Explosive materials seized from Boise house in November were ingredients for black powder

jsowell@idahostatesman.comJanuary 31, 2014 

Joshua Finch.JPG

Joshua Finch

Ever since more than 100 pounds of explosive materials were taken from a crawlspace beneath a home in the 2200 block of West Dorian Street, authorities have not specified what they were.

But on Friday, the prosecutor handling the case against Joshua James Finch, 32, said the dry ingredients taken from the house are commonly used to make black powder, used in vintage flintlock muskets and pistols and also as a component in pipe bombs.

Potassium nitrate was one of the chemicals found in the house, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Fafa Alidjani said. Potassium nitrate, commonly known as saltpeter, is a component in fertilizers, fireworks and has been used for centuries to preserve meat.

Black powder is made by combining potassium nitrate, charcoal and sulfur, according to "The Complete Blackpowder Handbook," a 2006 book by Sam Fadala.

"None of those ingredients are illegal to have by themselves," Alidjani said. "(Finch) wasn't using them in a recreational manner."

She said that from the evidence collected at the home, located southeast of South Vista Avenue and West Overland Road, it appeared Finch was building pipe bombs.

"We're not sure what he planned to do," Alidjani said.

The cache of materials was found in a tiny crawlspace below a bedroom shared by Finch's 4-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter, according to the indictment. Earlier reports said only that the materials were found "near" the bedroom.

Alidjani took the case before a grand jury rather than hold a preliminary hearing. By using a grand jury, the prosecution is able to question witnesses in private without the defense or media present. A preliminary hearing, held before a judge, is open to the public and forces the prosecution to reveal enough evidence to convince the judge to bind over the defendant for trial.

Police went to Finch's home on Nov. 6 after hearing he was stockpiling guns, ammunition, body armor and bomb-making materials in his house. They learned that two days earlier Finch had allegedly held the parents of his girlfriend captive in the home after they confronted him about the explosives.

Residents of 21 nearby homes were evacuated for several hours as officers searched the house for explosives. The following day, residents in about eight houses were evacuated as police removed additional materials from the house.

The grand jury indicted Finch on all but one of the seven counts he was charged with after the seizure. He is scheduled to be arraigned in Ada County Fourth District Court on Feb. 10.

He was originally charged with two counts of second-degree kidnapping for detaining his girlfriend's parents. The grand jury indicted him for kidnapping the father for allegedly grabbing him by the shirt, but did not bring a charge against Finch for acts against the mother.

Finch is also charged with unlawful possession of a destructive device, two counts of felony injury to a child and two counts of unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon.

He is prohibited from owning a gun because of a 2006 aggravated assault conviction. Police seized an AR-15 assault rifle and a semi-automatic Ruger P95 from the home.

Finch has previous convictions for battery, driving under the influence and possession of drug paraphernalia. In 2006, he was charged with robbery and several other offenses, but pleaded the robbery down to aggravated assault — later violating his probation in that case twice.

In December, Finch was convicted of disorderly conduct and malicious destruction of property for an incident that took place in September. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail.

He has remained in the Ada County Jail since his November arrest in the explosives and kidnapping case. Bail is set at $1 million.

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