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5 years after Panaca bombing, motive for attack still unclear

Updated July 10, 2021 - 7:54 pm

PANACA — Five years after a pair of bombs rattled the Lincoln County town of Panaca, the motive for the attack remains unclear.

In response to a recent records request, the Nevada Department of Public Safety said its investigation division’s probe into the July 13, 2016, bombing remains open. The FBI’s case also remains open, agency spokeswoman Sandra Breault said.

And if either of those agencies has any insight into why Glenn Franklin Jones took a rented Ford Flex loaded with bombs to his friend and former co-worker’s home and triggered the explosives, that information has never been shared with Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee.

Lee said he hasn’t heard from the FBI since months after the bombing, but he also has not asked for an update. And as far as he knows, state investigators have never figured out why Jones targeted Joshua and Tiffany Cluff’s home that day.

“I don’t think this thing went anywhere,” Lee said.

The blasts

Joshua Cluff was not at the house when Jones arrived with the bombs, but his wife and children were. They escaped moments before the blasts.

“He said his car was full of explosives and he was going to blow my house up,” a breathless Tiffany Cluff told a 911 dispatcher.

Jones lit one bomb at the back of the house, then took the rental car to the front of the home, lit a second bomb and shot himself before the explosions shook the small town.

Piercing screams can be heard on audio of the 911 call as the first bomb exploded. The second explosion followed 30 seconds later.

Jones was the only person killed in the attack. The only patient was a boy on a bicycle who was hit with a piece of debris that didn’t break skin.

Across the street from the Cluff home, the blasts broke Brent Hansen’s windows and misaligned his workshop.

“It’s not square anymore, but nobody was hurt, so that’s the only thing that counts,” he said.

On the opposite side of the block where the Cluff home stood, the explosions blew Rick Chouquer’s cupboards open and sent dishes spilling onto the kitchen floor.

The blasts sent shrapnel and debris raining down a half-mile away or more, Lee said. Material from the explosions was found long after the bombs had detonated, he said.

“Probably a year or two ago, somebody turned in a big ol’ chunk of the car to the fire department, they found out, like, in their backyard,” he said.

Former co-workers

Jones and Joshua Cluff worked together at Grover C. Dils Medical Center in Caliente and stayed friends after Jones voluntarily left his nursing job at the hospital less than a year before the attack.

When Jones moved into an RV park in Arizona, he listed Cluff as his emergency contact.

In March 2016, the state pulled Jones’ nursing license for mishandling morphine at the Caliente hospital. He was out of work at the time of the bombing.

The last time Cluff saw Jones was about two weeks before the attack, Cluff told police. Jones was acting strangely and had a new tattoo.

On the upper left side of his chest were the letters “DNR,” as in “do not resuscitate.” Cluff’s phone number was listed above.

In 2017, former Lincoln County District Attorney Daniel Hooge told the Review-Journal that he suspected the bombing was the result of a personal grudge between Jones and Cluff. At some point, Jones reportedly gave Cluff money, and there was a dispute about whether it was a loan or a gift, Hooge said.

And hours before the bombing, Hooge said, Jones told two men, including a local church bishop, that Cluff owed him money and that he wanted it back.

This month, Tyler Heaton, a former church bishop in Panaca, said he received a message from Jones the day before the bombing, but he was out of cell service and did not listen to the recording until after the explosions.

He said Jones had left his name and a message saying he had an issue with Cluff, and that he wanted to see what Heaton could do. The specifics, Heaton said, were not divulged in the message.

Reached by phone Thursday, Cluff said he already has answered questions about why he thought the bombing occurred, and he has no new information. Weeks after the bombing, he told the Review-Journal he had no idea why his home was targeted.

“We’d love it if we wouldn’t ever hear about it again, truthfully,” he said Thursday.

The day after the bombing, authorities in Kingman, Arizona, evacuated the trailer park where Jones had lived since February. They found more than a dozen explosives in Jones’ motor home.

While raiding the RV and Jones’ car that was left behind in a rental car parking lot, authorities also found journals and notebooks. The notes included a mention that at least one explosive device would be used against a Bureau of Land Management facility on July 4, 2016.

In his journals, Jones indicated that someone named Josh had solicited and financed the construction of the device that would be used in the attack, according to a search warrant at the time.

That led to Cluff being interrogated for several hours by FBI agents, Cluff told the Review-Journal in 2016.

“I was fully exonerated,” he said at the time. “If I hadn’t, I’d have been arrested.”

Cluff has never been accused of wrongdoing.

Answers may never emerge

The Cluff house was demolished shortly after the bombing, and the family has moved to Idaho. The lot where the house once stood remains empty.

Some of the scars from the blasts are still visible. The explosions blew open Chouquer’s backdoor, splitting the wood in the door frame. And down the street, one home’s carport still has a hole in it from being struck by debris.

Hansen, the neighbor who lives across the street from the now-vacant lot, said people in Panaca talked about the bombing for about a year, but as far as he knows, it doesn’t come up anymore.

“It’s just something that happened and people try and move on from it,” he said.

The Lincoln County sheriff, however, still thinks about the blasts that rocked Panaca when he sees two chunks of shrapnel that sit in his office.

But in the years since the attack, he has had no choice but to move on without closure. He doesn’t think anyone will ever know for sure why Jones ignited the bombs.

“I’m positive we’ll never know,” Lee said. “Because I think he took some of that with him. I don’t know if Glenn even knew fully why he did what he did.”

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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