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St. Louis car bomb victim fears state charges could be dropped against her attacker | I-Team

Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner's Office is being accused of violating the suspect's rights to a speedy trial

ST. LOUIS — Katie Motes thought lightning had struck her car outside her home just after 5 a.m. on Sept. 2, 2018.

“I was awakened to my entire house violently shaking and all the windows were vibrating and there was a huge explosion outside,” she recalled in an exclusive interview with the I-Team. “I looked out the window and I saw that my car was engulfed in flames.

“So I ran downstairs to get my child up and out of bed and tell him to get out of the house, there's been an explosion. And by the time I got upstairs and ran outside, it was in a massive ball of fire.”

When police arrived, they told her it was no lightning strike, or car malfunction, but rather someone had put a bomb under her MINI Cooper.

“When they asked me if I knew whether anyone would want to hurt me or my son, I said, ‘Yes, my ex-husband,’” she recalled.

Credit: Doug Howell
Car bomb victim Katie Motes fears her attacker, her ex-husband Dean McBaine, could be released without being convicted of state charges due to an oversight by the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office.

Now, four years later, Motes fears her ex-husband, Dean McBaine, will never spend a day in prison for the actual bombing due to an oversight on the part of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office.

“I don't have a lot of hope right now,” she said as tears collected in her eyes. “I'm really helpless. I have tried to reach out and do everything I can, and I've also tried to protect my life and my son's life the best I can.”

A spokeswoman for Gardner’s office said prosecutors will not comment on a pending case.

A judge is expected to hear McBaine’s argument to dismiss the charges against him Wednesday.

Should the judge find Assistant Circuit Attorney Scott Swiney violated McBaine's rights, prosecutors cannot refile the charges against him.

And he will complete his sentence for the feds in December.

Escalating tensions

Two weeks before the bomb rocked The Hill neighborhood where Motes was living, McBaine was arrested for shooting into a room where his then 13-year-old son was sleeping during a domestic dispute in Jefferson City with the mother of another one of his children.

He was released the next day.

After that, Motes said she picked up her son, filed orders of protection against McBaine and brought her son to live with her full-time in St. Louis.

In that case, Cole County prosecutors charged him with child endangerment, unlawful use of a weapon and misdemeanor domestic assault.

In February 2021, Cole County Prosecutor William Locke Thompson and Cole County Judge John Beetem accepted a written guilty plea from McBaine. Beetem sentenced McBaine to time served and a $10 fine, according to court records.

“A parking ticket costs more than the fine he got,” she said.

Following the bombing in St. Louis, federal prosecutors charged McBaine with failure to register a bomb. He was convicted and sentenced to five years.

The St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office filed arson, endangering the welfare of a child, property damage and unlawful possession of a weapon charges against him, too.

“It totaled my car, it blew out my driveway, there's massive indentations from where the bomb exploded, it melted the siding on my house, it melted part of my neighbor's home, it torched my yard, torched my neighbor's yard, the gutters, the fencing,” Motes said.

While still in federal prison in May 2021, court records show McBaine filed a request for a speedy trial.

That gives state prosecutors 180 days to take someone to court.

But prosecutors can object, and ask a judge to deny someone’s motion for a speedy trial if enough evidence is presented to justify a delay.

In McBaine’s case, court records show prosecutors did not object to McBaine’s request for a speedy trial.

‘Excessive delays’

On Nov. 22, 2021, McBaine’s attorney Robert Taaffe filed a motion to dismiss the state’s charges against him.

“The excessive delay in bringing defendant to trial on these charges has denied this defendant his right to a speedy and fair trial and his right not to be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law,” Taaffe wrote.

On Dec. 9, 2021, Assistant Circuit Attorney Scott Swiney filed a motion objecting to McBaine’s request for the charges to be dismissed.

“A properly filed request for disposition of detainers triggers mandatory responses on the part of the Bureau of Prisons to notify the state of the action, that does not appear to have happened in this case,” Swiney wrote.

The I-Team found a response from the Bureau of Prisons attached to McBaine’s original handwritten motion for a speedy trial filed in May.

“I feel like they abandoned this case,” Motes said.

She’s still haunted by the what-ifs.

“My car was parked and between two gas lines within six feet on each side that day, and if my car would have been parked a little bit closer, it would hit both gas lines and probably flattened our entire neighborhood,” she said.

McBaine’s attorney did not return a phone call seeking comment.

His release from federal custody is scheduled for Dec. 15, 2022.

Motes said she’s terrified.

“I’m fearful that obviously he would come after me or my son or any of his other siblings or the mothers of his other children,” she said. “It’s a huge concern.”

The video below is KSDK's coverage of McBaine's conviction on federal charges in January 2020.