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FBI documents show three threats to former Gov. Schaefer’s life

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 Allegany County. The writer claimed to be “an ex-Army sharpshooter who was trained 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.