Suspect History Of A Suspect

Bombing Indictment Halts A Wild Career

February 17, 1991|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff writer Staff writer Patrick L. Hickerson contributed to this story.

Where is Charles Edward Gresham Jr.'s money? Where are his reported chemical waste factories in the Sudan, Egypt and Brazil? And what events would have led him to plant bombs at a chemical facility in Norfolk, Va.?

The questions nag federal investigators who are attempting to piece together financial information on a man whose business enterprises may help explain a puzzling crime.

But perhaps the foremost question on the minds of Gresham's friends and neighbors is: How did Ed Gresham from Ellicott City become a criminal suspect, with a shadowy past as an international businessman?

Gresham, 57 and a former University of Baltimore vice president, has lived for 20 years on Spring Meadow Drive in the Dunloggin neighborhood of Ellicott City. Neighbors describe him as a sociable friend and family man who was active in the Roman Catholic Church of the Resurrection in Ellicott City and volunteered in archdiocese schools as his three children were growing up.

But federal officials are accusing Gresham of attempting to blow up two highly volatile chemical storage tanks Feb. 4. Two homemade pipe bombs attached to the side of the tanks failed to detonate.

Prosecutors say Gresham stood to gain$2.7 million in insurance money by destroying his investment in sodium hydrosulfide, a chemical used in tanning, papermaking and mining,which was stored in the tanks. But friends and neighbors say they can't believe it.

"I cannot imagine that Charles Gresham could have done what is reported. . . . Nothing would lead me to think he is a dangerous person who would seek to harm his country, his family or anyone else," the Rev. Paul G. Cook, pastor at St. Joseph's Parish in Cockeysville, wrote to federal officials.

Thirty other letters -- several of them written by physicians and clergy members -- depict Gresham as a solid family man of impeccable character. Many of the writers say they are sure Gresham will prove himself innocent in the monthsahead.

But federal, state and county records reviewed by The Howard County Sun and spanning 20 years suggest that Gresham will have a tough time explaining his predicament and his past.

16 years in academia

In late 1985, Gresham left a 16-year career in academia to embark on a string of business ventures that involved many trips around the world and provided him with a flashy lifestyle and an estate in the Caribbean.

The life of an intercontinental traveler, whether ornot he was building factories as he claimed, was indeed a far cry from his academic career. His years as a college teacher and administrator were stable but hardly spectacular.

As a student he had earneda bachelor's degree in industrial management at the University of Baltimore and later a master's degree at George Washington University.

He began teaching at the University of Baltimore in 1970 and quickly moved up, becoming a vice president there in 1972, a job he held for 10 years.

University photographs show Gresham at faculty and student gatherings -- toasting students at one celebration, accepting aclass gift in 1973 at another. He served as a faculty adviser for the Society for the Advancement of Management.

As a fund-raiser and an alumni liaison, Gresham seemed to be well-regarded and accepted byfellow administrators.

After his departure, which university officials refused to discuss, he did not make a triumphant return to classroom teaching.

Subsequent teaching jobs at Morgan and Towson state universities didn't lead to tenured positions because of his lack of impressive qualifications, former colleagues said. Gresham had received his doctorate from California Western University, an independent-study college that did not impress prestige-seeking administrators.

"The administration didn't think he was setting the world on fire,although students seemed to like him pretty well," said a former Towson State colleague, Charles H. Mott. "I think Ed was very disappointed when he didn't get a promotion. He felt he earned it."

As his interest in college life fizzled, it was supplanted by a new career inbusiness.

"Here was a guy who taught about business all his career, and now he had a chance to go out and actually play in the field,"said one former colleague who asked not to be identified. "He was able to get out of the stifled classroom and out into the world of money. I think it consumed him."

Into a world of business

In 1984, about a year before his departure from his academic career, Gresham launched Applied Technology Inc. Articles of incorporation describe the company as a waste-treatment business that planned to operate extensively in other countries. The office was based in his home.

Gresham immediately began a pattern of international travel. His passport, now confiscated by a federal magistrate, shows he visited Liberia and Egypt in 1984 and traveled to Europe and Saudi Arabia in 1985.

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