ANCHORAGE, Alaska - An explosion that police say came from a package bomb tore through the home of a key witness in the Jeffrey Cain murder trial, killing the father of the witness and critically injuring his stepmother.
David Kerr, 50, died instantly about 3:30 p.m. yesterday when the bomb exploded in his Eklutna-area home.
Kerr's 34-year-old wife of three years, Shelly, was taken to Humana Hospital-Alaska.
"She looked like she was in Vietnam," said nursing supervisor Sheila Halstead. After more than five hours of surgery, Shelly Kerr was moved into the intensive-care unit shortly before midnight.
Police Lt. Wade Lacey said Shelly Kerr suffered burns and injuries from "debris striking her." Halstead said she was severely injured about the head, chest and shoulders.
She was in critical condition early today.
None of the couple's three children was home when the bomb went off.
One of their two sons, 20-year-old George, was a key prosecution witness in the trials earlier this year of Douglas Gustafson and Raymond Cheely Jr., who were convicted of second-degree murder for a random shooting on the Glenn Highway in Anchorage.
But Deputy Police Chief Duane Udland said there was no immediate reason to link the two events. "To say it's connected to the prior killing is plain speculation," Udland said.
Reached in Arkansas last night, George Kerr refused to discuss the bombing.
The two youths convicted in the shooting are in Alaska jails.
Federal investigators have been called in to help Anchorage police conduct their probe.
Udland and other officers said Shelly Kerr remained conscious long enough to tell them what happened.
"He opened a package, and the package went off," Udland said. "It was a bomb of some sort."
Neighbors said the explosion in the Kerr's cedar-sided, ranch-style home rocked surrounding homes and shook up what normally is a quiet wooded area of handsome houses.
"It was pretty thunderous," said Robin Oliver, who lives up the hill from the Kerr house.
"It just felt like a massive, quick earthquake."
The blast blew out a picture window in the Kerr house and left a film of dusty gray insulation on the roof. Police who went inside said the interior of the home was wrecked.
"The damage in the house is just beyond description," said Capt. Tom Walker.
The package exploded when Dave Kerr opened it, apparently somewhere near the center of the home, police said. It blew a hole in the roof and knocked down a couple of interior walls.
Friends and co-workers said David Kerr was a well-thought-of engineer who worked as a shift supervisor at the Elmendorf Air Force Base power plant.
John Sallee, another power plant employee who said he had known Kerr since 1978, described him as a generous person and a skilled mechanic who often went out of his way for others.
"He'd do anything for you," Sallee said. "He was like a brother to all of us."