(Beaver Dam) On the first Monday in March of 2018, Beaver Dam was thrust into the national spotlight when a man named Benjamin Morrow was fatally injured in an explosion at the Village Glen Apartments. The 28-year-old was born in Cedar Rapids but spent most of his life in the Appleton-area before receiving a higher education at Pensacola Christian College in Florida. After graduating with degrees in Chemistry and Pharmacology, Morrow got a job as a scientist in the Madison-are; he was fired three years later. He arrived in Beaver Dam in 2017, taking a job below his skill-set at Richelieu Foods.
On March 5, 2018 at 12:54pm, authorities responded to reports of an explosion on the second floor of building 109 on Knaup Drive. From the outside, the damage was unassuming: some broken glass and bent siding; a patio door and window frame on the grass below. Inside told a different story. The door to apartment #11 was blown off the hinges, a can of acetone laid on its side in the stairwell. Tiny pieces of insulation covered the stairs, while inside apartment #11, much of the insulation and drywall was incinerated.
A fire extinguisher was used to put out a small fire that lingered. The door to a small refrigerator was blown open, revealing a gallon of antifreeze. There were also beakers, purple rubber gloves and jars of a clear liquid. Those first on scene detected the “hot” smell of chemicals before seeing heavy blood spatter and then Morrow’s body badly burned with lacerations around the back, flanks and stomach; his left arm missing below the forearm. Paramedics probed unsuccessfully at the charred remains for signs of life. The entire building was evacuated, and a yellow-tape perimeter established. Outside, tenants mingled with local media speculating that a methamphetamine lab had exploded, as emergency responders milled around the scene with minimal protective gear.
At 4:45pm, nearly four hours after the primary explosion, the Dane County Bomb Squad determined that the materials within the unit may be highly explosive and unstable. The perimeter was expanded, and neighboring apartment buildings were evacuated.
The explosion sparked an eleven-day ordeal that ended with building 109 being burned to the ground, or as the feds referred to it: “friction-initiated, thermal destruction.” Before that came to pass, a plan was put in place to detonate the explosive materials in apartment #11. The tenants of building 109 were initially told they would be able to return home, only to have their hopes dashed after an unplanned explosion of leftover materials. At one point, then tenants were told they would not be able to retrieve pets or personal belongings. However, a plan was put into place to save the animals. And at the eleventh hour, the FBI bomb squad retrieved the tenants most valuable personal items, at least whatever could be found with simple directions and fit in a small box.
As for the investigation, recently-released documents recounting interviews with neighbors and co-workers describe Morrow as “weird.” He worked closely alongside five people in a laboratory, but he never got close to anyone, failing to even make eye contact in conversation. He was never late or missed work though his work in quality control was described as occasionally “sloppy.” When questioned by co-workers about why he smelled like moth balls, Morrow would just smile and not say anything. Moth balls contain Naphthene, an explosive. His jeans had several tiny holes.
When questioned by Beaver Dam Police, a co-worker said they were (quote) “worried he was going to do something.” When the topic of bombs happen to come up following a school shooting, a co-worker joked to Morrow that Morrow better never do anything like that here. Morrow reportedly responded by saying (quote) “Don’t worry, you’ll be the first one to get out of here.” Chief Kreuziger says that was nothing more than speculation on the co-worker’s part and there is no evidence to suggest that Morrow was planning anything at Richelieu – or anywhere else – with his chemical cache.
We will look closer at the controlled burn of building 109 Tuesday (3/5) on WBEV’s Community Comment. Our guest will be Beaver Dam Fire Chief Alan Mannel who will recount his “Render Safe Operation” report for us beginning at 12:35pm on AM1430 WBEV and streaming in audio and video at DailyDodge.com.
Watch the interview with Beaver Dam Police here:
The Beaver Dam Police Department discusses the one year anniversary of the Village Glen explosion, and give the latest update on the investigation. Watch the program below or listen here: https://soundcloud.com/user-419267831/beaver-dam-police-department-3-1-19
Posted by Daily Dodge on Friday, March 1, 2019
Listen to the interview with Beaver Dam Police here: