Arsenic Suspect Left Suicide Note

Crime Lab personnel unload equipment at home of Daniel Bondeson, man linked to New Sweden, Maine, church arsenic poisoning; house is in Woodland, Maine 5-3-03
Police now say the man they suspect of involvement in the arsenic poisonings of members of a tiny church in northern Maine did in fact kill himself and furthermore left a suicide note that contained "important information."

Maine state police spokesman Stephen McCausland says the note left behind by potato farmer Daniel Bondeson has prompted police to continue their investigation into the poisoned coffee that killed one parishioner and sickened 15 others at Gustav Adolph Lutheran Church in New Sweden.

At least three people are still in the hospital, in Bangor, in critical condition.

State police have pointed to Bondeson as a suspect in the poisonings but they have also said more than one person could have been responsible. The possibility of squabbling among church members is part of the police investigation into the motive for the April 27 poisonings.

As part of their investigation, police on Tuesday resumed the process of obtaining voluntary fingerprints and DNA samples from every member of the congregation. The process had been suspended Friday, after Bondeson was found fatally shot in the chest at his farmhouse.

The state medical examiner's office did not reveal the contents of the suicide note, which is confidential by statute, McCausland said. Law enforcement officials sometimes paraphrase a suicide note, but investigators declined to do so Tuesday.

Shortly after police deemed parishioner Walter Morrill's death a homicide on Friday, Bondeson was found dead in his farmhouse in nearby Woodland. Bondeson, who worked on the family potato farm and at a nursing home, was at a church bake sale the day before the poisonings but was not there for Sunday services, police said.

The state medical examiner's office said the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the chest. A determination was pending on whether it was an accident, suicide or homicide.

Two relatives said Monday they had seen Bondeson in the days after the poisonings, and he was his usual reserved self.

Bondeson's older brother, Paul, said the two talked Monday or Tuesday while Daniel was jogging near his farmhouse. "Nothing seemed strange," Paul Bondeson, 58, said in the yard of his New Sweden home.

Daniel's nephew, Sven Bondeson, 28, of nearby Westmanland, said his uncle helped him pack potatoes before heading to his job at a nursing home.

Police have raised the possibility that the arsenic came from a now-banned chemical product that might have been in storage on a local farm.

Paul Bondeson said that his sister Norma, who lived on the farm sporadically, never throws anything away, but he added that he was not aware of any chemicals containing arsenic on the farm.

Speaking of his father, who died several years ago, Paul Bondeson said: "I can't remember him ever using a deadly poison for top kill or anything like that."

He described Daniel as a regular churchgoer, but added, "Lately in the last few years maybe he hasn't been as active as he used to be."

Still, Paul Bondeson said, the Bondeson siblings just last month gave a Communion table to the church in memory of their parents and two other relatives who died in recent years.

Bonnie Cyr, director of nursing at Caribou Nursing Home, where Bondeson was a certified nurse's aide for a little over a year, said he last worked Thursday night.

She described him as a polite, quiet, dependable and patient employee.

"He came in, he said hello and nothing seemed unusual," she said.

By Kevin Wack