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Friday, October 8, 2004

Powder sender to be tested

Detention hearing on hold for mental evaluation of suspect


The Commercial Appeal, October 8, 2004
By Sherri Drake

A federal judge Thursday ordered a mental evaluation of a Memphis man accused of sending bomb threats and envelopes filled with white powder to Florida .

Federal Public Defender Steve Shankman told a judge that Dane Swindell's friends say he needs mental testing.

"I am concerned about Mr. Swindell's current competency to proceed," Shankman said.

Asst. U.S. Atty. Fred Godwin agreed to the evaluation and Magistrate Tu Pham put a detention hearing on hold until Swindell, 46, is tested.

"He's sick, physically and mentally," said Novella Smith-Arnold, his chaplain at Calvary Episcopal Church.

Swindell is accused of mailing at least eight bomb threats to schools in Broward County. Swindell used to live in Florida.

One letter said: "THERE IS A BOMB IN YOUR BUILDING!!! NO ELECTION POLLS HERE!!!"

He mailed at least 10 letters to Broward County mayors and leaders, according to an affidavit.

Federal Bureau of Investigation officials interviewed Swindell in his Memphis home Friday. There they found lists of schools and agencies that received letters and Swindell told them he'd sent as many as 25 letters.

He's told friends the government put implants in him to track him while he was in jail. But he was never in jail, Smith-Arnold said.

"He's too intelligent to think somebody put implants in his head," she said. "He's sick."

She said Swindell snapped because of health issues.

"It's unfortunate what happened," she said. "Voices did this."

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Edition: Final; Section: Metro; Page: B3
Copyright (c) 2004 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

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