Bomb threats at six sites in Cape turn out to be hoaxes

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Cape Girardeau police continue to investigate a series of bomb threats received by multiple public facilities Friday morning.

The caller, who simply said "there's a bomb outside your building and it will explode in 15 minutes," placed the calls from a cell phone, according to Sgt. Barry Hovis.

Central Middle School, Central High School, Cape Girardeau Montessori School, police headquarters, the post office and Chateau Girardeau retirement home all received information that there was a bomb set somewhere outside the building, police said.

All of the calls turned out to be hoaxes.

Around 9:30 a.m., Cape Girardeau public school district superintendent Dr. David Scala got a phone call that the high school and the middle school had both been threatened, Scala said.

"Appropriate school personnel were immediately notified, as we deemed it necessary," Scala said.

The Southeast Missouri bomb squad was activated and responded to the middle school after the caller informed police there was a bomb concealed in an orange traffic cone at the southwest corner of the building by the lower basketball court.

Before the bomb squad responded, an ATF bomb technician found what appeared to be a bomb but turned out to be a "hoax device," which contained no explosives, Hovis said.

After police assured school officials that all was clear, Scala sent an e-mail to all administrators, faculty and staff, indicating students were in no danger from the scare, he said.

Each location was secured and searched by the bomb squad, but none of the facilities was evacuated, Hovis said.

"We kept everyone inside and out of harm's way," Hovis said.

Keeping the students inside to keep them safe was the biggest priority, Scala said.

Police have taken action to subpoena the records concerning the phone number the calls came from, Hovis said.

Tapes of the calls have been analyzed at length by detectives in order to discern as much information as they can about the caller. They try to determine gender and sometimes even nationality, as well as make observations about any background noises picked up by the tape, Hovis said.

It appears to be the same caller, a male, that made each threat, Hovis said.

Should police make an arrest in connection with the bomb threats, that suspect would be charged with making terroristic threats, said Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle.

While courts previously considered terroristic threats a misdemeanor, anti-terrorism legislation in 2000 made it a class C felony. It is punishable by one to seven years in prison, one day to one year in county jail and up $5,000 in fines, Swingle said.

On May 15, two Jackson men received prison sentences for making terroristic threats against the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse in Jackson.

Duane E. Haffner, 23, was sentenced to five years, and Leotis Sylvester Allen, 22, received a four-year prison term.

The threats, made in February, were part of a scheme the two men, who were both in substance abuse treatment, dreamed up to profit from a lawsuit against police. In a call to Jackson police, Haffner said a man would bring a bomb hidden in his shoe into the courthouse the next day. Allen hoped to profit by being tackled by police and suing for injuries he hoped would ensue from the struggle.

In that case, Jackson police officers recognized Haffner's voice from the tapes of the threats.

335-6611, extension 245

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