NEW SWEDEN, Maine – Investigators probing the mystery behind the arsenic-laced coffee (search) served at a church reception searched a farmhouse Saturday for possible links between a fatal shooting there and the poisonings last weekend that killed the church's 78-year-old caretaker.
Daniel Bondeson, a farmer with family ties to the church, was found shot Friday at his home in Woodland and died hours later at a hospital.
State Police Lt. Dennis Appleton said the shot that killed Bondeson, 53, could have been self-inflicted, accidental or caused by someone else.
Half a dozen law enforcement officers began searching Bondeson's farmhouse and barn Saturday morning for any clues to the shooting and any connection to the spiked coffee that killed Walter Morrill and sickened 15 others Sunday, Appleton said.
"We have information that he is affiliated in some manner with the church in New Sweden (search)," Appleton said. He said Bondeson has family members who belong to Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church (search) but he did not know whether Bondeson, 53, was a member or if he was at the church Sunday.
One of seven siblings, Bondeson was a farmer who also worked as a substitute gym teacher and ski coach, said Lou Ann Skidgel, owner of Lu's Sunrise Market in Woodland. He lived with his father, who died last year, she said.
News of the shooting came as detectives fanned out across this tiny farming town Friday, requesting fingerprint and DNA samples from all 50 church members in this potato farming community. They also asked for help from the FBI in profiling the type of person who would use arsenic to try to poison a congregation.
State police declared Morrill's death a homicide but they said they have no suspects or motive. Two of the victims who also drank the arsenic-tainted coffee after the Sunday service were still in critical condition Friday at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
Health officials said lives may have been saved because of quick access to arsenic antidotes stockpiled after the Sept. 11 attacks. The stockpile was purchased with federal bioterrorism grants. The antidote was in Portland and was quickly shipped to northern Maine after the church members fell ill.
Lutheran ministers led a prayer service focused on healing for victims, family members and New Sweden residents at the Cary Medical Center, where many of the survivors were being treated. Another gathering was planned for Saturday at a nearby church.