Participants in Hagerstown bombing relive incident in television re-creation

September 19, 1990|By Thom Loverro | Thom Loverro,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

HAGERSTOWN -- With a microphone hanging over his head, a television camera staring him in the face and a director firing questions, mailman Robert L. Miller sat on a bench in front of the Washington County Courthouse and told of the chaos that entered his life last Dec. 22.

That was the day he delivered a package that looked like any other holiday season package to the apartment of Washington County Circuit Judge John P. Corderman. It was the package that contained several pipe bombs that exploded later when Judge Corderman opened it.

"I went home later on and sat down to eat dinner in front of the television set," Mr. Miller said. "I was watching CNN when the story came over that a Hagerstown judge had been bombed. I turned to my wife and said, 'Oh, my God, I just delivered that package.' "

Mr. Miller had told this story before to police and federal officers investigating the bombing. Now he was repeating it for what will be the nationwide audience of the syndicated television program, "Missing, Reward." A crew came to Hagerstown yesterday to film a segment of the 30-minute show that will report on the unsolved bombing case of Judge Corderman, who suffered abdominal and hand injuries when the package exploded at his Hagerstown apartment last December.

"Missing, Reward," which is hosted by Stacy Keach and produced by Group W Productions in Los Angeles, includes stories on unsolved crimes with rewards for information. It is seen on 115 stations across the country, including WJZ-TV Channel 13 in Baltimore, where it airs at 7 p.m. on Saturdays, said Ann Hassett, executive producer. The Corderman segment will run next month.

The show has three segments, each offering a reward for information about a missing person, an unsolved case or an item being sought by a collector, Ms. Hassett said.

Officials recently increased the reward from $50,000 to $76,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the Corderman case.

Postal Service inspectors hope "Missing, Reward" will bring in new information. "We use programs like this often because they have a proven track record," said Paul Grifo, spokesman for the Postal Service. "When a case is shown nationwide, the tips begin to come in."

The television crew filmed an interview with Judge Corderman at the courthouse, then staged a courtroom proceeding to show him back at work. It also re-enacted the incident using actors and local emergency medical workers.

The judge said his part was "just like being interviewed by the people that came to talk to me when I went back to work." Asked what he thought of the use of the television show in the investigation, he said, "I hope it works."

Retelling the story gave Mr. Miller a familiar anxious feeling. "The day it happened, I was questioned for several hours," he said. "Then I was questioned four or five more times again over the next several days, the same questions over and over again. It gave me a nervous feeling in my stomach. Sometimes I think about what was in that package and the way we handle packages like that. It could have went off being tossed around in the Jeep."

What might have been was what made Hagerstown police Officer Brenton P. Saur's story so compeling. Officer Saur, during filming at police headquarters, told of how he and his partner arrived on the scene shortly after emergency medical personnel.

"There was a lot of confusion at the scene," he said. "My partner and I raced down the hallways looking for the apartment. We found a blood trail and followed it." Judge Corderman pulled the fire alarm in the hall after the explosion, then was helped back to his apartment by neighbors. Officer Saur said he saw paramedics treating a man on the floor who he later learned was Judge Corderman. "The man said to me, 'I wouldn't be standing there if I were you.' I asked why, and he said because the part of the bomb that did not explode was down between my legs."

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