EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

November 19, 2012

Suspicious powder sent to at least 4 businesses

Police: 'Mentally ill' Haverhill man eyed in investigation


While the HazMat team was in Methuen, along with at least one FBI agent, another call came in from Lawrence that an envelope with a suspicious white powder was found at the Home Health VNA, 350 Merrimack St.

The FBI arrived at that location as well, along with another HazMat team and local police and firefighters, said police Chief John Romero. He said somebody in the office opened the envelope, exposing four people to the white powder.

“It was handled by a couple of people,” he said.

Romero believes the envelope arrived on Saturday and that employees found it when they opened their mail around 8:30 yesterday morning. Romero said there were similarities between the package found at the Home Depot in Methuen and the one found in Lawrence, but declined to say what those similarities were. The building was not evacuated and police were telling employees in the building that they were not in danger.

Meg Hogan, vice president of external relations for Home Health VNA, said four staff members (three administrators and the receptionist which opened the letter) were quarantined in a conference room in the office for about four hours. After they were alerted by authorities that the substance was “97 percent sure to be baking soda,” they were sent home and told to shower. Professional cleaning is being done in the area which was affected.

The fourth envelope was opened about 3:30 p.m. yesterday at an office inside 85 Flagship Drive in North Andover. North Andover Police refused to comment. There were several different businesses listed on the directory outside the building.

Investigators also remained tight-lipped about the man behind the envelopes. Two Haverhill detectives were seen searching a Dumpster and leaving the building at 46-48 S. Main St. in Bradford, carrying several plastic bags.

There are businesses on the first floor and housing on the two floors above. Known as the Webster Building, it was the former home of Hooker-Howe Costume Rental and sits near the southern end of the Basiliere Bridge. The costume store closed in the mid-1990s and the property languished for more than a decade.

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