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FBI Files Detail Schaefer Death Threats

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Former Mayor and Governor William Donald Schaefer was laid to rest Wednesday, April 27.

Former Mayor and Governor William Donald Schaefer was laid to rest Wednesday, April 27.

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By MEGAN ECKSTEIN
The Frederick News-Post

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Former Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer, known for his attention-grabbing and sometimes controversial manner of doing business, had his life threatened at least three times during his more than five decades in public service.

According to documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation released to The Frederick News-Post through the Freedom of Information Act, death threats were made against Schaefer in 1973, 1976 and 1990. All three were investigated by the FBI as well as law enforcement agencies in Maryland.

On Sept. 26, 1973, two handwritten letters were addressed to Schaefer, one that began with “Dear Mayor, my plans …” and the other with “you’re going to be killed.” The Baltimore Police Department consulted the FBI for help in identifying the author of the letters.

The FBI eventually took 64 writing samples from the Baltimore police via handwritten reports. At first the FBI concluded the writing samples led to no definite matches with the threat letters.

By Nov. 30, though, the police department had reason to believe one of its officers had written the threatening letters.

The FBI’s involvement ended, so the files do not show any resolution to the investigation.

Early in the morning of June 18, 1976, a woman from Mount Lebanon, Pa., contacted police to say she heard a man make a threat against Schaefer. The woman had been in downtown Pittsburgh and hitchhiked back to Mount Lebanon.

The woman “stated that the unidentified man told her he had only one week to live and that he intended to kill the mayor of Baltimore, Maryland, during that time,” the FBI records read. “He threatened to kill any police officer who interfered. According to (the woman) this individual was armed with a knife, claimed to be trained in quick-kill procedures as a result of military training, and claimed to have a .44-caliber magnum under the front seat of his car.”

The Pittsburgh and Baltimore police departments were alerted, as were offices of the FBI and the Pittsburgh office of the U.S. Secret Service.

The FBI later learned from the woman that the man, who had a Maryland license plate and driver’s license, “stated that he hates all politicians and policemen and planned to go ‘to the city council in Baltimore and kill Mayor Schaefer and all the
councilmen,”‘ the FBI documents state.

The woman told agents the man said he was arrested on drug charges when he was 17 and was told to join the military or go to jail, so he joined a Green Beret unit. This information, coupled with his Maryland registration and an artist’s rendering based on the woman’s description, helped investigators eventually track down the man, whose name was redacted in the copies provided to the News-Post.

A writer identifying himself only as “Blackdeath” mailed a letter to Rocky Gap State Park in Flintstone, Md., in Allegany
County. The writer claimed to be “an ex-Army sharpshooter who was rained to kill,” the documents show.

“When you all think old Shaffer (sic) is safe and sound I will personally put a bullet right between those (expletive) baby blues … I can blow him away up to an eighth of a mile with pinpoint accuracy,” the letter reads.

Maryland State Police were alerted to the letter on July 13, 1990, less than a month before Schaefer was scheduled to attend a bluegrass festival at the park. Police requested the help of the FBI’s behavioral science unit and forensics investigators to study the letter for evidence. One week later, a man was arrested, and in May 1991 he was convicted of making a threat against a state official and sentenced to 18 months in jail.

As part of its investigation into this threat, the FBI lab-tested a number of envelopes and letters written from the same
typewriter, although the reports don’t indicate how law enforcement officials came upon those materials.

The writer of these letters, which flow seamlessly between words typed both forward and backward, makes references to both Satan and the Virgin Mary and includes doodles of sometimes upside-down Christian crosses and Jewish stars.

Schaefer’s file also shows the FBI was closely monitoring news coverage of a land deal gone bad involving Willard Hackerman, a close ally of Schaefer and the president and CEO of Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. Schaefer’s FBI file contained more than a dozen articles from The Washington Post and The (Baltimore) Sun in the fall of 2004 about the Hackerman deal.

Hackerman’s company won lucrative deals to build Oriole Park at Camden Yards and other Inner Harbor attractions while Schaefer was the mayor of Baltimore, from 1971 to 1987.

In 2004, while Schaefer was serving his second term as state comptroller, the Maryland General Assembly received a memo from the state administration saying that an anonymous benefactor wanted to buy 836 acres in St. Mary’s County, donate some of the land for two new schools, and then a year later donate the development right back to the state — all the while standing to gain almost $7 million in tax breaks, the newspaper articles say. In the end, the deal fell through after opposition from both state Democrats and Republicans.

The FBI file does not accuse Schaefer of any wrongdoing. But the bureau did closely monitor the situation — as comptroller, Schaefer was one of three members of the Board of Public Works that would have had to approve the deal for his longtime friend, who donated a statue of Schaefer to the City of Baltimore on his 88th birthday.

The FBI created a sub-file in Schaefer’s records just for news coverage of this issue.
——
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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