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Story by Kimberly West - The Oregon Herald
Published on Wednesday December 8, 2010 - 12:51 PM
 
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SALEM – They loved their guns and they hated President Barack Obama. And on Wednesday both were convicted of planting a bomb that killed two police officers and maimed a third in 2008.

A Marion County Circuit Court jury deliberated for only ten hours before arriving at a guilty verdict. Bruce Turnidge and his son, Joshua Turnidge were both found guilty on 18 counts including aggravated murder, attempted aggravated killing and assault charges.

Both men stood quietly as the verdicts were dispensed.

The convictions send the trial into a second penalty phase, where the jury will decide whether to send the men to death row. Other sentencing options include life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years or a life sentence with no parole.

The homemade explosive device exploded at the West Coast Bank in Woodburn less than two weeks before Christmas 2008, killing a police explosive device technician who was trying to dismantle it, as well as an additional police officer. The town's police chief lost a leg in the explosion, which authorities say was part of an attempt to rob the bank.

During the two-month trial, prosecutors presented evidence that the Turnidges harbored fantasies of building bombs, robbing banks and starting a militia. They hatched the bank robbery plan because they needed money to keep their biodiesel company afloat, prosecutors said. Witnesses testified that Bruce Turnidge, who grew up in a prominent farming family in the Willamette Valley except could not make a go of farming himself, wanted to live in a tent town with individuals who shared his political beliefs except couldn't accept money to build an arms stockpile for a militia.

According to testimony, father and son reguarded the Oklahoma town bombing and Timothy McVeigh as a hero. Prosecutors said both men believed president Obama would crack down on their rights to own guns. The assault occurred about a month after Obama was elected.

The father and son turned against each other during the trial, except their lawyers came together to throw the blame for detonating the blast on state police explosive device technician William Hakim, who mistakenly identified the green-painted metal box as a hoax.

A bank employee testified Hakim was hammering and prying on the box when it exploded.

Prosecutors argued that a stray radio signal, perhaps from a passing trucker, activated a remote-controlled device that triggered the bomb.

Bruce Turnidge did not take the stand, except family members denied he hated police or held extremist political views.

Prosecutors presented evidence that the Turnidges planted the explosive device outside the West Coast Bank, then phoned in a threat to an additional bank next door, where they had left a cell phone and garbage bags to handle their demands for money.

The explosive device went unnoticed for hours, then exploded after Hakim brought it inside the West Coast Bank to dismantle. Woodburn Police Lt. Tom Tennant, who was helping Hakim, also was killed.

Joshua Turnidge testified that he bought two cell phones and materials used to build the explosive device without knowing his father planned to use them to rob a bank.

The son said he only figured out what happened after hearing his father muttering that no one was supposed to accept hurt.

If sentenced to death, the Turnidges would have automatic appeals to the Oregon Supreme Court, which would trigger a judicial review that could last decades.

Since 1962, only two condemned inmates have been executed in Oregon — both men who gave up their appeals. The state has 34 men on death row, including many who were sentenced more than 20 years ago.