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Suspect -- Romantic liaison possible motive in van bombing

SAN DIEGO -- An alleged extramarital affair involving the ex-captain of a U.S. Navy ship that downed an Iranian passenger jet over the Persian Gulf in 1988 may provide a motive in a subsequent bombing of a van being driven by theskipper's wife, according to a published report Friday.

A reported suspect in the March pipe bombing of a van belonging to Navy Capt. Will Rogers told the San Diego Tribune that he believed the explosive was planted at the behest of Rogers or his alleged girlfriend, an unidentified 42-year-old woman living in Kensington, Md. She had no comment on the report, the newspaper reported.

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Sharon Rogers, the captain's wife, was driving the van when the explosive device, planted under the vehicle, detonated as she passed through an intersection near the family's home in the University City section of San Diego. Mrs. Rogers was unhurt.

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The bombing occurred eight months after Rogers, as commander of the Aegis cruiser USS Vincennes, mistakenly ordered his crew to shoot down an Iranian civilian jet over the Persian Gulf during hostilities there. All 290 people aboard the jet were killed.

The van bombing was widely held to be a terrorist reprisal for the Persian Gulf incident. While the FBI would neither pinpoint nor rule out that theory, several anonymous telephone calls claimed the bomb was planted by groups loyal to the late Ruhollah Ayatollah Khomeini.

But recent newspaper reports said former Navy Pilot George Marxmiller, a one-time acquaintance of Rogers, is a suspect in the van bombing. The FBI would not confirm that Marxmiller is a suspect.

The Tribune reported that Marxmiller, who failed one of two FBI-administered lie detector tests on the question of who he thought planted the bomb, lives near Atlanta and was interviewed in Decatur, Ga.

'I called the FBI and I said you might be looking in the wrong direction. I know for a fact he was having an affair,' the Tribune quoted Marxmiller as saying. Marxmiller has denied responsibility for the bombing, the newspaper reported.

Marxmiller said in the Tribune that Rogers and the Maryland woman carried on a three-year affair. Marxmiller said in the newspaper that the woman was a close friend of his estranged wife, Rebecca, who has filed for divorce and named both Rogers and the woman as potential witnesses in her lawsuit.

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The newspaper reported that Marxmiller, now a striking pilot with Eastern Airlines, produced pictures taken when the two couples spent a weekend together in Portland, Ore., while the Vincennes was docked there in 1987.

The pictures were described by the Tribune as showing Rogers and the woman embracing with the Vincennes in the background. The pictures did not appear in the newspaper.

Neither Rogers nor his wife, Sharon, could be reached for comment on Friday and the FBI refused to discuss the case.

Marxmiller was quoted by the Tribune as saying he contacted the FBI after the van bombing and told the agency of his suspicions concerning Rogers.

His attorney, Sidney Moore, Jr., said in the Tribune that Marxmiller flunked the lie detector test because he suspected that either Rogers or his alleged girlfriend may have played a role.

'He could just as easily have said 'yes' because his suspicion is that Rogers may have had something to do with it. But he answers the question 'no' and the machine reacts to his hesitancy,' the Tribune quoted Moore as saying.

Marxmiller told the Tribune he now regrets contacting the FBI and added, 'I told a couple of the FBI guys that one of these days they are going to call me up and apologize.'

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