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06/11/91

CONTACT: Stanford University News Service (415) 723-2558

Student arrested in April smokebomb incident

STANFORD -- Stanford police have arrested a student on felony charges stemming from a smokebomb incident that disrupted sorority "rush" week in April, investigators said.

John Brown Witchel, 23, a senior majoring in political science, admitted to making the incendiary devices after police linked him to the crime through credit card receipts, Sgt. Rick Tipton said.

Tipton said the timing components of the devices were of a brand sold only by Radio Shack stores.

"We found that one person using credit cards had bought the clocks," Tipton said. "He was trying to cover his tracks by going to different stores on different days."

Tipton said once it was established that the clocks were purchased by Witchel, other receipts showed he also purchased at the Radio Shack stores other items used in the devices, such as batteries, wire and solder.

Witchel surrendered Wednesday, June 5, and was booked into Santa Clara County's North County Jail in Palo Alto on suspicion of felony arson and possession of a destructive device in and around a college campus. He was released after posting bail.

Tipton said Witchel's apparent motive was disruption of the sorority event.

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