AUGUSTA — Explosive material that authorities say they seized from a Gage Street home Thursday is likely a compound known as “mother of Satan” to Islamic extremists for its instability and can be made easily from household items.

Jeremy Gene Upp, 36, of 42 Gage St., was charged with criminal use of explosives by the Maine Office of the state fire marshal on Thursday after authorities evacuated part of a neighborhood near Memorial Bridge and shut down the street for several hours.

Acting State Fire Marshal Joseph Thomas said an investigation is ongoing and a motive hasn’t been determined. Authorities have not suggested Upp had violent intentions.

Upp, dressed in a two-piece orange jail uniform, said nothing to a judge Friday during a brief initial court appearance by video in Augusta District Court. He stared straight at the camera as his attorney acknowledged Upp understood he faced a felony charge carrying a maximum penalty of five years in jail.

Assistant District Attorney Brad Grant confirmed that federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms also are investigating.

Bail conditions prohibit Upp from use and possession of incendiary devices or explosive, as well as firearms. He is also banned from having contact with girlfriend Amanda Bechard, 27, and neighbor Kevin Curtis.

A court affidavit written by Kenneth MacMaster, an investigator with the Office of the State Fire Marshal, says investigators got a search warrant for Upp’s apartment as they checked into complaints of explosions at the rear of the property.

“During the investigation, Jeremy Upp was identified as the person responsible for the explosions and Upp was manufacturing and detonating explosives to the rear of his apartment,” MacMaster wrote.

The affidavit said triacetone triperoxide — known by the acronym TATP — was the explosive authorities found in Upp’s apartment that was later detonated by Maine State Police bomb technicians in his backyard Thursday night.

“You can walk into a Rite Aid and walk out with the components,” said Thomas, the acting state fire marshal. “To have (TATP), you have to have changed the composition of the material.”

Bechard told authorities that Upp had been “manufacturing explosives and detonating explosives” as recent as earlier this week, when the last batch was made, according to the affidavit. On Friday, Bechard disputed that she said that to authorities.

‘It’s not a stable element’

A 2005 report from the British Royal Society of Chemistry said ingredients like paint thinner, bleach or antiseptic and drain unblockers can create white crystals of TATP — a combination of acetone, hydrogen peroxide, and sulfuric acid — if mixed correctly. The white substance resembles sugar.

“TATP is highly sensitive to heat, friction and mechanical shock, so much so that inexperienced handling can lead to maiming and death,” the report says.

It also says the compound is known as mother of Satan among Islamic extremists who use it for “devastating instability.”

A 2005 thesis from the Naval Postgraduate School said that TATP is “commonly found as the main charge being employed by Middle East terrorists in suicide bombings” and in improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, found on the battlefields of Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.

TATP was notably used by Richard Reid, known as the Shoe Bomber, who pled guilty to eight counts of terrorism after attempting to detonate explosives hidden in his shoes on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami in December 2001.

Thomas said because it so unstable, it was detonated in Upp’s backyard shortly after 7 p.m., rendering it safe.

Steve Marson, owner of Hallowell-based Central Maine Pyrotechnics and operator of the Pyro City Fireworks retail store in Manchester, said Friday that Upp had been to his store several times to buy consumer fireworks.

But he said in consumer fireworks, all explosive and coloring elements are mixed and even if they were taken apart, certain elements couldn’t be isolated. TATP isn’t sold from his store or any other in raw form, he said.

“He would have had to come up with that on his own,” Marson said of TATP. “I do not believe he got any of that from consumer fireworks.”

Explosives found in kitchen

Thomas initially said Thursday that Upp’s probation officer had reported possibly illegal goings-on behind his home. However, the prosecutor, Grant, said Friday that Upp was not on probation at the time the search warrant was executed.

Thomas said it’s possible the information came from a probation or parole officer who saw activity while visiting another home in the neighborhood. Upp’s girlfriend, Bechard, said Friday that the information came from an officer visiting a neighboring home.

She also said Upp got the acetone peroxide from a neighbor who had been setting explosives off at times behind her home. She discussed the explosives authorities found in detail, saying the TATP was in her kitchen in plain sight, held in rolled-up paper plates with paper bags covering them.

Thomas confirmed that’s how the compounds were found.

“He never touched them,” Bechard said of Upp. “I’m not going to have Jeremy making something like that.”

Bechard maintains that two neighbors were making the explosives and setting them off, creating the blasts neighbors reported hearing over a time period ranging from this week to last month. She said Upp had set one similar explosive off before with those neighbors, but never did it again.

Court records show Upp formerly lived in Richmond and has felony convictions for assault and three counts of violating conditions of release in Sagadahoc County Superior Court in Bath.

For those offenses, he was sentenced in 2005 to five years in prison with all but two years suspended and three years of probation. Other records show he has been charged with other offenses in Florida and Washington.

In court Friday, Upp could be seen conferring with attorney Lisa Whittier, and she answered questions from Judge Beth Dobson about whether Upp understood the charge and his rights.

“We’re going to be reserving argument on bail today,” Whittier told the judge.

Dobson said bail would continue at the $25,000 cash amount set by the bail commissioner and a status conference for Upp would be scheduled for July 24 at Kennebec County Superior Court.

Bechard said she doesn’t have enough money to bail him out.

“I will do whatever I need to do. I need to change his bail conditions; I need to get a lawyer,” she said. “He needs to be able to talk to me.”

Staff Writer Betty Adams contributed to this report.


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