Investigators: Two Pipe Bombs Caused Blast
Jul. 11, 1985
NAPLES, Fla. (AP) _ The blasts that blew up a station wagon, killing a tobacco heiress and her 21-year-old son and injuring her daughter, were caused by two pipe bombs packed with ''high-order explosives,'' investigators say.
One of the bombs had been planted near the front seat of the car and one near the rear seat, but authorities still do not know what detonated them, said Ralph Ostrowski, a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent.
The bombs consisted of galvanized metal pipes packed with ''extremely volatile, high-order explosives,'' Ostrowski said Wednesday.
About 40 pieces of the two devices were found around the demolished car, the Collier County Sheriff's Department said in a statement.
Margaret H. Benson, 63, of Naples; and her son, Scott, a tennis pro from Lancaster, Pa., were killed Tuesday morning when the bombs sent debris from the car rocketing up to 200 feet. Carol Benson Kendall, 40, of Boston, was injured.
Ms. Kendall, who received second- and third-degree burns on her neck and face, was in serious condition today in the Massachusetts General Hospital burn unit after she was flown to Boston on Wednesday, authorities said.
Investigators had no motive or suspects in the attack.
Mrs. Benson's elder son, Steven Wayne Benson, 33 of Fort Myers, was inside her house when the explosion occurred and was not injured, said Janet Lee Murphy of Lancaster, Mrs. Benson's sister.
Steven Benson and his wife, Debbie, were in protective custody at a Naples hotel, Mrs. Murphy said. He and his mother maintained an office in her house for Meridian Security Network Inc., which they founded together last year.
The firm installed burglar alarms and security systems in the wealthy Quail Creek neighborhood, a private, patrolled community in a county known as a haven for retired millionaires.
Charles Meyer, 69, was about to tee off at the adjacent Quail Creek Golf course when he heard the first of two explosions and ran to the burning vehicle in front of the Benson house.
''I've never seen anything burning that intensely,'' Meyer said.
He found Mrs. Benson lying dead on the driveway beside the Suburban and Mrs. Kendall writhing in pain. He began pulling her away from the vehicle.
''The car was an inferno,'' he said. ''She was screaming, 'I'm hot, I'm hot.'''
Meyer said he was knocked backwards and slightly injured by the second explosion, which drove a piece of shrapnel through his arm and into his chest. He was treated at a hospital and discharged.
Mrs. Kendall, the divorced mother of two teen-age sons, was studying film production at Boston University and had worked as a TV news director. At the time of the explosion, she was visiting her mother.
Mrs. Benson was the widow of Edward H. Benson, who died in Naples in 1980.
Edward Benson was chairman of the board of Lancaster Leaf Tobacco Co. of Lancaster, and served on the boards of several other national and international tobacco firms. The family is not related to the makers of Benson & Hedges cigarettes.
Mrs. Benson's father, Harry H. Hitchcock of Lancaster, founded the Lancaster firm, which was sold to Universal Leaf Tobacco of Richmond, Va.