Man in booby-trapped house called quiet and 'eccentric'

BODFISH, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Neighbors on a quiet Bodfish street are shocked at word a nearby house was apparently booby-trapped, and inside a man was found dead near some explosive devices.

Several neighbors said Monday that the man who lived in the house had rented it for years, and they described him as an "old hippy," eccentric, quiet and friendly.

On Monday morning, the Kern County Sheriff's bomb squad was still on North Salaine Drive where the man's body was found over the weekend.

By Monday evening, the department reported they had found "one additional armed device," after a couple were first located on Saturday.

Neighbor Nancy Puckett lives several doors away, and heard an explosion Friday night.

"We heard a loud boom at 10 on Friday," Puckett told Eyewitness News. "It was very loud."

She said that was after sheriff deputies had stopped by the house to check on the resident.

"Just a local sheriff deputy, I think, came Friday night on a 'check the welfare,' because somebody hadn't seen this guy, and they were just worried about him," she said.

Sheriff officials tried to reach the resident Friday night, but got no response, according to Sr. Deputy Victor Keesey. He says at that point a robot was sent inside, but there was also no contact with anyone. They decided to send out the bomb squad on Saturday when there was daylight.

Keesey said those officers got in and found a man's body. "In addition to the deceased male, they also located one live explosive and one expended explosive device," he said. Officers determined neighboring houses were safe, but started carefully going through the home were the explosives were found. They reportedly checked the entire property.

"They've found several explosive devices," Puckett said at about noon on Monday. "They even found one in the yard today." She was waiting for the OK to head back to her house.

Puckett said the man living in the house was familiar to all the neighbors.

"He was just kind of an eccentric guy," she said. "Everybody just knew him as that old hippy guy that lived on the street." Puckett described the man as very quiet.

Neighbor Natalie Davis also called him friendly. "He never caused any problems, he lived here for ten years," she said. "Rides a bike back and forth, always waves at everybody. No idea this was going on, absolutely none."

She described the man as perhaps in his 60s. "Had a long ponytail," Davis said. "Long hair, grey hair." She doesn't think she ever spotted any relatives visiting the man, but she thinks he may have a daughter.

Puckett wouldn't speculate on how the man died near the explosives. "Just knowing this guy, I couldn't tell you whether it was, he meant to do it, or it was an accident," she said.

Both women were surprised at word the house could have been booby-trapped. Puckett speculated the man may have worried about keeping vandals away.

"That's strange, he was a little quirky, but no idea that was going on," Davis said. And now she thinks about the potential danger. "People go in there, and he has animals that walk around. He has a cat, never set anything off," she says.

By Monday night, the sheriff's department reported the coroner's office was investigating the cause of death, and they had not yet released the name of the man who died.

Neighbors said having the bomb squad on their block for more than two days was a disruption, but they were grateful for it.

"I'm glad they're here because we have kids in the neighborhood," Natalie Davis said. "It's amazing nobody's gotten hurt."