Explosive was gift from friend

Published 12:07 am Friday, August 12, 2011

NATCHEZ — Two days after a bomb squad was called to dispose of a mortar round left outside Justice Court Judge Charlie Vess’ backdoor on Dana Road, law enforcement officials learned Thursday a friend of Vess’ delivered the explosive, which was apparently a dummy, as a gift.

The sheriff’s office contacted an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team from the Fort Polk, La., military base Tuesday afternoon concerning the possibly live round. The EOD team subsequently transported the mortar to the Natchez-Adams Airport and exploded it on an unused runway at 1 a.m. Wednesday.

Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said his office received information from a source Thursday, and the source directed investigators to a person the source thought was responsible for leaving the Mortar at Vess’ house.

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When Mayfield’s office contacted a person investigators believed to have left the mortar, the person, who Mayfield would not name, confirmed he had left the mortar for Vess because he knew Vess collected military relics, Mayfield said.

Mayfield said the person who delivered the mortar had no knowledge law enforcement had launched an investigation of the matter.

The mortar, Mayfield learned, was purchased in Louisiana and was supposedly a dummy containing no fuse or explosive material.

Vess said he was happy to hear a stranger had not placed the 81-milimeter mortar round at his door maliciously.

“That’s a relief,” Vess said when he learned the device was left by a friend.

Vess said Wednesday some people in the community know he collects military relics, so he suspected the mortar might have been a gift at first. But the absence of a note or phone call and his suspicion that the mortar might have been a live round prompted him to contact the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, Vess said.

Mayfield said the person who delivered the mortar said he called Vess without leaving a message and then forgot to call him back later to let him know he delivered the relic.

Vess said Wednesday he checked his messages before contacting the sheriff’s office.

“I did the right thing and erred on side of caution,” Vess said.

Mayfield said his office felt it was necessary to contact the EOD team to stay on the safe side.

“I’m glad it turned out to be (a misunderstanding) like I suspected all along it was, but we really wanted to be sure,” Mayfield said.

“I now consider the case closed,” he said.