parents sneaked into the Clifton Park Court so she could be photographed with the team of federal and state investigators who worked on her case.