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FBI examining background of man who died in Beaver Dam apartment explosion


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The explosive materials were too volatile to remove so they needed to be detonated in the apartment




BEAVER DAM - The man killed in an explosion in his apartment earlier this month was a 28-year-old technician at a local food company who had a background in chemistry.

Benjamin D. Morrow was identified through DNA analysis as the man who died in the March 5 explosion at Village Glen Apartments' Building 109. 

Officials have said they have no "known link to terrorism," but the investigation continues and the FBI is in charge of it. The agency on Wednesday asked that anyone with information call the FBI tip line at (800) 225-5324 and dial 3.

Explosive material was found in Morrow's apartment and officials assume he was making bombs that accidentally exploded and killed him, according to sources who are not authorized to speak on the record because it is an ongoing investigation.

Federal agents are investigating Morrow's history and possible connections with other people and groups, the sources said.

A native of Black Creek, Morrow had worked at Richelieu Foods in Beaver Dam for 10 months before his death, according to an obituary and his LinkedIn page. Morrow previously worked as a scientist at PPD Inc. in Madison, a research company specializing in drug development, from 2014 until last year.

He went to Pensacola Christian College in Florida, graduating in 2013 with a degree in pre-pharmacy and minors in chemistry and math. He was home-schooled before that and belonged to Victory Baptist Church in Appleton.

Morrow was described as a hard worker who enjoyed reading history, hiking and weightlifting, according to his obituary. His parents and sisters did not return calls for comment Wednesday.

Morrow’s death is a puzzle to all who knew him, said the Rev. Jerry Marsden. Marsden will preside at Morrow’s funeral service Thursday in Madison.

“I’d love to defend Ben because he has been described as a bomb maker and he’s not a bomb maker,” Marsden said. “He wasn’t a recluse as some have said he is. He was far from that.”

The Beaver Dam Police Department identified Morrow with DNA by working in cooperation with the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory in Madison, according to a news release.

Officials are planning to take the unusual step on Thursday of burning down the 16-unit apartment building where the explosion occurred. The presence of dangerous chemicals on site make it unsafe to try to salvage the building, officials said, citing the risk of another explosion or chemical exposure to workers. They have not publicly disclosed what chemicals were in apartment 11 where Morrow lived, only describing them as "extremely volatile and unstable explosives."

About 30 other people lived in the apartment building, on Knaup Drive. They were allowed to take out pets, but most other personal belongings were left behind and will now burn, officials said. Officials are intending to burn just Building 109, and will protect nearby buildings if the fire spreads.

Amy Nehls, Dodge County emergency management director, said the residents were "amazing" for their understanding of the decision to burn the building. 

"This was the most difficult news I have ever had to deliver," Nehls said.  "They understand life is more important than property and would not want anyone injured trying to retrieve property."

The explosion in which Morrow was killed occurred on March 5. A controlled detonation was conducted March 7 and a smaller explosion occurred March 8.


The explosive chemicals are in an apartment building where a man was killed in an explosion.


When authorities entered the building after the March 5 explosion, they learned of the presence of chemicals that were too volatile to be removed safely and that a controlled detonation would be the safest way to eliminate the threat.

Authorities then announced Sunday that they would have to burn Building 109 to eliminate the danger.

During the burn, nearby streets will be closed, neighbors evacuated and more than 20 fire departments brought in.




A Summa Canister and an AreaRaw Pro system are among the tools authorities will use to monitor air conditions near the controlled burn site in Beaver Dam, with the assistance of the EPA through Friday. The public should leave these devices alone, if spotted

EPA air quality monitoring equipment was to be present within the mandatory evacuation area Wednesday afternoon through Friday afternoon.

The equipment — a Summa Canister and an AreaRaw Pro system — may appear suspicious to the public but should be left alone if spotted, according to the Dodge County Office of Emergency Management. The equipment will send data from air samples directly to EPA staff, the office said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.



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