By Jason A. Smith
Henry County sheriff's deputies serving an eviction notice on Friday discovered what they said appeared to be an explosive device in a cabinet in the home, authorities said.
Henry Sheriff Keith McBrayer said deputies went to the home, on Bryan's Path in the Benton Ranch subdivision, Friday morning, but the occupant was already gone.
"The house was empty when the officers got here," McBrayer said. "There were no occupants, and very little belongings left in the house."
McBrayer said authorities found what appeared to be an explosive device in a kitchen cabinet inside the home. The sheriff's office then enlisted the assistance of the FBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The Henry County Sheriff's Office was expected to charge the former homeowner, William Kent King, 55, with manufacture and possession of a hoax device on Friday evening, according to Henry County Sheriff's Maj. David Foster.
He said the charge could be upgraded, pending the results of tests by the ATF.
"Hopefully we will have results back from the lab in a couple of weeks, and we should know if it was a hoax device, or if it had some live components to it," Foster said.
Rusty Andrews, a special agent and bomb technician with the GBI, described the device found in the cabinet as being covered in masking tape, and containing several cylinders on the inside. The device, he continued, "could be" explosive in nature.
"At this point, I emphasize 'could be,' because we truly won't know until we have lab tests done on the components that were found inside the device," Andrews said. "We used a robot to pick it up, move it out of the kitchen area of the house, take it outside and set it down in a safe area outside the house."
He said a bomb squad used a "disruption tool" to blow the device apart in an effort to learn more about it, and neutralize any threat it might pose.
"What essentially will happen next is, we will be collecting up everything that was blown apart, and sending it to the lab to be analyzed, to determine if it did in fact contain explosives or not," Andrews said. "At this point, it is a possibility that it was a live explosive device. We can't say at this point that it wasn't."
McBrayer said deputies spoke with King on Thursday, and informed him they would be coming to the house Friday to evict him. It is unclear, McBrayer added, whether the device found in the home was placed there as a threat to sheriff's deputies.
However, McBrayer said it was clear to authorities that the device posed a potential danger.
"We don't know if the item had been there for quite some time, or was used for another purpose then forgotten about," McBrayer said. "It was enough that the bomb unit from the GBI looked at it, and they said, 'We can't tell enough about it. We've got to blow it up. It's too dangerous as it is.' They gave every impression that it was designed like a bomb that could go off."
Sally Maddox lives one street over from where authorities were gathered during the investigation. She was among the numerous residents who struggled, from a distance, to catch a glimpse of what was happening at the house.
Maddox said she was "shocked" to learn about a potential bomb in her neighborhood. "I was ... a little worried about my two boys, but I knew the police would take care of this," she said. "I figured if there was any danger, they wouldn't let us close."