March 30, 2023

Poisoner’s suicide note: ‘I acted alone’

PORTLAND – The suicide note left by the only person implicated in the arsenic poisonings at a church in New Sweden three years ago says he acted alone.

Daniel Bondeson’s note, handwritten and streaked with blood, was found in the farmhouse where he shot himself on May 2, 2003, five days after the poisonings at Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church that killed one church member and sickened 15 others. Police have refused to release the note on grounds of confidentiality.

The Portland Press Herald reported Saturday that it obtained the note’s contents from a police affidavit filed in a Massachusetts court on May 10, 2003, in connection with a request for a warrant to search the Amesbury, Mass., home of Bondeson’s sister, Norma.

“I acted alone. I acted alone. One dumb poor judgement ruins life but I did wrong,” read the note, in which the first “I acted alone” was underlined.

The note said Bondeson, 53, did not know that the chemical he put in the coffeepot before church members gathered socially after the Aug. 27, 2003, Sunday service was arsenic.

“I thought it was something? I had no intent to hurt this way. Just to upset stomach, like the church goers did me,” the note read.

Despite the suicide note, police said early in the investigation that they believed that the poisonings sprang from an internal dispute within the church and that Bondeson had at least one accomplice. Investigators maintained that stance until Tuesday, when they declared the case closed and said there was insufficient evidence to show that anyone other than Bondeson was involved.

Investigators also said Bondeson sought to retaliate against church members for something he felt they had done to him and that it was unclear whether his reference to his own “upset stomach” was literal or figurative.

The police affidavit that revealed the note’s contents said police believed that Norma Bondeson, who was not in New Sweden at the time of the church incident, had been poisoned by arsenic, either deliberately or unintentionally.

The affidavit said the owner of the Amesbury home, Sanford Carlisle, told police that around the time of the poisonings, Norma Bondeson was “very ill and experiencing vomiting and diarrhea,” the same symptoms exhibited by ill church members.

The police affidavit asked that “Norma Bondeson be physically taken into custody, taken to a medical facility, monitored for 24 hours, and any and all urine specimens from the body of Norma Bondeson be taken, for the purpose of analysis by a laboratory proficient to test urine for the presence of arsenic.”

Deputy Attorney General William Stokes said Friday he did not know whether that testing was done.

Norma Bondeson has declined interview requests during the three-year investigation.

The day before his suicide, Daniel Bondeson consulted with attorney Peter Kelley of Caribou, who until Tuesday had refused to divulge publicly what Bondeson told him because of attorney-client privilege that remains in force after death.

Kelley said the contents of the suicide note were consistent with what Bondeson told him.

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