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Charles Town awaits word on suspicious letter

October 25, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

If federal agents determine a suspicious letter found Wednesday in Charles Town is not related to the Washington-area sniper shootings, Charles Town Police will try to find who wrote it, the city's police chief said.

Charles Town Police Chief Mike Aldridge said Thursday he has not received any information from Rockville, Md.-area police about whether the letter is connected to the killing spree.

Because developments are occurring quickly in the sniper case, police are busy and that could slow their work on the letter from Charles Town, Aldridge said.

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Because of the content of the letter, Aldridge said he believes he would be able to press charges in the case if the writer is found. He said the letter was equivalent to "yelling fire in a theater."

"At best, it was a prank," Aldridge said.

Schools in Jefferson and Berkeley counties were placed on "lockdown" status Wednesday and concern spread through both communities after the suspicious letter was found by a passerby in the 100 block of South Mildred Street and handed over to police, officials said.

After a federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms official from Martinsburg, W.Va., examined the letter, officials decided to take it to the police command center in Rockville where the sniper shootings are being investigated, Aldridge said.

Aldridge would not divulge the contents of the letter on Wednesday, but said its language would "catch your eye."

A Montgomery County Police Department spokeswoman would not say whether the department had received the letter. Police will carefully examine evidence in the case before making public comments about it, police spokeswoman Lucille Bauer said Wednesday.

Maryland police on Thursday repeated their statement that they could not confirm or deny they had received the letter.

Agencies working on the sniper case probably will not be able to reveal anything about the Charles Town letter "until all the leads are rounded out" in the shooting case, Barry Maddox, spokesman for the FBI office in Baltimore, said Thursday.

Schools in both counties resumed normal operations Thursday, school officials said. Evening classes and other evening activities that had been canceled for Wednesday have returned to their normal schedule, schools officials said.

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