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This Maryland man ingested cyanide in open court. 20 years later, officials detonated explosives tied to him

The Baltimore Sun

When Marta Bradley found the mock performance evaluation describing her “caring heart” in her North Laurel home mailbox in 1997, she suspected her then-colleague Alan Bruce Chmurny harbored secret feelings for her.

"I felt like it was saying he couldn't live without me," she testified in 2001 during Chmurny’s Howard County trial for pouring mercury into the vents of her car as part of a long stalking case that culminated with the 57-year-old’s arrest.

To the shock and alarm of court officials and the community, Chmurny’s legal proceedings abruptly ended Sept. 12, 2001, when he swallowed a cyanide pill in open court — just minutes after a jury found him guilty of trying to poison Bradley. He was taken to Howard County General Hospital, where he died about a day later.

Nearly 20 years after Chmurny’s dramatic death, one more of his secrets may have surfaced this week. Deputy Maryland State Fire Marshals were notified Sunday that a box of explosives had been found in a wooded area of Linganore about a half-mile from where Chmurny once lived.

Howard County fire marshals said in a news release Monday that a passerby found the container, and in it bomb-making materials, a loaded handgun and a series of documents that connected the devices to Chmurny. Deputy fire marshals safely detonated the explosives.

Bradley did not respond to a request for comment Monday. In 2001, she told The Baltimore Sun the experience was “disturbing” and Chmurny’s actions gave her a “god-awful, scared-that-today-might-be-my-last-day feeling.”

The court case against Chmurny was built off of an incident in April 2000, when Bradley walked outside her home to retrieve tax documents from her Ford Taurus, police said at the time. When she opened the door, she noticed a silvery liquid on the seats and dashboard and called law enforcement.

Police arrested Chmurny after a sting operation that included a night-vision camera and searches that found a vial of mercury in his car and a map showing her house and locks of hair at his home, The Sun reported.

The jury’s guilty verdict meant the chemist for Oceanix Biosciences Corp. was facing a maximum penalty of more than 30 years in prison for the crimes. At one point during the multiple court proceedings, Bradley begged court officials to keep Chmurny away from her, as she said he had repeatedly violated a no-contact order and left a bomb threat in her car, The Sun reported at the time.

“We are glad that these dangerous materials were discovered and could be destroyed safely,” said State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci in the release this week. “It was quite a surprise to learn they were connected to an old criminal stalking case in which a woman could have been seriously harmed.”

Chmurny’s story is not unprecedented in Maryland, The Baltimore Sun reported in 2001. In a Montgomery County case in the early 1980s, a man and woman, who apparently had a suicide pact, swallowed cyanide crystals after the man was sentenced to pre-release detention for a petty drug charge, The Sun reported.

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