Fingerprint on duct tape led to arrest of city man in fake bomb case

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FOM 2021 1907
A member of the bomb squad examines the remnants of the detonated device outside the classical building at Central High School. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

MANCHESTER, NH – A fingerprint lifted from a piece of tape from a metal can fragment led to the identity of Christopher Mathieson as the person who last month placed a fake bomb at Manchester Central High School, according to court documents.

Mathieson, 35, of 233 Prospect St., Apt. 13, entered a not guilty plea Friday in Hillsborough County Superior Court Northern District to a class A felony charge of placement of simulated explosives.

The school was evacuated on April 12, 2021, after lead custodian Bejto Rustemi found the device while cleaning the outside grounds in the area of the courtyard on the Beech Street side of the school.  According to the affidavit of Detective Ryan Heile, Rustmi saw a “strange” object near the steps to the courtyard and believing it was suspicious, took a picture of it with his cell phone and showed the photo to assistant principal Debora Roukey who called police.

The state police bomb squad was called in and deployed a robot to view the device described as an enclosed container wrapped in black electrical tape with a wire under the tape.  There was a white component where a black wire, white wire and the ground wire originated.  The container and white electrical component were sitting in a round tray, secured by silver duct tape, which covered about half the tray and container.  

State police deployed a hydrajet to disarm the device.  After, state police said there was no indication there were any sort of explosive materials present, nor was a power source located.

Evidence gathered was sent to the New Hampshire State Forensics Lab and the FBI Forensics Lab for testing. On May 23, 2021, Heile received a letter from criminalist Kaylee Paradis of the state forensics lab which said that a recovered “friction ridge impression” fingerprint was searched through the Tri-State (NH, ME & VT) and the FBI Automated Biometirc Identification System (ABIS) and was identified as Mathieson’s right index finger.

Public Defender Brian Civale asked that personal recognizance bail be set.  He said the only evidence in the case is a fingerprint.  He said it is not clear what the metal can is and said it could be one Mathieson handled in a grocery store. 

Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Shannon Blankenbeker asked Mathieson be held without bail. She noted Mathieson has a lengthy criminal record dating back to 2001 and is currently out on bail on possession and resisting arrest charges.  She said while the device turned out to be fake its placement at the school there instilled fear, making Mathieson a danger to the public.

Judge Amy Messer took the issue under advisement and said she would rule later.

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About this Author

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Born on Good Friday was published by Roadside Press in 2023. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: http://www.nathangraziano.com