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Roberts pipe bomb suspects charged; device fashioned from mag-light

Rob Wayne Graves, 48 (left) and Mark William Ellestad, 38

Two River Falls men were gathering up discarded snack chips in Roberts when police discovered a homemade explosive inside the car they were in, according to charges made public Wednesday.

Mark William Ellestad, 38, and Rob Wayne Graves, 48, were both charged Wednesday in St. Croix County Circuit Court with felony possession of an improvised explosive device and methamphetamine possession, also a felony. The men were also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor.

Ellestad and Graves were arrested Tuesday, March 10, in the Frito-Lay parking lot on Packer Drive in Roberts.

St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Eric Lundell set bail at $5,000 for both men during an arraignment hearing Wednesday.

According to a criminal complaint, a Roberts police officer was on patrol at 1:56 a.m. Tuesday when he spotted a vehicle in the Frito-Lay parking lot. The passenger, identified as Graves, told the officer he was getting chips from a dumpster in the parking lot -- a practice he said others had told him about in order to scrounge discarded chips, the complaint states.

Police searched the car after learning Ellestad was out on bail for two open felony cases in Pierce County.

A St. Croix County K-9 unit examined the car and alerted officers to possible narcotics. Police then searched the car, which allegedly contained a suspected meth pipe in the glove box.

According to the complaint, police also found a “mag-light”-style flashlight containing wire wrapped in plastic with a nickel coin placed near the lens.

Closer examination of the flashlight revealed it contained a large amount of black powder. The wire inside the flashlight was a fuse, the complaint states.

The discovery set off an hours-long incident prompting the Marathon County bomb squad to be deployed. Several nearby businesses were evacuated during the incident, which required a portion of U.S. Highway 12 to be closed during the Tuesday morning commute. The bomb squad later rendered the device harmless; no one was injured during the incident.

Hypodermic needles were also found “within throwing distance” of the car, the complaint states. Officers also found a digital scale in the car containing suspected meth residue, according to the complaint.

Police also located a cable cutter, a bolt cutter and a hammer in the back of the car. The trunk contained numerous boxes and bags of chips that appeared to have come from the dumpster, according to the complaint.

During an interview with Roberts police, Graves admitted to using the pipe for meth, but denied knowing anything about the pipe bomb, the complaint states. Ellestad, who was also charged with two counts of bail jumping, did not speak to police, according to the complaint.

The complaint states the investigation is ongoing.

Possession of an improvised explosive carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison or a $10,000 fine. The meth-related charge carries a maximum penalty of more than three years in prison or a $10,000 fine.

Ellestad and Graves return to court Tuesday, March 17, for a preliminary hearing.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

(715) 426-1072
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