Home > News & Reports
AG, State Police Close Investigation Of 2003 New Sweden Poisonings; Conclude Bondeson Acted Alone
April 18, 2006
Today in Bangor, Assistant Attorney General William R. Stokes, Chief of the Criminal Division, and Colonel Craig A. Poulin, Chief of the Maine State Police, held a news conference at which Stokes read the following statement regarding the investigation of the 2003 New Sweden poisonings:
"On Sunday April 27, 2003, more than a dozen members of the Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church in New Sweden, Maine, became very ill after consuming light refreshments and coffee at the conclusion of the morning worship service. Several members of the church, including Walter Reid Morrill, became ill and were admitted to the Cary Medical Center in Caribou.
"During the early morning hours of Monday, April 28, 2003, Walter Reid Morrill died. Physicians at the Cary Medical Center informed the Maine State Police that it was suspected that the affected members of the church had ingested a poison. Members of the church were interviewed and the common denominator appeared to be that everyone who had become ill had consumed coffee served at the conclusion of the morning worship service on April 27, 2003.
"On Monday, April 28, 2003, investigators from the Maine State Police and the Maine Bureau of Public Health responded to New Sweden to investigate the incident at the Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church. The investigators recovered water samples and numerous items reportedly used in the preparation and serving of the coffee. These items were submitted to the Maine Bureau of Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory for analysis. "On Tuesday, April 29, 2003, detectives with the Maine State Police learned that extremely high levels of arsenic had been found to be present in a liquid coffee sample that had been collected from the church on April 27, 2003. Also on April 29, 2003, Dr. Michael Ferenc, Deputy Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maine, performed an autopsy on Walter Reid Morrill. After receiving the results of the laboratory testing, he concluded that Mr. Morrill died as a result of acute arsenic poisoning and ruled the death a homicide. During the course of the investigation, the Maine Bureau of Health as well as a private lab - National Medical Services of Pennsylvania- conducted numerous laboratory tests. Those tests confirmed the following: the source of arsenic was in the brewed coffee. Tests done on the tap water, the sugar and unbrewed coffee found at the scene were all negative. Abnormally high levels of arsenic were also confirmed in biological samples from the surviving victims. The investigation into this case produced no evidence supporting the conclusion that the introduction of the substance (later determined to be arsenic) into the coffee was accidental.
"On Friday, May 2, 2003, detectives with the Maine State Police were dispatched to a shooting that had occurred at the Daniel and Norma Bondeson residence located at 113 Bondeson Road in Woodland, Maine. Upon arriving at the residence, officers found Daniel Bondeson, who had sustained a single gunshot wound. Mr. Bondeson was transported to the Cary Medical Center in Caribou where he later died. While at the Bondeson home, detectives observed a handwritten note on the kitchen table, which appeared to the authored by Daniel Bondeson. Based upon the contents of that note, investigators were satisfied that Mr. Daniel Bondeson was involved in the poisoning incident at the Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church on April 27, 2003.
"On May 5, 2003, Dr. Michael Ferenc performed an autopsy upon Daniel Bondeson and determined that that cause of death was a gunshot wound to the chest. Dr. Ferenc ruled Daniel Bondeson's death to be a suicide.
"Following Daniel Bondeson's death, the investigation into the poisoning incident continued in an effort to determine whether persons in addition to Daniel Bondeson may have been involved.
"Through the Grand Jury process, we have now had the opportunity to examine evidence that was previously unavailable to us, but which we cannot disclose because of Grand Jury secrecy requirements. Based upon that previously unavailable information, and the information gathered through the investigation over the last three years, we have concluded that there is insufficient evidence at this time to believe that anyone other than Daniel Bondeson was involved in the arsenic poisoning at the Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church in New Sweden, Maine on April 27, 2003.
"We are now satisfied that on the morning of Sunday April 27, 2003, Daniel Bondeson drove alone to the Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church in New Sweden and there entered the kitchen while the members of the congregation were attending the worship service. While inside the kitchen, Daniel Bondeson poured an undetermined amount of liquid arsenic into the percolator and the brewed coffee. He then left the building.
"We are now satisfied that the source of the arsenic was a chemical container located at the Bondeson farm. That container has been recovered.
"We have met with members of the church and family members of the victims of the poisoning to give them an update on the investigation and our conclusions.
"No further investigative efforts are planned in connection with this case."
CHARLES DOW, ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, 207-626-8577 STEVE McCAUSLAND, STATE POLICE, 207-626-3811 (office); 207-441-6216 (cell)