Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Miami News, May 7, 1976, "How Law Officers Tracked Suspects" by Louis Salome.

A red motorcycle, a dog-eared 15-month-old FBI memo and two bungled bombing attempts led police to make their first arrests in connection with a wave of terrorist bombings that began here two years ago.

A leader in the combined federal and local investigation was FBI agent George R. Kiszynski, a bomb expert. His principal quarry was a 25-year-old former history teacher, Antonio Raphael de la Cova of 960 Le Jeune Rd., who police said had a talent for planting bombs.

Kiszynski eventually pieced together the puzzle which led police in April to implement a seven-week, round-the-clock surveillance of de la Cova.

The hunt started last Nov. 18, when Kiszynski was called in to examine an unexploded pipe bomb left at the front screen door of a University of Miami dormitory apartment. Its occupant, Eliseo Perez-Stable was a staff member of Areito, a Spanish-language magazine which favored peaceful coexistence with Fidel Castro.

While checking out Areito - a national magazine with headquarters in New York and bureaus in several states - Kiszynski learned the name of Vicente Dopico, a member of its editorial board.

Almost four months later, Kiszynski was called in to investigate the attempted fire-bombing of Dopico's home at 450 NW 43rd Place.

As Kiszynski was cruising the area near the Dopico home, he saw a man riding a red motorcycle. Kiszynski followed the motorcycle south on Le Jeune Road and managed to force the rider to the side of the road.

"The rider was a white male, young, about mid-20s, Latin, wearing metal rim aviator glasses and dark clothing" - but as he got out of his car to question the rider, the man took off, fleeing through the yards of two homes.

Kiszynski had gotten a good look at Antonio Raphael de la Cova, but it took some digging and some luck for him to match the name to the face.

With the visual evidence in his head, Kiszynski returned to FBI headquarters here and found a memo written by Agent Joseph S. Dawson dated Jan. 10, 1975, 15 months earlier.

That memo said de la Cova, then a student at Florida Atlantic University, living at 311 SW 31st Ave., Fort Lauderdale, reported to the FBI that he had been accused by police in Boca Raton of stealing documents belonging to one of the officers of Areito. The memo related how de la Cova explained that some students at Florida Atlantic University favored the Castro regime.

To penetrate the magazine's hierarchy and learn more, de la Cova told Dawson, he had become friendly with some of Areito's leaders. But he denied stealing documents and offered to take a lie detector test, according to Dawson's memo.

Kiszynski tracked down a picture of de la Cova and now he had the identity of the man on the red motorcycle he had flagged down a few weeks earlier.

From that time in mid-April, a dragnet of police kept watch on de la Cova's every move. It paid off at 1:30 a.m. yesterday.

Police got the break they wanted Wednesday when a Metro investigation spotted de la Cova "reconnoitering" the 3400 block of SW 8th Street.

That investigator, David S. Nye, recalled that some Cubans had picketed the Mini-Adult Books store at 3458 SW 8th St. a couple of weeks earlier.

The police watch continued that same day and detectives saw de la Cova leave his apartment at 8 p.m. in a faded beige Volkswagen with a sunroof, heading north.

Other detectives saw an old school chum of de la Cova's, Gary E. Latham, leave his home at 1721 NW 15th Vista, Boca Raton, about 7:20 p.m. driving a 1974 Pinto.

At 9:16 p.m., two persons, one of them de la Cova, entered Latham's apartment. The other man was unidentified at the time. Shortly after, Latham returned home and at 9:37 p.m. the trio left in Latham's Pinto.

About 11:10 p.m., the three man returned to Latham's apartment and de la Cova was carrying "what appeared to be a heavy satchel or suitcase," FBI Agent Federico Villalobos said.

Shortly after midnight, the three men headed down Interstate 95 towards Dade County. The brown, three-door Pinto eventually stopped in the 3400 block of SW 8th Street.

Police said de la Cova, carrying a package, and another unidentified white male left the car and walked up 34th Avenue and turned up toward the adult bookstore.

When police moved in to arrest the pair, de la Cova tried to flee, dropping the package.

At this point, a small mystery creeps into the police account: There is no further mention of de la Cova's companion on the street. It is unclear how he escaped and police have refused to comment on the point.

After the arrest of de la Cova, other officers "almost simultaneously" moved in on the Pinto and arrested Latham and a man identified as Blas Jesus Corbo, address unknown.

That makes three men. However, if the police affidavit is accurate, there were four men on the scene - two in the car and two, including de la Cova, on the street.

Another mystery is Corbo himself. Police at first said his address was 660 Collins Ave. Miami Beach. But, the manager of the apartment at the address had no record of Corbo living in the building and other tenants said they had never heard of him.

Much more is known about Latham, who had been chums with de la Cova since elementary school.

When police searched Latham's home in Boca Raton, they found a shotgun, hand grenade, gelatin-type explosives and completed pipe bombs. Police called it a "bomb factory."

There were also reports from police that other parts of the dynamite allegedly planned for use at the adult bookstore were found in Latham's home.

An honor student in physics at FAU, Latham was regarded as virtually a hermit by his neighbors.

"This doesn't sound like the one I know," said Eve Magnuson, a neighbor. "We thought he was a hermit. He never had any visitors. He doesn't know anyone. You hardly knew he was there."

In his apartment, police found several books and publications on bombs, including one on how to defuse bombs by Metro's detonations expert Tom Brodie, who defused the explosive allegedly dropped on 8th Street by de la Cova yesterday morning.

The three men were charged with violating a series of state and federal laws. They are being held in Broward County Jail on $200,000 bond each.

Police have indicated that the arrests may lead to a breakthrough in solving other bombings that have been occurring in the Miami area with increasing frequency in the past two years. Since Jan. 1, 1975, there have been 80 of them attempted, 47 of which resulted in actual detonations.

Police hinted in the affidavits seeking warrants to search the apartments of de la Cova and Latham that the latter may have been involved in a series of five bombings last Dec. 3. But they stopped short of making a direct connection.

The state of terror that has gripped parts of Miami's Cuban community was shown by an incident yesterday afternoon at WQBA, a Spanish-language radio station whose news director, Emilio Milian, had his legs blown off by a bomb last Friday.

A WQBA spokesman said a suspicious-looking package addressed to Milian arrived in the mail. It had no return address.

Station officials promptly evacuated the building and called Metro's bomb squad. The bomb squad arrived and gingerly opened the 10-by-12 inch package.

It contained a Bible.