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More details on that threatening letter

Monday, May 27, 2019

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

As the state Legislature’s spring session nears its end, I want to take a moment to look back on one of the scariest times of the year with the hope that one of you might recognize something and help bring a deranged person to justice.

You may have seen a brief news story about it, but several state legislators reported receiving an identical mailer in late April with the headline: “Dead People Can’t Collect Fat Pensions.” The envelopes were postmarked in Champaign, but that’s a central collection point so the letters could’ve been mailed from anywhere in the region.

The letter contained both a long list of grievances about the state’s troubled pension system and numerous death threats. ”Don’t bother about new gun laws,” the letter writer stated, “from arson to strangulation, there are more effective means available.”

”You may think you can extract more money from us,” the writer warned. ”We would advise you to think again. Over 40,000 cowards unwilling to push back have left the state annually over the last 5 years, leaving behind the determined, the courageous — and most importantly — those with nothing left to lose.”

”Time is short. The list is long. After the first one, the rest are free,” the writer concluded.

The writer threatened mass assassinations for pretty much everyone who receives a state government pension, including survivors and heirs.

To avoid this fate, the author demanded in the form letter that the pension actuarial tables be changed and the state’s constitution be amended to remove the pension protection clause before instituting a graduated income tax. The writer also demanded unspecified “cap$ and clawback$ for outrageous$ pension payout$” and local government consolidation. He or she also demanded the end of pension double-dipping and “playing salary games at career’s end to max out your take.”

Whoever wrote that letter is obviously more informed about state government than most average citizens.

While the content of the mass mailer was identical, whoever sent it took some time to make almost every one distinct.

One way the author individualized the letters was by using a different return address for almost all of them. The envelope sent to House Speaker Michael Madigan, for instance, used a return address for Gov. JB Pritzker. The Illinois Education Association’s letter had the same return address, which was for Pritzker’s personal business office in Chicago. The letter sent to a Champaign public radio station was ostensibly from the late Dawn Clark Netsch, the first woman elected to a statewide office in Illinois. All the return addresses were printed on labels and not hand-written.

However, most of the return addresses appear to have been researched on the Illinois State Board of Elections’ website. Several legislators told me that the names and return addresses on letters sent to them were of campaign contributors who can be found with an online search.

Some return addresses and names were of political action committees. The letter addressed to a prominent gun control proponent, for instance, had a return address of a gun control political action committee which had contributed to his campaign last year.

Other letters were ostensibly from specific individuals, including a prominent retired Chicago business executive, a legislator’s mother, a legislator’s relative and the husband of a state representative’s senator. All were campaign contributors.

In other words, whoever sent this letter doesn’t appear to be just some random crank with a handy mailing list. That person or persons put some real time and effort into this. And that almost bothers me more than the letter itself.

A state senator who received one of the mailers said the postage stamp on the envelope chilled him to the bone. The sender used a John Lennon stamp. The former Beatle was murdered in 1980.

The letter writer had threatened all pension plan participants with being killed and cryptically asked recipients if they were “sure” that some accidental deaths on the highways were truly accidents or “the conscious decisions of people with nothing left to lose to ‘take one with me?’”

And that leads us to the most egregious example of how truly sick this person is. The return address on the letter mailed to a Rockford-area legislator made it appear that it came from Brooke Jones-Story, an Illinois State Trooper who was killed by another motorist during a traffic stop in March near Rockford. Jones-Story was one of three troopers killed by motorists in the first three months of 2019.

If you have any information at all, please call the Illinois State Police or the FBI.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

8 Comments »
  1. - Grandson of Man - Monday, May 27, 19 @ 9:36 am:

    Thanks Rich for following up on this and keeping it in people’s attention. May the perpetrator(s) get caught.


  2. - wordslinger - Monday, May 27, 19 @ 9:58 am:

    –The return address on the letter mailed to a Rockford-area legislator made it appear that it came from Brooke Jones-Story, an Illinois State Trooper who was killed by another motorist during a traffic stop in March near Rockford. –

    That is a truly sick mind at work. And this demento has fever dreams that these actions are serving a noble, public purpose.

    This one has such delusions of grandeur, you have to think that the sender can’t stand to go unrecognized. My guess is the writer has already left clues to some, desperate for the glory of the actions.


  3. - Not a Billionaire - Monday, May 27, 19 @ 10:03 am:

    I note that leaving Illinois theme. And it’s wrong as we know it’s poor people dealing with a regressive tax system and higher costs…….


  4. - Not a Billionaire - Monday, May 27, 19 @ 10:08 am:

    Who has been looking at our election system . I don’t think we can eliminate the Russians. Their websites like zh are known to obsess over our Pension issue.


  5. - wordslinger - Monday, May 27, 19 @ 10:36 am:

    –I note that leaving Illinois theme.–

    It’s not hard to find the editorial boards, columnists and “think tanks” that share the political point-of-view.

    I’m guessing investigators might be checking various comment section platforms looking for similar use of language and idioms to the letters sent.


  6. - revvedup - Monday, May 27, 19 @ 4:17 pm:

    An FBI profiler is needed; lots of clues to be put together.


  7. - Perrid - Monday, May 27, 19 @ 4:59 pm:

    wordslinger, I doubt s/he is leaving intentional clues. Seems like they went to some length not to incriminate themselves. People usually aren’t as smart as they think they are though, hopefully there’s a trail.


  8. - Amalia - Monday, May 27, 19 @ 9:28 pm:

    Rich, my husband and I discussed how we appreciate that you wrote this column with such detail. It truly horrifies, but captures the attention of any reader. This will surely assist in apprehending the threatening person. thank you. (exclamations)


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