By Liam Dacko
The break in the September bomb threat case, which led to the evacuation of the campus, did not come because of DNA evidence or fingerprint analysis.
It came after officers discovered a swastika in a men’s bathroom in the Old Student Union. Campus Police quickly got to work reviewing surveillance footage in that area after finding the graffiti.
Within a day, a suspect was in custody, police obtained a confession and members of the college breathed a sigh of relief.
Now, College officials are reviewing investigative procedures and evacuation protocols to see what worked best and what they can do better.
“There’s been one initial review,” Police Chief Peter Carnes said. “That was done with all the stakeholders and all the people involved [with the evacuation]. We will be following up by reviewing our emergency plans. We do this anyway. This case does not cause us to do it again. We just routinely do it.”
Carnes said this review would focus on the College’s community notification system and evacuation procedures.
The main concern of Stonehill’s administrators during this investigation was the safety of the school community, said Carnes, who stressed the suspect did not have access to weapons.
“Obviously, any threat against our campus, against our students, faculty, staff, we take very seriously. We’ll always go the extra mile to keep people safe,” he said.
The main break in the bomb threat case came Oct. 13 when Sgt. David Wordell saw a swastika written in green ink in the men’s restroom on the first floor of the Old Student Union, according to a Stonehill College police report filed in Taunton District Court.
Upon discovery of the drawing, Wordell immediately alerted Chief Peter Carnes and Lt. Detective David Bamford. He also contacted Massachusetts State Police to respond to the scene, the report said. Wordell requested that Crime Scene Services come to campus to process evidence in the case.
Carnes said outside law enforcement was helpful assisting with the investigation.
“Everybody pulled together,” he said.
As part of the investigation into the graffiti, Bamford reviewed surveillance footage to determine who was responsible. Following the discovery of the threat Sept. 24, College officials arranged for the company SIEMENS to install three cameras in the area. In total, the College has 50 cameras across campus.
According to the police report, Bamford determined from the footage that a male wearing a white Stonehill College sweatshirt and orange or pink shorts stopped at the area where the swastika was drawn Oct. 9 at approximately 1:51 p.m. He remained there for several seconds and was holding a writing instrument.
Upon review, investigators determined the suspect entered classroom 108 in the Old Student Union after leaving the bathroom, as he could not be seen exiting the building, the report said.
Following the discovery of this footage, Campus Police Lt. Cathy Farrington obtained a class list for the course in session in classroom 108 at the time of the incident. Authorities discovered the suspect bore a resemblance to Benjamin DiBiase, according to a police report filed in Taunton District Court.
DiBiase, 21, is a commuter student from Wellesley, Mass. According to the College, he transferred to Stonehill in 2014 and is a junior studying management.
Bamford said in a report that DiBiase was asked Oct. 13 to come to a conference room in the Old Student Union at approximately 2:20 p.m. Massachusetts State Trooper Chad Laliberte proceeded to interview DiBiase after he arrived.
“After a period of questioning, Mr. DiBiase admitted to writing the swastika on the wall of the men’s room on October 9,” Bamford said in his report.
Later in the interview, DiBiase also admitted to leaving a box labelled “BOMB” and a threatening note in a stall in the same bathroom Sept. 24, an action that resulted in the College’s closure Sept. 25.
“A bomb will go off today around 3:30 pm. Shootings will occur tomorrow all day. It will be like Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Virginia Tech all over again. There will be no survivors. Blood will be shed,” the note said. The note also included a drawing of a swastika, according to the police report.
DiBiase told authorities he made the threat because he wanted avoid taking a calculus exam, according to the papers filed in court. He also told officers he was fascinated with school shootings and admitted to having associations with people connected to Neo-Nazism, the court papers noted. Carnes said DiBiase did not bring a gun to campus.
“To the best of our knowledge, he had no access to firearms,” he said. “We did a complete check on that.”
Bamford’s report notes DiBiase said he would likely kill himself if he had access to a gun.
Police searched DiBiase’s home after his interview with police.
“As part of the investigation, we also did a search warrant at his home in Wellesley and that was for recovery of evidence. In a time like that, you look for the means that the threat was written,” Carnes said.
DiBiase said he printed the note and obtained the box from his home in Wellesley, according to Bamford’s report.
Following the interview, Massachusetts State Police took DiBiase into custody. He was interim suspended from the College and banned from campus.
Carnes informed the College of DiBiase’s arrest in a Campus Safety Update sent via email Oct. 15 at approximately 8 a.m.
“I take this opportunity to thank everyone in the Stonehill community for their strength and cooperation during these past few weeks. In addition, I extend my gratitude to the Easton Police Department, the Easton Fire Department, and the Massachusetts State Police for the outstanding assistance and support they have provided to us throughout the case,” Carnes said.
Due to privacy reasons, Carnes said he did not release DiBiase’s name in the Campus Safety Update. However, the names of suspects under arrest are public information and his name was made available through the court.
Taunton District Court Judge Paul J. McCalum ordered DiBiase held without bail at his arraignment Thursday, Oct. 15.DiBiase is charged with possession of a hoax incendiary device, defacing property, and making a bomb threat with serious public alarm, according to the police report. He plead not guilty to all charges.
Taunton District Court Judge Paula J. Clifford ordered DiBiase to undergo a 20-day psychiatric evaluation at Bridgewater State Hospital at his dangerous hearing Tuesday, Oct. 20.
DiBiase will reappear in court Nov. 9, at which time another dangerousness hearing will take place.
“At that hearing, there will be a review of the circumstances of the case and a determination of whether or not he is eligible for release on bail,” Carnes said.
As the case continues to move through the court system, Stonehill officials will remain involved.
“Both Lieutenant Detective Bamford and myself will be involved in the case as far as providing testimony when necessary,” Carnes said.