1: THE BOMBINGS
The first bomb didn’t kill anyone. It was planted in the ground-floor parking lot beneath the Two Rivers Convention Center in downtown Grand Junction, Colorado—a dry, boom-and-bust mining town west of the Rockies where the snowcapped mountains give way to mesa and valley. In the morning the sun strikes gold on the sheer, striated walls of the sandstone cliffs that surround the Grand Valley, and in the evening the cliffs are ribboned with shifting periwinkle shadows. At 9 pm on Valentine’s Day, 1991, Dennis Lamb was leaving a vocational banquet for School District 51, crossing the Two Rivers parking lot, when an explosion blasted shrapnel into the back of his right calf. “I thought I’d been shot,” Lamb would recall.
Three weeks later, on the morning of March 5, four members of the Gonzales family piled into the family van, parked outside their home in a neighborhood two miles northeast of downtown, to go to the mall. Twelve-year-old Maria Dolores Gonzales had stayed home from school with a headache, and her mother let her come along. When the van rolled forward, a bomb that had been hidden in the left rear wheel well exploded. Shrapnel rocketed through the vehicle’s carpeted floor and the plush back of Dolores’s seat, entering her back and instantly severing her aorta. When she failed to respond to her family’s panicked screams to get out of the van, they pulled her from the seat and blood pooled on the pavement. She died soon after.
Three months later, Suzann and Henry Ruble had just finished dinner and were leaving the Feed Lot, a downtown restaurant just blocks from the Two Rivers Convention Center. “What is that thing over there?” Suzann asked, pointing to an object she thought looked like the pneumatic tubes drive-up banks used to have. “It looks kind of strange, don’t you think?” She drove over and Henry leaned out to pick it up. As he brought it up to his chest, Suzann recalled, “There was a big loud explosion. It lifted the truck and Henry dropped.” Ruble’s arms were blown off and his body mangled. He died instantly. Debris from this third and most powerful bomb was collected across the block.
The next day, federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms descended on the town of roughly 30,000 to assist local investigators with what appeared to be a serial bomber. No one had taken credit, and the victims seemed chosen at random. The police were stymied, people were scared, and the pressure to find a culprit mounted. “We certainly don’t want to create hysteria or paranoia in the community,” a police lieutenant told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel after warning people to check around their cars for bombs. “But we do want people to be aware that there is a person or persons out there with no regard for human life.”
Investigators drew up a list of about 30 suspects, many of whom were known to local police to dabble in explosives—not an unusual hobby in a town of miners and ranchers. “People use dynamite. People work in the oil patch. People set bombs off for fun,” said Ellen Miller, a former correspondent for The Denver Post who covered the story. “I mean, seriously. People knew what pipe bombs were.” Then, in early July, police received a nervous call from a woman who worked at the Readmor bookstore on Main Street. A 28-year-old local man named Jimmy Genrich had asked them to order The Anarchist Cookbook, a manual that contains, among other things, instructions on how to make a pipe bomb. They refused to order the book and instead called the police, skyrocketing Genrich to the top of the list of suspects.