Mystery substance was not anthrax - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Mystery substance was not anthrax

July 17, 2007

Albany -- The FBI is still trying to figure out what substance was inside a threatening letter sent to Albany's federal Courthouse, but they know it was not anthrax.

That letter forced the C. B. King Federal Courthouse into lockdown for nearly six hours Monday.

We now know the letter was sent from the Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. It contained a mysterious clear crystal granular substance.

It was deputy clerk Brenda Littleton in the U.S. Clerk of Court's office who opened the suspicious letter Monday. Littleton handed it off to U.S. Marshall Kimberly Kvistad who had it contained.

HazMat leader Ron Rowe in the white suit later tested the substance.  "We're not a portable lab and we can't go in and tell you what it is. We can run some basic tests in the field and try to eliminate some of the fears I guess you can say."

By 10:00 Monday night the FBI determined it wasn't anthrax. Employees who came in direct contact with the substance were sent home. They also ruled out other bio-hazards, but still aren't sure what it is.

"Their intent is to find out exactly what they are dealing with and I would assume if it winds up being plastic, they're going to search until they find out for a fact that it was plastic," said Albany Fire Department Deputy Chief David Eddins.

A letter that came with the unknown substance reads: "This is Anthrax fools and when I escape I'm going to kill all of you white devils."

The letter indicated it came from Daniel Cherry at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution in North Carolina, but the facility does not have an inmate by that name.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Hodge watched the events unfold from third story windows. Hodge often handles prisoner civil rights cases. While this threat wasn't addressed to him, Hodge says he gets threatening letters from inmates not satisfied with the ruling in their cases.

While this threat may turn out to be nothing, emergency responders say they have to take it seriously.  "Anytime we find a substance we have to do it, we have to go through the protocol what we don't want to do is get complacent."

The FBI's investigation will remain open until lab tests confirm what the substance might be.

The Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City, North Carolina is a high security prison for adult males, with more than a thousand inmates.

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