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Why Not, Indeed


I read in today's online SF Examiner that the SFPD crime lab used DNA evidence to crack a cold 18 year old rape/murder case. If they can do it, why can't law enforcement in Mendocino County crack the Bari case with the Lord's Avenger letter's DNA?

Just wondering,
Tom Reier
Santa Rosa

Ed reply: If any DA in America is more likely than ours to take this one on I haven't heard of him. I think Vroman would do it, and he's got the talent in his office to do it right, if he could be convinced that the bombing was a crime that originated here in Mendocino County. It did, but the cops get confused, it seems, by the fundamental fact that the explosion occurred in downtown Oakland. The Oakland PD assumed jurisdiction and still have it, as I understand the current status of the case. (The FBI gave up on it years ago, although the Bari-ites milked the bumbling G-Men as a fundraising pretext for fifteen years.) The key to the case is the confession letter written by a person calling himself "The Lord's Avenger." Darryl Cherney and his legal team had this document tested for DNA. Test results revealed that most of the DNA on the envelope was that of an unknown female; there was also the DNA of an unknown male. A female apparently licked the envelope to seal it, the male licked the stamp. (DNA was not used as evidence in criminal cases in 1990, hence the carelessness of the two persons implicated via the DNA found on the Lord's Avenger envelope.) By testing the Avenger envelope for DNA, Cherney and Co. hoped to implicate Irv Sutley, their long time villain of choice. It didn't, and Sutley remains available for a DNA party provided the likely perps are sampled along with him. If the known DNA from the Avenger envelope were matched against the most likely suspects, beginning with Judi Bari's ex-husband Mike Sweeney and Sweeney's then-love interest, a woman named Meredyth Rinehard of the Mendocino County Health Department, I believe it is quite likely we'd have a match right out of the box. But if we only got Sweeney, we could then proceed down the short list of most likelies, beginning with the late Bari herself, her and Sweeney's two daughters, Karen Pickett, Pam Davis, and on through other close friends of Bari at the time of the event. But how do we know the bomb was assembled and placed in Bari's car here in Mendocino County? How do we know Mendocino County is the scene of the crime? Because the Lord's Avenger confesses that he put it in Bari's car while she was in Willits meeting with loggers on Tuesday evening but that it hadn't gone off until she was leaving Oakland for Santa Cruz the following Thursday morning. Sweeney, conveniently, has an alibi for the Tuesday night of the Willits meeting with the loggers; he was at home with Meredyth, hence his Avenger letter has the Avenger placing the bomb Tuesday night in Willits. Sweeney doesn't have an alibi for any part of Wednesday or any part of Thursday, during which period he placed the device (which was wrapped in a towel) in Bari's car either at the property the two of them shared in Redwood Valley or he slipped it under her seat while her vehicle was parked in front of the MEC in downtown Ukiah prior to her leaving for Oakland Wednesday afternoon. But given the design of the bomb, no matter where it was placed its manufacturer must explain why he put a timer on it. If the intent is murder, an on/off switch and activation by a motion device is sufficient. The bomb had a timer because the idea was to have the bomb explode 100 miles south of Ukiah-Redwood Valley where it was made and placed beneath the driver's seat of Bari's Subaru. When the on switch was on, the 12 hours on the timer began ticking. When the timer finished ticking the bomb was armed. The motion from the vehicle containing the bomb would then ignite it. Which is what happened. Bari's itinerary the day before the bombing began with her departure from her home in Redwood Valley for downtown Ukiah some time before noon. Utah Phillips was in the car with her. She parked in front of the MEC to which Sweeney possessed a front door key and where he maintained an office. She was in and around downtown Ukiah talking to media in front of the Courthouse for an hour or so before she headed south for the Bay Area. The clock on the bomb, its timer, was now ticking. By the time she stopped in Berkeley for a meeting, at least five hours had ticked off. Around midnight she drove to Oakland where she spent the night in the home of a fellow named David Kemnitzer. By that time another five or so hours had ticked off the timer. While she was asleep in Oakland, some time around two, or three, or four in the morning ,the full twelve hours on the timer had elapsed. The bomb was now armed. The motion of the car would set it off. Shortly before noon, and just after she'd left Kemnitzer's house to drive to Santa Cruz, the bomb exploded. If it had gone off in Berkeley, or had detonated as Bari drove from Berkeley to Oakland to spend the night, that would have served the bomber's purpose, too, because the very design of the bomb was to kill Bari after she arrived in the East Bay, far from where the perp sat waiting for the news. If the idea was simply to blow her up any old place, no timer would have been necessary. If the idea was simply to get rid of her, there would be no need to go to all the trouble of a bomb. But the idea was to explode the device far from where it was constructed, and far from the person who constructed it, hence its design. That person, of course, is Mendocino County's tax-paid recycler, Mike Sweeney, a man with at least a two-bomb prior. (All three Sweeney-made devices are what the bomb experts call "signature devices," meaning there are identifying similarities linking the three to the same manufacturer.) The Sweeney-drafted Lord's Avenger Letter appeared two days after the bombing, by which time it had become clear that Bari had survived it. She knew who did it, and Sweeney knew she knew. Now he needed an alibi that put him beyond the bomb's 12-hour lead time, so he had the Avenger say that the bomb was placed in Willits almost three days before it exploded, explaining the full-day delay by claiming that it hadn't worked as designed. The Avenger letter was also designed to divert attention from ex-hubbykins, the secretive, cunning and terrible-tempered Mr. Sweeney. To divert attention from himself, Sweeney wrote the Avenger letter in what he seemed to think was fundamentalist Christian prose, dragging in tree worship to implicate loggers and Christians as possible perps, two well-known groups of Bari antagonists. Sweeney could account for his whereabouts if we accept the Avenger's explanation that the bomb was placed in Bari's car in Willits the night before she left Mendocino County for Oakland; he can't account for either of the days after the Willits meeting. (Moreover, at Willits, Bari's car was parked in the street directly in front of the huge window in the restaurant where the meeting took place. Anybody in or around Bari's vehicle would have been seen. Bari herself later told Steve Talbot, the well-known PBS documentary filmmaker, that she was certain her ex-husband had bombed her because he'd blown up other things, including an old hangar at the semi-abandoned Naval air strip in Santa Rosa back in 1980 just after Sweeney and Bari had married. Talbot emphasized that likelihood in his documentary film on the Bari Bombing for which he was denounced by Bari, his informant! It's all yours, Norm Vroman. Sic 'em! You've got DNA; you've got Sweeney's history as a bomber and cult left guy; you've got lots of witnesses, including Talbot, to this or that aspect of the crime; you've now got the Bari Bombing timeline establishing Mendocino County as the scene of the crime; you've got the existing statement of Sweeney/Avenger that the crime began here. Sweeney's office is one block south of your office; Ms. Rinehard works out on Low Gap and lives in Redwood Valley; Cherney's in Southern Humboldt County; Karen Pickett's in Berkeley; Pam Davis is in Santa Rosa; Darlene Commingore is in Davis. Subpoena them for a swab party and we can wrap this thing up, and Mendocino County law enforcement will have racked up its biggest win ever.

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