The U.S. Postal Inspection Service

Alaska Mail Bomb

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Inspectors Glen Porter and Jim Harbin discuss the investigation’s strategy with Nancy Potter of the Anchorage Police Department, 1991.
Photo by Postal Inspector James Bordenet

In 1991 Chugiak, Alaskan resident David Kerr and his wife, Michelle, were the victims of a mail bomb when a package addressed to their son, George, exploded as they opened it. George was out of town at the time and the explosion killed his father and badly wounded his mother.

George had been a key witness in the successful prosecution of two men, Raymond Cheely Jr. and Joseph Ryan for an Anchorage highway shooting case. As the pair was in prison, inspectors began looking for ways they could have outsourced the crime. In the end, a trio of conspirators, Douglas Gustafson, Peggy Gustafson-Barnett and Craig Gustafson, pled guilty and agreed to testify for the government and against Cheely and Ryan.

Cheely had planned the bomb plot with Douglas Gustafson while both were in prison. Gustafson talked his sister Peggy through the elements of building a bomb during jail visits. She got help from her brother Craig, who built the bomb. Peggy mailed it. Douglas pled guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence for his sister. Craig Gustafson received 22 years in prison, Peggy 25 years. Cheely received two life sentences without parole and Ryan, guilty only of possessing a bomb, received less than five years in prison.