Exclusive: Police probe possible links between terrorism suspect and Boston bombing
Tue Jul 16, 2013 1:28am EDT
By Tim McLaughlin
BOSTON (Reuters) - A Boston-area man accused of threatening to blow up an airplane allegedly had all the materials needed to build a pressure-cooker bomb before this kind of weapon was used in the Boston Marathon attack in April, according to comments made by the man's mother in a recently unsealed police affidavit.
While investigators working with the FBI are looking to see if there are any links between the two cases, they have drawn no conclusions, according to two law enforcement sources. Prosecutors and the FBI declined to comment.
The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force said it is investigating 27-year-old Daniel Morley after police in the small town of Topsfield, Massachusetts found a cache of weapons and bomb-making materials in his home on June 9.
According to a police affidavit dated June 19, Morley told his mother that his best friend had bragged about knowing Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the two Chechen brothers suspected of detonating pressure-cooker bombs at the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15. Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police after the attack.
No one else has been charged in the Topsfield case, a spokeswoman for the Essex County District Attorney said.
The 25-page police affidavit details the allegations that served as the basis for the criminal charges against Morley. He is accused of assaulting his mother and her boyfriend and making a threat to hijack an airplane or ship.
Morley's defense attorney, Robert LeBlanc, did not return calls asking for comment. The person described by Morley's mother as his best friend was named in the affidavit. Reuters could not reach him for comment.
Topsfield police said they found in Morley's bedroom closet a large, stainless steel pressure cooker and a black duffel bag. He also had materials to make a shrapnel bomb, such as black powder, igniters and pieces of metal that included ball bearings. In addition, he had a large assault rifle and a handgun, the affidavit shows.
Morley's mother told police that her son had the pressure cooker and the other materials before the Boston Marathon attacks, according to the affidavit.
AMMUNITION AND A DRAWING
Police said they also found several hundred rounds of ammunition and a drawing of what appeared to be the Boston skyline, with an airplane in the left hand corner and a figure of a man with a blue heart in his chest, holding a red heart in his hand.
"While very stylized, the image does seem to match up with a portion of the Boston skyline," the affidavit quoted anti-terrorism expert Clairissa Breen, who is part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, as saying. "This could mean that something in that area is a target, or it could be artistic license."
The allegations outlined in the affidavit prompted the Topsfield police to contact the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. One focus of the FBI's investigation is determining whether Morley was being influenced by others when he made the alleged airplane threat, according to the affidavit.
Police also said they found a shoe box with the head of a decapitated bird, dismantled cell phones, flex cuff restraints, black gun powder, and a burnt green stuffed animal that had been stabbed repeatedly. Other items included a bucket with aluminum foil and steel containers with concealment cutouts.
Police said they discovered all of the items last month after Morley told his mother and her boyfriend that he planned to burn down their house. Morley had moved in with them after being hit by a car while riding his bike in Boston.
"It's all been a big shock. I can't really help you," said Morley's mother, Glenda Duckworth, when contacted by Reuters.
Morley was placed in custody on June 9 after a nearly four-hour standoff that closed Topsfield's picturesque town center.
He is described by his mother in the search warrant affidavit as very bright, but troubled. After being arrested, police said he apologized to them for not taking his medications, which were not detailed in the affidavit.
Morley is undergoing psychiatric evaluation at Bridgewater State Hospital, according to his criminal case file put together by prosecutors. His next court appearance is set for Thursday at Ipswich District Court in Newburyport.
"Morley advised his mother that he separated from (his best friend) because he was attempting to have him do something really bad, but Daniel did not want to do," according to the police affidavit.
(Reporting By Tim McLaughlin; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Christopher Wilson)