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Six Teens Charged in Mailbox Blasts

Since alerting area residents two weeks ago to be aware of possible explosives in their mailboxes, the Fairfax County Fire Marshal's office has arrested six teen-agers in connection with the case.

They're all males and, last Monday, May 12, each was charged with one count of the "manufacture, possession or use of explosive materials or devices." Since this crime is categorized as a Class 5 felony, if convicted, each boy could receive as much as 10 years in prison.

Fire investigators worked countless hours interviewing witnesses and suspects, as well as collecting and identifying evidence from each of the crime scenes where the mailbox explosives were found.

Since the end of March, the fire department had investigated 12 incidents involving improvised explosive devices placed in mailboxes in the Chantilly and Centreville/Clifton areas. On Monday, fire department spokesman Mark Stone said no new cases had been reported in Fairfax County.

To create the explosions, say authorities, containers — primarily plastic beverage bottles — were rigged with caustic substances that created a pressurized atmosphere within a closed environment. This, in turn, made the containers explode — often causing damage to surrounding objects, including the mailboxes.

Local residents are still cautioned to be wary. "Although we've had no injuries to date, these things are still capable of causing serious injuries — not only to unsuspecting passersby, but also to anyone attempting to manufacture them," explained Stone.

"While we're fairly comfortable that we got the persons involved, we don't want people to let their guard down," he continued. "And anytime they see something of a suspicious nature, they should report it."

<tgl> — Bonnie Hobbs