A Klamath Falls, Oregon man pleaded guilty today for sending cards to former coworkers containing a white powdered pesticide threatened to be anthrax, announced U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams.
Kelly Michael Burns, 71, pleaded guilty today to eight counts of mailing threatening communications.
According to court documents, on or about December 19, 2019, Burns mailed four Christmas cards, postmarked in Medford, to former coworkers containing a white powder pesticide later identified as carbaryl. The cards were addressed to the victims’ workplace and contained violent threats such as “Merry Anthrax (obscenity)! Eat (obscenity) and die more to come.” Three people at Burns’ former workplace were exposed to the carbaryl, forced to undergo an extensive physical decontamination process, and were administered a high-dose antibiotic. One of the victims exposed was ten weeks pregnant at the time of exposure. As a result of the contamination, law enforcement ordered company employees out of the building and the company was closed for further decontamination.
Later, on February 13, 2020, Burns again mailed cards containing carbaryl to the same four victim recipients. This second wave of cards also contained violent statements with added threats directed at the victims’ families.
On February 26, 2020, an FBI laboratory completed a chemical analysis of the powder found in the December cards and confirmed that it was carbaryl, a known pesticide toxic to humans. A few days later, FBI handwriting analysts presumptively matched the handwriting on the envelopes and cards mailed in December to Burns’ own handwriting obtained from a job application and recent tax documents.
In March 2020, FBI agents executed a search warrant at Burns’ residence. They found handwritten notes in which Burns threatened to kill a former coworker, sabotage his former workplace, and conduct a drive-by shooting. Agents also recovered several books including, “The Poisoner’s Handbook,” “The Joy of Cold Revenge,” “U.S. Army Guide to Boobytraps,” and “Silent Death.”
On March 5, 2020, Burns was charged by criminal complaint with mailing threatening communications and false information or hoaxes. Later, on January 15, 2021, he was charged by criminal information with eight counts of mailing threatening communications.
Burns faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years’ supervised release. He will be sentenced on May 6, 2021 before U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. McShane.
As part of the plea agreement, Burns has agreed to pay restitution in full to his victims as identified by the government prior to sentencing and ordered by the court.
This case was investigated by the FBI. It is being prosecuted by John C. Brassell, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.