Priest opens ‘puzzling’ envelope at Sacred Heart Church

| April 15, 2010

In a pile of about 20 run-of-the-mill pieces of mail, one parcel appeared different from the rest.

When Father David Leopold of Sacred Heart Church went to pick up the church’s mail in Georgetown on April 6, he noticed an envelope that wasn’t addressed to anyone in particular at the church. Though postmarked Long Island, it had no return address and the left side of the envelope appeared bulky.

“It was more puzzling than suspicious looking from the outside,” Father Leopold said.

When he opened the envelope a dark dust flew up into his face. Inside Father Leopold found an embroidered cross and cross holder caked with the substance, but no note or letter.

Though the substance found in the envelope was later found to be non-hazardous, the origin of the envelope and its intent are still a mystery to members of the Sacred Heart community who wonder why their church was targeted in the bizarre incident.

“Everyone’s just wondering what it’s all about,” Father Leopold said.

Redding Police Chief Douglas Fuchs said authorities have not yet released what the substance is and are still investigating possible motives for it being sent.

After coming in contact with the dust, Father Leopold was taken to the hospital for an evaluation. He was decontaminated before being brought to Danbury Hospital and was released after three hours.

Church assistant David Palumbo also came in close enough contact with the envelope to warrant a hospital evaluation. Both Mr. Palumbo and Father Leopold were given Cipro, used in response to Anthrax, as a precaution until test results on the substance became available. They stopped taking it Thursday night after testing showed the substance was not biohazardous.

“The fact that the toxic materials were ruled out has everyone more at ease,” Father Leopold said.

After opening the envelope earlier at the Georgetown Post Office, Father Leopold brought it back to the church premises before deeming it suspect enough to alert authorities.

“We thought about it for a minute and then decided to call police,” he said. “In the climate of today, it was very suspicious.”

Once authorities arrived, Church Street was closed at either side for several hours during the day and the church was secured.

Redding police, state police, the Georgetown Fire Department, a postal service inspector and an FBI agent all responded to the incident.

Mr. Palumbo said the congregation has been reaching out to make sure everyone involved in the incident is unharmed.

“A lot of people are calling because they’re hearing about it and they want to find out what was going on,” said Mr. Palumbo, who noted the situation was addressed at last week’s Mass.

“We’re stunned,” he said. “You don’t expect something like this to happen at a church.”

For now, Father Leopold said there hasn’t been any further effort on the part of whoever sent the letter to contact the church.

“My reaction is just that it’s very puzzling and we’re just trying to figure out who had sent it and why,” he said.

Tags: , ,

Category: Church Security

Comments are closed.