Mortar left at house

Published 12:03 am Thursday, August 11, 2011

submitted photo A possible live mortar round was left at the back doorstep of Judge Charlie Vess and his wife Corky.

NATCHEZ — A bomb disposal team from Fort Polk, La., military base was dispatched to Natchez Tuesday evening to examine a possible live mortar round left at the back doorstep of Justice Court Judge Charlie Vess’ house.

Vess said his wife, Corky, discovered the mortar outside the back door of their house when she came home from an errand between 3 and 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“There was what (Corky) called a torpedo at the back door,” Vess said.

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Vess said upon looking at the devise, which was not in a box, himself, he thought it looked more like a bazooka or a mortar shell. He said it was six to eight inches long and probably weighed 20 to 25 pounds.

Vess said he collects old military paraphernalia and has, in the past, had items dropped of to him by others who know he is a collector, so he was not skeptical of the device at first. Since the fuse was still screwed to the device and no note was attached, Vess said he called the Adams County Sheriff’s Office to check it out.

Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said upon examining the device, deputies contacted the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team from the military base in Fort Polk.

Vess said EOD team members told him the device was an 88-millimeter, possibly live mortar round containing phosphorus.

With Natchez Fire Department trucks on standby at Vess’ house, EOD members used a mechanical robot device to lift the mortar and place it in a safe container, Vess said. The EOD members, escorted the fire department, brought the mortar to the Natchez-Adams County Airport where it was detonated, Vess said.

Natchez Fire Chief Oliver Stewart confirmed Wednesday the explosive was detonated at the airport. The explosion occurred on an unused runway at approximately 1 a.m. Wednesday, airport administrative assistant Jennifer Essary said.

Mayfield said since the EOD used external explosives to blow up the mortar, they couldn’t be sure whether the mortar was live or not.

“I have absolutely no idea who left it at my back door,” Vess said.

Vess said he had no messages or unknown numbers on his Caller I.D.

Mayfield said his office is investigating how the explosive ended up at Vess’ doorstep.