Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Amerithrax 2001

Clues from the Letters

FBI EVIDENCE DESCRIPTION

Tom Brokaw envelope
Tom Brokaw envelope

Letter 1
One page, hand-printed letter
Transmittal envelope, also similarly hand printed
Addressed to "NBC TV – Tom Brokaw" – No return address
Postmarked Trenton, NJ 09/18/2001 (Tues.)

New York Post envelope
New York Post envelope

Letter 2
One page, hand-printed letter
Transmittal envelope, also similarly hand printed
Addressed to "NY Post" – No return address
Postmarked Trenton, NJ 09/18/2001 (Tues.)

Senator Daschle envelope
Senator Daschle envelope

Letter 3
One page, hand-printed letter
Transmittal envelope, also similarly hand printed
Addressed to "Senator Daschle – 509 Hart Senate Office Building"
Return address – "4th Grade, Greendale School, Franklin Park, NJ"
Return address zip code – "08852"
Postmarked Trenton, NJ 10/09/2001 (Tues.)

By mid-October, the FBI used the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crimes to develop a behavioral and linguistic profile of the anthrax poisoner. The following is taken from the FBI linguistic analysis:

It is highly probable, bordering on certainty, that all three letters were authored by the same person. Letters 1 and 2 are identical copies. Letter 3, however, contains a somewhat different message than the other letters. The Anthrax utilized in Letter 3 was much more refined, more potent, and more easily disbursed than letters 1 and 2.

While the text in these letters is limited, there are certain distinctive characteristics in the author's writing style. These same characteristics may be evident in other letters, greeting cards, or envelopes this person has written. We hope someone has received correspondence from this person and will recognize some of these characteristics.

The characteristics include:

1. The author uses dashes ("-") in the writing of the date "09-11-01." Many people use the slash ("/") to separate the day/month/year.

2. In writing the number one, the author chooses to use a formalized, more detailed version. He writes it as "1" instead of the simple vertical line.

3. The author uses the words "can not," when many people prefer to spell it as one word, "cannot."

4. The author writes in all upper case block-style letters. However, the first letter of the first word of each sentence is written in slightly larger upper case lettering. Also, the first letter of all proper nouns (like names) is slightly larger. This is apparently the author's way of indicating a word should be capitalized in upper case lettering. For whatever reason, he may not be comfortable or practiced in writing in lower case lettering.

5. The names and address on each envelope are noticeably tilted on a downward slant from left to right. This may be a characteristic seen on other envelopes he has sent.

6. The envelopes are of the pre-stamped variety, the stamps denoting 34 cents, which are normally available directly from the post office. They are not the traditional business size envelopes, but the smaller size measuring approximately 6 1/4" x 3 ½".

The behavioral assessment based on the evidence was slightly more informative: the offender was likely a male with a scientific background who worked at one time in a laboratory with hazardous materials. Moreover, the FBI believed that the person had access to both the anthrax and laboratory equipment, but also possessed "knowledge and expertise to refine it."    A detailed version of the http://www.fbi.gov/anthrax/amerithrax.htm  behavioral assessment is available on the FBI web site:

It was probable that the poisoner was familiar with the Trenton, New Jersey area, since the letters were all connected with the local post office. Although there were many assumptions made about the poisoner's personality and motivations, there were no clues as to the person's identity. The FBI was working diligently to find someone who fit the profile, although some questioned its reliability. The investigation trudged on still raising more questions than answers. In the meantime, more people were falling victim to the anthrax assassin.

 

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