EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 20, 2012

Charges expected in mailings of white powder

By Mike LaBella

---- — HAVERHILL — Police in Haverhill say they have not received any new reports after a scare on Monday in which thank-you cards containing what turned out to be baking soda were either dropped off or mailed to at least four Merrimack Valley businesses.

An investigation into the matter is ongoing, police said, and is being lead by the FBI as the case involves several local communities.

Deputy Police Chief Donald Thompson said his department and other area police departments are working with the FBI on the investigation.

“There is a suspect, and it is expected that in the near future the communities that are involved will be filing charges,” Thompson said.

Lawrence Police Chief John Romero said his department is assisting in the investigation as well.

“We had a preliminary report regarding our incident, and we are working with the FBI regarding our case,” Romero said.

A spokesperson for Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said Blodgett’s office is not involved in the investigation.

Katherine Gulotta, spokewoman for the FBI’s Boston field office, said the preliminary field tests of the powder were negative.

“Additional testing will be completed at a local laboratory, and at this point in time it has been determined that there was no threat to public safety,” Gulotta said. “The FBI state and local law enforcement partners take all white powder letters seriously.”

“No further details will be discussed at this time as this is an ongoing matter,” Gulotta added.

Three nearly simultaneous reports of suspicious white powder were reported early Monday, prompting a massive response by local and state police, the FBI, the state Department of Fire Services, and the regional Hazardous Materials Response Team to the Home Depot in Methuen, Home Health VNA in Lawrence, and the Edwards Law Office next to the police station in Haverhill.

Later in the day, another card was received at a North Andover business at 85 Flagship Drive, again bringing out the HazMat team and investigators.

Haverhill Police on Monday said they had a suspect, but no arrest had been made. Detectives searched an apartment at 46-48 S. Main St. in Haverhill about noon on Monday, leaving with several plastic bags containing what appeared to be stationary and other items.

Joseph Edwards, owner of Edwards Law Office at 60 Bailey Boulevard in Haverhill, was one of those who received a card. After hours of waiting for a HazMat team to deem his office safe on Monday, Edwards was relieved yesterday to have a more normal day.

Yesterday turned out to be a normal day, Edwards said, although he had one burning question for the letter carrier who arrived at his office with his mail.

“I asked him if the mail was safe, and he laughed,” Edwards said.

Edwards said the big question on everyone’s mind yesterday was what he might have in common with the other businesses that received envelopes containing thank-you cards and a white powdery substance. He said people he bumped into and who called him on the phone asked if he was alright, and why he was sent one of the envelopes.

“I told them I didn’t have the slightest idea,” Edwards said.