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Threat empties Venice Inn

July 18, 2002|by DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

dank@herald-mail.com

The Venice Inn in Hagerstown is expected to reopen today, a day and a half after the hotel received a letter containing a bomb threat that prompted the hotel operator to shut down the hotel.

Hagerstown lawyer Edward Button, the court-appointed attorney in charge of Venice property since 1999, said he decided to close the hotel Tuesday after a hotel employee opened the threatening letter that morning.

Hagerstown police and hotel staff searched the hotel property on Tuesday but did not find anything, Police Chief Arthur Smith said. The FBI and city police are conducting a joint investigation, Smith said.

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"It was a letter to the Venice Inn with a very specific bomb threat," Button said. "It was more credible than someone saying just there's a bomb there."

Button said the letter was handwritten and had a Frederick, Md., postmark. He would not divulge any other details about the letter, which he said was turned over to police on Tuesday.

The Venice Inn stopped renting rooms Tuesday morning, and around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday began moving the approximately 30 hotel guests to other hotels, Button said. The hotel was evacuated completely by 7 p.m. Tuesday, he said.

Button had the entire property evacuated, including the main five-story hotel, two- and three-story motel, and the Little Caesars Pizza restaurant.

The hotel will reopen for business this morning, Button said Wednesday.

Button said deciding to close the business Tuesday and Wednesday "was an easy decision to make."

"In today's environment, you have to take it seriously," Button said about the threat.

Button was put in charge of the property after the owner of a 99-year lease on the property defaulted on a bank loan.

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