FBI investigates suspicious letter mailed to Bryan Co. courthous - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

FBI investigates suspicious letter mailed to Bryan Co. courthouse

DURANT -- The FBI is leading the investigation into a suspicious letter mailed to the Bryan County courthouse.

Investigators say the letter contained a white powder that still hasn't been identified. No one has been arrested and no charges have been filed. Whomever is responsible has still not been identified. We also don't know where the letter came from or any motive behind it.

Hazardous Material crews put on protective suits before entering the Bryan County courthouse Monday.

They tested a white powder found inside a envelope opened by Michelle Williams, an employee at the court clerk's office.

"I saw the white powder and I just scooted away from my desk and went and washed my hands," Williams said.

Investigators say the letter arrived at the county clerk's office located across the street last week, but wasn't opened until Monday. Workers in the annex were locked down and put on quarantine. Bryan County Commissioner Tony Simmons was among those stuck inside for nearly eight hours.

"Kind of an eye-opening experience, for me, to know that it can happen," Simmons said.

Feet away from where jurors and colleagues waited for the Oklahoma National Guard to test the powdery substance, Williams and at least a half-dozen co-workers were being put through a decontamination process inside a blue tent.

Williams says she never believed the substance in the envelope was harmful, but turned to faith and humor because they were aware test results could have turned out much differently.

"We went into a room in the sheriff's office and got undressed and put all of our belongings in a bag and then went through the showers," Williams said. "They gave us these ridiculous gowns to put on and then we had to go sit in a trailer with the others who were being decontaminated."

"Eye-opening. Something like this has never happened to us before," court clerk Donna Alexander said. "I'm glad it turned out to be nothing."

Just before sunset, the crowd was debriefed on the courthouse lawn after the Guard determined the substance was not toxic.

"Based upon all the samplings that we've ran it looks benign," Lt. Col. Scott Houck said.

As work returned to normal Tuesday at the courthouse, many questions remain unanswered.

The FBI is asking that specifics about the letter not be released over concerns it could jeopardize the case.

While efforts to pin down the person who sent the letter pick up, Simmons says the county has also begun evaluating its response to the emergency and ways to avoid a repeat.

"You never say it can't happen here anymore because it very well could," Simmons said.

Simmons says possible adjustments include changing the way county mail is distributed. He says specific plans will be discussed during future county commissioner meetings.

Email: MYeomans@kten.com