The Woodburn Bombing: Essay Six
Bill Long 12/23/08
You recall, from reading the first five essays on this subject, that I have developed a "theory" of the case. It runs like this: the Turnidges' (father and son) were interested in robbing the two banks, Wells Fargo and West Coast, next to each other on the Newberg Highway in Woodburn, OR. They placed the dummy/hoax bomb with a cell phone in the gargabe, with the real bomb in the hedge/foliage of the West Coast bank, so that people wouldn't get "hurt," but so that they might have a credible threat (i.e., 'there is a REAL bomb out there, if you don't believe me..') to those who might question the guys' meanness. Thus, this would, in their mind, have driven the bank workers away from the banks, allowing them enough time to swoop in and pick up the dough.
This theory also has a lot of weaknesses in it. The first is that they would have to be pretty dumb to think that everyone would meekly leave the bank, with tills open, etc. so that the guys could then come in and pick up the money. I know my theory assumes a certain dumbness of the crooks--or, better said, a certain lack of sophistication in planning a very complex crime. So, I am resting on stupidity.
Second, one can argue that the two men were in fact just wanting to blow up the bank (West Coast) and that their attempt to get the people away from the banks showed their desire to "clear the area" before a (remote) detonation of the green utility box next to West Coast bank containing the real bomb. Several readers hypothesized that one or both of the Turnidge's may have had an issue with a loan with West Coast. We will have to wait for the evidence to come in on that one....
The leading contrary explanation, thus, is a "terrorist" rather than a "robbery" explanation. This explanation sees the men as those who want to inflict terror or fear in people, even as they don't really want to kill them. It helps explain both the hoax bomb with the cell phone as well as the live bomb nestled over near the West Coast bank branch. I will close this essay with words from two readers.
Ross is a friend who reads my pages--and is a former law professor. He says:
"Your essays are interesting.
I like your theory that this was a botched heist.
But then, why a real bomb?
Perhaps this: We put the real bomb next to the building, and when we blow
it up everyone will leave the bank.
But then, if so, why the fake bomb?
Perhaps stupidity explains it all, but I'm not convinced."
Duane is a retired reader from the East, and has something interesting to say about most of my essays. He says:
"My thoughts: Your scenario is a bit to tidy for my likes. It seems to white wash the criminals. If the bomb was supposed to clear the bank, so it could be robbed, doesn’t this make the thieves more sinister? I am not sure their motive was to rob the bank. If a fake bomb could get people out of the bank why not use that fake to rob the bank? After the people were out of the bank, exactly how did they plan to rob the bank? Drive up in a car say, excuse me folks, I just came to pick up the money you left open for me to pick up?
Why were the Dad and Son working together on this crime? Were the women innocent? Did the Bank somehow, in their mind, offend the family, like foreclose on a mortgage on the farm, and this was their plan to “get even”? Did they really plan to blow up the bank as revenge?
I think you are correct the “perfect crime” was a lot more difficult than these two conceived. The “bomb expert” made a critical mistake thinking that the second bomb was a hoax because the first one was a hoax. He probably thought the “bombers” were not smart enough to know how to make a real bomb. There is another unanswered question. What was the explosive that was used? Where did they get it? How was the bomb detonated?
Lots more will come out in the ensuing weeks and months. At this stage, however, we know that the Turnidge family is an old and established family in the Willamette Valley (Henry had a mint farm in Jefferson beginning about 70 years ago) and that many of the things necessary to make a bomb were found at the farm where Bruce Turnidge and his wife lived on South Potts Road, just across the Santiam River from some historic Turnidge property. Most people who know the family are incredulous, however, by the allegations. A good Christian family, with deep roots in the Mennonite tradition, farmers, etc. is what we have. I am sure that the mystery will deepen, even as we learn more..