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Area youths charged

By Staff | Mar 12, 2008

RUTHVEN — Authorities have charged five area teenagers with both federal and state felony charges following the destruction of 17 mailboxes over the weekend in Clay County. Fears of further explosive devices prompted officials of the U.S. Postal Service to suspend mail delivery on Saturday as the investigation into the incidents continued.

According to Clay County Sheriff Randy Krukow, 17 mailboxes were destroyed or damaged in the incident, which was discovered Saturday morning near Spencer.

The Clay County Sheriff’s office called in the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s Bomb Squad to assist in the investigation. Bomb squad technicians utilized a robot to retrieve some of the explosive devices, described as pipe bombs, from mailboxes during the day. In the interest of safety, authorities issued warnings to both the public and mail carriers not to check mailboxes until authorities could investigate the situation.

Authorities inspected some 1,200 mailboxes in Clay County on Saturday, covering over 110 miles of Clay County roads in the process of checking mailboxes.

As the investigation continued on Saturday, information was gained that led to the arrest of five juveniles at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 8.

Arrested were 15-year old Justin Alan-Lee Titus and 17-year olds Shawn Robert Molitor, Ryan Joseph Hoffman and Alan Jay Japenga, all of Ruthven, and 15-year old Chan Wei Li of Ayrshire. Each individual was charged with 17 counts of destruction of letter boxes, a federal felony, and seven counts of destruction of letter boxes with an explosive device, a state felony charge.

All five youths were cited in juvenile court in Clay County, processed at the Clay County Jail Saturday night and eventually released to the custody of their parents or guardians.

“We want to thank the State Fire Marshal’s Bomb Technicians, as well as the Iowa State Patrol, United States Postal Inspection Service, Spencer Police Department, Spencer Fire Department, Dickens Fire Department, Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office and the Clay County Attorney’s office for their assistance in this investigation,” Krukow noted. “With the arrests of these individuals, area mailboxes have been rendered safe and the U.S. Postal Service will resume all mail delivery.”

The sheriff concluded, “We want to thank area citizens for their patience and understanding during this investigation.”