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FBI: 5th suspicious letter received

Posted: March 9, 2012 - 1:21pm

An FBI spokesman announced Friday that another school district has received a suspicious letter containing an unknown white powder substance, making it the fifth school district in Alaska to receive one this week.

FBI special agent and spokesman Eric Gonzales said the envelope was received in Chevak outside of Bethel, which is the Kashunamiut School District.

The school district superintendant was not available to take a phone call Friday morning since he was out with the National Guard, a school employee said by phone. The Chevak 103rd Civil Support Team from the National Guard is responding to the scene right now, according to a public health official.

The FBI is heading the investigation into the suspicious letters, which were sent to Tanana School District west of Fairbanks, Southeast Island School District in Thorne Bay on Prince of Wales Island and the Chugach School District in Anchorage, Juneau School District, and now, the Kashunamiut School District. Juneau and Thorne Bay both received the letters on Wednesday.

Dr. Bernd Jilly, the chief of Alaska State Public Health Laboratories, said his lab received the specimen from Juneau Thursday evening sometime after 5 p.m., and that preliminary testing has turned up negative for any toxins.

“Our preliminary, really rough screenings all indicate that there’s no infectious agents there,” he said by phone from Anchorage.

The lab still has to test for chemical agents and do molecular testing, though, he said. Those results should be available Friday afternoon by around 4 p.m.

“They’re cooking right now, as they say,” Jilly said.

Jilly said the white powder sent to the Chugach School District in Anchorage tested negative for any toxins and that specimen was sent back to the FBI for evidence.

The white powder from Tanana is also still going through the testing and analysis process, like the substance from Juneau. The lab still has not received the powders from Thorne Bay and Bethel.

Gonzales could not say if there are any leads in the case, but said, “It’s a pending investigation, and we are working it.”

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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