Bar Owner Accused In Plot To Blow Up Critic's House

Earleigh Heightstavern Proprietor Held

Bombs Found

May 14, 1991|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff writer

A Severna Park bar owner has been charged with possession of explosives after police and fire investigators found several bombs apparently intended for a neighbor's house, police and fire officials said.

David G. Paff, 64, who owns the Earleigh Heights Tavern, was arrested early Saturday at his sister's home in Revell Downs, said fire department spokesman Capt. Gary Sheckells. He posted a $25,000 bond and was released Sunday.

Charging documents show that police received a tip from an informant Thursday that Paff, whose tavern has been at the center of a three-year battle before the county liquor board, intended to use the bomb to destroy a home owned by a man identified as "Mr. Briggs" sometime last weekend.

Gary Briggs, who lives next door to the tavern with his wife, Kenna, and their 19-year-old son, began circulating a petition to close the bar last summer.

Kenna Briggs said police notified her family of the danger Thursday, and they left the house with their cat and dog to spend the night with relatives.

"We were shocked," she said. "I never thought it would happen. He's a quiet man, and I didn't think he would want revenge."

Briggs said she was afraid to say too much about the incident because Paff is free on bond. "Ireally have to thank the person who came forward and went to the police," she said. "It takes a lot to do that."

Other residents of the neighborhood said yesterday that they were surprised to hear of thearrest.

"Oh, my God, we signed that petition," said Catherine Michaels, who lives on Earleigh Heights Road.

"We live about 100 yards from the tavern," said her husband, Tom. "It's kind of scary."

Friday night, police and fire investigators served a search warrant atPaff's home above the tavern and seized a pipe bomb, a pack of firecrackers, a look-a-like pipe bomb, about 14 feet of fuse, nine handguns and 450 rounds of ammunition, authorities said. Sheckells said there were enough explosives to level a medium-size house and kill or maim anyone inside.

Paff is charged with manufacturing, assembling and possessing an explosive device with the intent to terrorize, frighten, intimidate, harass or threaten. If convicted, he could face up to20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

He is also charged with possession of an explosive device, which is punishable by a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Paff could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The tavern was closed two weeks ago when the county liquor board seized the tavern's liquor license. Paff had reached an agreement to sell his bar, but the deal hinged on keeping his liquor license.

Paff's arrest marks the latest in a long line of problems with the liquor board, police and residents of the neighborhood on Earleigh Heights Road.

In 1987, about a half-dozen gunshots were fired outside the bar when a group of men also tore a urinal off the wall in the men's room, county police said. Three bullets lodged in tavern's front wall.

The tavern was also the last place Mary Kathleen Grant wasseen alive in January 1989. The 15-year-old Pasadena girl was seen with two men at the bar; the next day, her bludgeoned body was found in a wooded area off West Pasadena Road. Her killershave never been found.

Last September, the liquor board imposed its toughest penaltyin three years and shut down the Severna Park bar, revoking its license based on what board members said were the worst violations of a county liquor license in years.

County liquor inspectors testified that Paff allowed customers to sell drugs on his property and that alcohol was sold to minors. Of six charges, the board dismissed one charge of selling alcohol to minors.

More than a dozen undercover police officers had watched the bar's parking lot last June 1 after numerous complaints about drug trafficking and disorderly conduct from neighbors who said they could see the activities from their living roomwindows.

In three hours, detectives arrested 15 people, includingsix minors, on drug and alcohol charges.

Before the liquor boardaction last September, residents of Earleigh Heights and The Oaks ofSeverna Park had gathered more than 80 signatures on petitions urging the board to revoke the license.

Last December, a Circuit Court judge ordered the tavern reopened pending appeals of the county liquor board penalties that had shut it down twice in 1990.

At a hearing last November, Paff told board members that most of the clients he blamed for the troubles have left and that his loyal customers have started returning. He said he has operated taverns for more than 20 years and has never seen any drug transactions in the tavern or he would have stopped them.

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