The one nagging reminder of the explosion, says Judge John P. Corderman, of Western Maryland, is a "ringing sensation in my head."

It is the residual effect of a pipe-bomb blast a year ago today that ripped into his abdomen, slashed his hands and damaged his hearing as he opened a package in his Hagerstown apartment a few days before Christmas.

The blast set off a massive search by state and federal agents, bringing national attention to Corderman's quiet home town of 35,000, which is 70 miles northwest of Washington.

Now largely healed after extensive surgery, Corderman, 48, said of his brush with death, "I feel great. I'm loving life."

But there's another unnerving reminder: No one has been identified or caught in the bombing.

U.S. Postal Service inspector Douglas Ostwalt, asked to describe the status of the year-long investigation, said, "The word is 'continuing.' "

Corderman, a tough-talking circuit judge known for his stiff sentences and gun control advocacy, was blown against a wall in his third-floor apartment as he unwrapped the package containing a bomb.

Shrapnel tore into his lower abdomen and ripped off the tip of one finger. He staggered to a fire alarm outside the apartment and summoned help. He was taken to nearby Washington County Hospital and underwent 1 1/2 hours of surgery.

Today, Corderman continues his work in Washington County Circuit Court, but there is more security in the building, and a special sound system was installed in his courtroom to aid his hearing.

"I don't try protracted litigation anymore," he said. "I don't feel comfortable with it. The ringing in my head tends to take over after a while."

He said he makes up for the lengthy trial work "by doing a little more office work, chambers work, motions work."

Investigators at first thought the blast might have been connected with a rash of bombings in Alabama, Georgia and Florida, including one in which a federal judge was killed. But they quickly dismissed that theory, focusing more on local connections.

"Here we had a victim who was a controversial figure . . . a very tough judge," Ostwalt said. A former state senator and local prosecutor, who was separated from his wife, Corderman had "any number" of possible enemies, Ostwalt said.

"We looked into his political life . . . and his personal life," he said. Investigators reviewed all the cases he had handled as a judge, especially emotionally charged cases involving divorce and child custody, Ostwalt said.

Such cases "arouse the most passion in people," he said, "especially when children are taken away from people and they get angry at the judge."

Ostwalt said investigators have narrowed the field from "hundreds" to "about 12 people that we're taking a good hard look at."

"I feel confident we are going to resolve this matter," he said.

He added that it is possible the case will be closed when "we know who the person is but have insufficient evidence to bring him to justice."

Tipsters, many drawn by the $76,000 reward offered by the Postal Service for information leading to an arrest and conviction, continue to call Ostwalt's office, he said.

Corderman voiced optimism. "Even though it was done by someone who did not leave a trail of bread crumbs," he said in an interview, "there will come a time when all the pieces of this puzzle will come together."

Immediately after the bombing, Corderman said, he thought about quitting. But he said now he has "no plans to leave public service" and has put in a bid for a vacancy on the state Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis.

Who sent the bomb? "I think it's related to a domestic relations case," Corderman said. "But who knows? It could be somebody that's borne a grudge since I was {a prosecutor} in the State's Attorney's Office."

Or, in rural Western Maryland where feelings run strong against gun control, "It could be somebody that thinks everyone should have an Uzi."

The bombing has forced him to make some changes in his lifestyle. His telephone and address are unlisted, he said, "and my mail is screened.

"I don't do packages anymore."