Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
By Mike Nistler
Special to the Tri-County News
SOMETIME IN THE early morning hours of May 13, 1976, a mailbag was delivered to the Kimball Post Office from Minneapolis for delivery that day.
Inside that bag, along with letters and bills, post cards and junk mail, was a package containing a pea-green tackle box. It wasn't filled with lures and bobbers, hooks and sinkers. It contained a bomb.
In his house a few miles away, Ivend Holen slept.
Little did the assistant postmaster know that in a few short hours, he and that package would intersect as he sorted mail at the Kimball Post Office on that sunny May morning.
The beauty of that spring day would be interrupted by an explosion when Holen handled the package containing that tackle box.
The explosion that claimed Holen's life occurred at 6:42 a.m. The clock on the post office wall fell to the floor and stopped. Holen was blown out the back door of the post office. He would first lose a leg in the explosion and then later his life in the ambulance on his way to the hospital.
And even though it's been more than 36 years, authorities are still trying to find out who was responsible for the murder of Holen. To do that, they need to find out more about that pea-green tackle box, which they revealed knowledge of for the first time this summer.
Postal Inspector Virginia Lalley, who has been assigned the post office bombing case for the past six years, hopes that someone may remember seeing a similar tackle box in someone's house or garage, boat or vehicle.
Of course, the original tackle box used to house the bomb was blown to pieces. But the replica is an exact match. It is 13 inches long, 6 inches wide and 4 inches deep.
The tackle box was made of metal and had the words "Old Pal" etched on top, along with a picture of a fish. Said Lalley, "It was a somewhat popular brand of tackle box at the time sold at local hardware stores."
Remembrances of that morning
Joe and Paul Schoenfelder had a front-row seat to the event, and it was a bit too close for comfort.
"My brother had just got done putting the Minneapolis Tribune
paper in the handle of the door and was on the sidewalk in front of the building when it blew up," remembers Paul Schoenfelder, who was 12 at the time. His brother Joe was 14.
"I was across the street at Knaus Sausage House delivering their paper. The force of the explosion threw (Joe) into the street about 20 feet. He suffered a few bruises and scrapes."
For Bob Greeley, then an 18-year-old high school senior, the bombing holds special significance because his father, Alton "Stretch" Greeley, was a substitute mail carrier at the time. Stretch (an old baseball nickname) was only minutes away from the post office when the explosion occurred.
"Dad, for some reason, was running a couple of minutes late," said Greeley, now 55 and living in Shakopee. "I remember much of this tragic, very unfortunate situation like it was yesterday."
"Dad drove up to work running a couple of minutes late and upon his arrival at the back side alley entrance of the post office was mayhem. Ivend Holen, was hanging onto life from an apparent explosion that had occurred inside the post office. Local fire department and others were trying to save his life.
"Ivend, up until that point that morning, was working alone as he normally would before the others would come into work," Greeley said. "Besides my dad coming in, others at the post office I am sure were also en route or were called to get to the post office ASAP. Clayton Linn was the Kimball postmaster at that time, along with other carriers Vern Schaefer, Howard Bormann, and clerk Betty Stelton."
Greeley remembers is father returning home at about 7 a.m. and taking him to the post office with him.
"I couldn't get close, as authorities had blocked off the area. I saw the back steel door blackened and ajar off its hinges. I remember the smell of smoke. Word upon our arrival from Clayton was that Ivend had died en route to the
St. Cloud Hospital."
A town mourns, worries, wonders
It took a while for things to return to normal in Kimball. Certainly the summer was filled with angst for many, especially those residents along Kimball's Route 1 - north of Minnesota Highway 55 - who were questioned by authorities.
Said Greeley, "My dad's next few days were spent helping with the set-up of a temporary post office trailer that was placed in town between the then Church of Christ building and the old high school on the north side of the street next to the sidewalk. He was questioned by many postal investigators in town and also in our home kitchen over many days and weeks."
Route 1 came under suspicion at the time because of where the explosion occurred in the post office.
"The thought then was that Ivend happened to lightly toss the package containing the bomb onto the Rural Route 1 pile as that is where the explosion occurred and that is where typically he sorted the two package piles by rural route," Greeley said about a fact that people learned in the investigation that followed.
But postal inspector Lalley said that assumption might have not been accurate and may have limited the investigation at the time, although, she said, several "spin-off" interviews were conducted to follow up on the case and widen the search.
There has been at least one person who was a suspect early on and has been cleared, Lalley said. But every time a story is published in the media, another tip or two comes in and is investigated. Since news of the green tackle box was released this summer, two calls with tips have come into the FBI offices, Lalley said. Those were checked out and cleared.
Lalley said that the transcripts of the early investigation make for "fascinating reading." It is reading that most won't be able to access because the files are closed because of the bombing is still an active investigation.
Lalley said that there are file cabinets full of material amassed over the past 36 years. So much, in fact, that there's a special room at the Postal Inspector offices in St. Paul called "the Kimball Room" to house all of the information.
She also said that the unsolved crime is a rarity. Most crimes of this nature are usually solved.
A $100,000 reward is being offered for helping solve this case. Call (877) 876-2455 with information. You can also contact Postal Inspector Virginia Lalley at (651) 775-5720 or Postal Inspector Kate Nichols at (651) 775-5723.