Internal Dispute Turns Almost Deadly in Pennsylvania

Thomas E. Eaton of Clarendon, Pa. was accused Mar. 30 of an attempted poison gas attack reportedly tied to a dispute with United Ass’n of Journeymen & Apprentices of the Plumbing & Pipe Fitting Industry Local 47 in Monaca, Pa. Federal agents said Eaton, who worked as a pipefitter, tried to pipe a tankful of deadly chlorine gas into the home of Michael Lacey in Beaver, Pa., in the early hours of Dec. 7, 1998. The family of four survived only because Lacey’s 13-year-old son awoke with a scratchy throat at 2 a.m. and roused his mother.

Eaton didn’t like the way his job assignments were being handled by Lacey, Local 47’s business manager. So he took a large, rusting tank of chlorine and ran a hose from it through an open vent into the Lacey home while the family slept, authorities charged. Eaton was charged by a federal grand jury with using a chemical weapon and other offenses. If convicted of the charges in the indictment, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and $750,000 in fines. [Pitt. Post-Gazette 3/31/00]