Zuni home explodes

Published 12:02 pm Thursday, March 22, 2012

An explosion damaged the rental home of Lee and Donna Freeman at 6:30 a.m. Thursdsay. Damage was set at $75,000. GWEN ALBERS/TIDEWATER NEWS

WINDSOR—No one was hurt Thursday morning in an explosion at a Zuni home. The blast occurred at 6:30 a.m. in a room used for reloading ammunition.

Resident Lee Freeman had just walked out of the room when the explosion occurred at the home at 6208 W. Blackwater Road.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” said Freeman, whose wife, Donna, and two sons were home. “It took me a while to get my thoughts. It may be from the gunpowder in there.”

Capt. Rick Gaddis with the Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Office couldn’t say whether the explosion appeared accidental or suspicious.

“There was evidence of black powder used for hunting in the room that exploded,” Gaddis said. “We are working with the State Police bomb squad to determine what happened. The inside of that room is destroyed, literally. We have to sift through it. There’s no evidence of bomb-making.”

During the investigation, deputies found a small amount of suspected marijuana, Gaddis said. The investigation into the explosion was halted to get a search warrant after the drugs were allegedly found.

The insurance company estimated damage to the four-bedroom ranch home at $75,000, said homeowner Charles Pennington.

“It blew the rafters apart on the whole house,” he said.

Pennington, who has rented the home to the Freemans for 2½ years, also understood that Freeman used the room for reloading ammunition.

“He was real safe,” Pennington said.

His wife, Kelly Pennington, was sleeping in a nearby apartment when the explosion occurred. She heard nothing with the air conditioning and fan running, but lost her electricity.

“What blew, I have no idea,” Kelly Pennington said.

Donna Freeman theorizes an opossum that got into their home may have had something to do the explosion.

“We were trying to get the opossum out,” she said. “We were debating on how to get him out.”

That’s when the explosion occurred, Donna Freeman said.

“That’s the only explanation I can come up with at this time,” she said, noting the sound wasn’t that bad.

The opossum was killed.

“It’s in the doorway,” Lee Freeman said. “It was blown all to pieces.”

Gretchen Rither, who was visiting her parents, Karl and Kathy Bremer, on West Blackwater Road, was sleeping when the explosion occurred.

“I was in a deep sleep, and I heard a gunshot and an explosion,” Rither said. “I thought it was a dream. And then I heard sirens. I really thought it was a dream.”