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"It sounded like someone had fired a double-barrel shotgun," Ritter says. "It woke up the entire neighborhood; people were starting to come out of their houses."
The rear wheels of his 1988 Chevrolet Celebrity company car were blown off, the windshield imploded and a gaping hole torn through the trunk. Smoke billowed from the vehicle. The force of the explosion drove a hunk of metal into the front door of his house, some 25 feet away. Another piece of shrapnel lodged in a neighbor's bedroom wall. The homemade pipe bomb also blew out a window in the house across the street and drove a baseball-size piece of shrapnel into a post 100 feet away.
Investigators believe the bomb was a simple device, consisting of gunpowder packed in a steel pipe with matching cap ends. It apparently had been detonated by a slow-burning "cannon fuse."
When Tempe police detective Jeff Kendall asked Ritter who might have bombed his car, Ritter named three possible suspects: his ex-wife, Ginger Lyle; Ginger's husband, Don Lyle; and James Vosecky, Ginger's 17-year-old son from a previous marriage. Ritter said there was considerable animosity between the households; in 1988, after five years of legal wrangling, Ritter won from his ex-wife the custody of their daughter, Rebekah.
And Ginger Lyle wanted 8-year-old Rebekah back. Ritter suspected that either Ginger's husband or her son had planted the bomb to intimidate or kill him. Rebekah was safely out of harm's way that night, spending the night with her maternal grandparents.
Mary Morissey, a neighbor of Ritter's, told police she heard a loud "pop" and looked out to see flames shooting from beneath Ritter's car. She told her roommate to call the police and walked outside. As she got halfway down her driveway, she told investigators, she noticed a thin boy with straight, blond hair in what she described as an "anteater" cut--close-cropped on the top and sides, but longer in the back.
Ritter says James Vosecky wore his hair in an "anteater."
"He just stood there for about 15 seconds, then he loped off," Morissey says. "He looked like he was about 16. I'd never seen him before, and I thought it was strange that he'd just stand there for a moment."
The day after the bombing, Linda Fish, a receptionist at Ritter's office (he's a regional manager for a restaurant chain), received a threatening telephone call. Fish told Glendale police the caller--a man with a Southern accent--said, "Tell Carl Ritter to give us the drugs or the money or we'll blow up the restaurants."
Four days after the bombing, Ritter's ex-wife asked a Maricopa County court for an emergency change of custody. Without mentioning the telephone threat, Ginger alleged that Ritter was "addicted to drugs" and that he had abused the girl. Alluding to the bombing, she wrote, "Rebekah's physical and mental well-being are being threatened in the current environment. Rebekah desires, strongly, to live with her mother."
That same day, Detective Kendall interviewed Don and Ginger Lyle. Don said he was at an office party until after midnight on the night of the bombing; his story was verified by co-workers. Ginger claimed she was at her son James' apartment that evening. At around 11:15 p.m., James had left the apartment to meet a friend. She said both boys returned to the apartment at about 12:45 a.m.
Kendall's report states that Ginger told him she knew nothing about the bombing and that Carl Ritter was "mentally unstable" and "had been diagnosed as a sociopath" during their marriage. She suggested that Ritter may have made some enemies through his work and that a disgruntled former employee may have placed the bomb.
When, on January 19, 1990, Kendall contacted James Vosecky over the telephone, he told the detective he had gone to a movie with a friend at about 10 p.m. and that they had gone back to his apartment at about 12:45 a.m.
That was the last time anyone from the Tempe Police Department would talk to James Vosecky. The next time Kendall called, Ginger told the detective that James would speak to him only in the presence of their attorney, Alan Kyman. And Kyman told Kendall that Vosecky was not interested in answering any questions.
Since the bombing, Ginger has divorced Don Lyle and married her sixth husband.
When Ginger married Carl Ritter in 1981, she was 30 years old and had been previously married three times. Her first husband, whom she married when they were both 19, was killed in a car accident that almost killed Ginger, as well. She lost her left eye, and in the nearly two decades since the accident, she had more than 40 operations--mostly reconstructive surgeries.
She married her second husband--the natural father of her sons, James and Joshua--two years later. That marriage lasted two and a half years. Then she remarried at the age of 26. Her third husband adopted James and Joshua and the boys assumed his last name--Vosecky. After three years, that marriage was also done.
Then came Carl. He was 20 years old and a Christian. In court documents related to the custody case, Ginger says she was attracted to Ritter because he "presented himself as a Christian and somebody who was serious about having a long-term relationship." Ginger says she was raped at knife point in early 1981 and that a few hours after the attack, Ritter dropped by her apartment. When she told him the story, he suggested she move in with him. They were married within weeks, and Rebekah was born in January 1982.
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