Suspicious white powder prompts quarantine at jail


MIDDLETON — When an envelope full of a suspicious white powder forced 18 Essex County Sheriff’s Department administrators into quarantine yesterday, TV superhero Jack Bauer helped lend a hand — sort of — at Middleton Jail.

Bauer’s name was the correct answer in a Hangman game that some of the 18 administrators were playing to relieve more than three hours of boredom as a regional hazardous materials team investigated, said Sheriff’s Department spokesman Paul Fleming, among those quarantined.

The incident started around 10:20 a.m. when a secretary opened an envelope that turned out to be filled with a white powder.

“When she opened it, there was a white powder. In the spirit of 9/11, unfortunately, and never being too careful, the Police Department and then the Fire Department were notified, and they called the area hazmat team,” Fleming said.

The 18 people were released after 1:30 p.m., but state investigators are still trying to figure out what the powder is. Middleton fire Lt. Ken LeColst said results will take at least 72 hours. The powder is being tested in a Jamaica Plain laboratory.

Fleming said the source of the envelope, and who sent it, will be under investigation. State police and the FBI responded to the incident. The envelope had a postmark of South Portland, Maine, and was not addressed to any particular person at the Sheriff’s Department. Fleming said he didn’t know if a letter or blank piece of paper was included in the envelope.

“It could be a host of reasons why it came, who did it, but to speculate will be pure folly,” Fleming said.

The jail continued to run smoothly during the quarantine, Fleming said. The jail had already been locked down before the envelope was opened, because an Essex County Sheriff’s Department academy class was “shaking down” all of the cells as part of their training.

The employees quarantined checked their cell phones and messages and looked for ways to keep occupied as they waited to be cleared by hazardous materials crews. One final note: The “Jack Bauer” puzzle in the Hangman game was solved with only a single letter picked by Aaron Eastman, an internal affairs investigator.



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