2008-11-13 / Church News

3 Pa. Courthouses Receive Anthrax Scare Letters

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Identical letters sent to three Pennsylvania county courthouses this week mentioned anthrax but did not contain the poisonous substance.

The letters were received in Jefferson and Pike counties on Tuesday and Schuylkill County on Wednesday, said Reggie Wade, spokesman for U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Philadelphia.

He said the letters referred to anthrax, but he declined to confirm other details. Officials in the three counties said the letters were postmarked Jacksonville, Fla.

Pike County emergency management coordinator Roger Maltby said the letter sent to the courthouse in Milford read: "Can you spell A-N-T-H-R-A-X?'' The letter was opened in the prothonotary's office, and the building had to be evacuated for about four hours.

In Brookville, the letter opened by the Jefferson County Tax Claim Office had the same message and also prompted evacuation of the courthouse. Brookville Police Chief Ken Dworek described it as "a lowlevel hoax'' that did not represent a threat to public safety.

And in Pottsville, receipt of the letter at the Schuylkill County commissioners' office triggered a twohour lockdown and response by a hazardous materials squad.

Wade said there have been about 19,000 incidents in which unknown substances, threats or anthrax references have been sent through the mail since fatal anthrax mailings targeted media organizations and Congress in October 2001. All have been false alarms or hoaxes.

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