Hundreds of pages of court documents in the Kevin Harpham attempted-bombing case, which had been sealed during the trial, have now been released by a federal judge. The pages show that the lynchpin in bringing Harpham down rested largely on rock-solid forensics work.
Harpham pleaded guilty in September to several felonies relating to his placing a homemade bomb along the expected path of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Spokane. The bomb was found by grounds crews before exploding and was disarmed by a bomb squad while the parade route was changed--the latter action now credited with saving dozens of people from injury or death.
In the days after the bomb was discovered FBI investigators set to work analyzing the bomb for clues as to who made it and placed it.
The bomb contained 128 rat-poison coated fishing weights that would have functioned as shrapnel and was set to explode using black powder and a remote-control car starter. The backpack containing the bomb had hair in it and three different people's DNA.
Investigators worked at identifying the DNA, finding out where the fishing weights were purchased, and examining the tool marks on the device to match up with tools found at a potential suspect's residence.
Harpham's DNA was matched by pulling a sample from the Armed Forces Repository of Specimen Samples for the Identification of Remains, which was available because he had served in the Army. The agents also found that it was Harpham who purchased fishing weighs on several occasions at different stores.
Added to that, agents also quickly discovered that Harpham was a racist and antisemite who posted frequently on racist blogs under the name "Joe Snuffy."
At the end of the day, it was arguably the forensics work--DNA, tool marks, bomb components--that made the biggest difference in the case. And on the strength of that evidence and more, Harpham will spend the next 27 to 32 years in prison.