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Fifth letter reported at UCI

All five have come from Idaho with a return address from that state. The letter likely arrived over the holidays.

January 06, 2010|By Joseph Serna

A fifth UC Irvine employee discovered a letter with white powder Wednesday, breaking the pattern of female staff being targeted.

The latest letter went to a male associate professor of arts, culture and technology, campus officials said.

The previous four letters — two found both Monday and Tuesday — contained the message “Black Death” on a piece of paper along with an unidentified white powder inside the envelope, said university spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon. The envelope discovered Wednesday wasn’t opened, officials said.

FBI officials said the powder has been tested and is considered as harmless as a household item.

So far, four professors and one counselor have received the suspicious letters, campus officials said. Wednesday’s letter did not actually reach the professor it meant for, Lawhon said.

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With campuswide warnings telling employees and students to be cautious of any suspicious mail, an employee in the arts building called university police after she felt a granular substance inside the envelope, Lawhon said.

All the letters have been postmarked from Idaho with a return address from the state, said campus spokesman Tom Vasich.

Wednesday’s letter is likely identical to the other four, he said.

Authorities said all the letters likely arrived at UCI over the December holidays. No one has reported any injuries or illnesses related to the incidents.

If there is a common tie between everyone who received a letter, authorities have not disclosed it. A motive for the letters remains unclear too, officials said.

This is the first week of winter quarter for UCI students.


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