The Brooks County Sheriff’s Office announced on Facebook Wednesday afternoon that Sheriff Urbino “Benny” Martinez received a ricin-filled letter suspected to have been sent by a 53-year-old Canadian woman.
“On Monday September 14, 2020, Brooks County Sheriff’s Office received an envelope addressed to Sheriff Urbino “Benny” Martinez with a letter and suspicious powdery substance. The letter was placed in a controlled area with limited access,” BCSO said in the release. “The United States Postal Inspector advised our office of the potential hazardous letter and its contents, contents are suspected to be Ricin. The letter was then located and secured for recovery and analysis.”
The FBI believes Pascal Cecile Veronique Ferrier, who is accused of sending one of these poison letters to President Donald J. Trump, also sent ricin-filled letters to Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra, three Hidalgo County detention officers, Mission police chief Robert Dominguez and the Brooks County sheriff.
An affidavit for Ferrier’s arrest alleges Ferrier sent six letters containing the lethal substance to law enforcement agencies in Texas associated with her arrest and incarceration last year.
The FBI affidavit doesn’t name the agencies, but over the course of the week, authorities in the Rio Grande Valley and Brooks County confirmed receipt of the letters.
Mission police arrested Ferrier on March 12, 2019, on charges of having a fake Texas driver’s license and unlawful carrying of a weapon.
After her arrest, jail records indicate she was incarcerated in the Hidalgo County Detention Center.
While in jail, authorities discovered she overstayed a six-month visa and she was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in May 2019. The agency deported her.
It’s not immediately clear what Ferrier was doing in the Brooks County Detention Center. That facility holds ICE detainees as well as inmates from Hidalgo County.
The Monitor has sought clarification from the agency.
Early Thursday afternoon, Mission’s police chief, Dominguez, issued a two-page statement detailing Ferrier’s arrest there, as well as shining light into the day authorities discovered the ricin letter at the Mission Police Department.
According to that statement, Ferrier’s trip to deportation back to Canada began on March 12, 2019, at the Mission Hike & Bike Trails.
Dominguez said a patrol officer spotted her vehicle with Canadian registration stationary in the park after 10 p.m. The chief says the officer issued the woman a verbal warning and explained that city ordinance prohibits people from being in the park after 10 p.m.
That same officer, however, found her in the same vehicle in the park at 12:28 a.m., according to Dominguez.
“The patrol officer asked the female defendant Ferrier to leave the park. She advised the officer that she knew she needed to leave, however, she was not going to leave,” the chief said.
The officer asked Ferrier for identification and she said she didn’t have a driver’s license or identification from Quebec and refused to provide a date of birth, Dominguez wrote.
“The female defendant was asked to step out of her car and to place her hands over her head to be patted down,” the chief said. “As she complied with the officer’s request, one of the officers on scene saw that she was armed with a handgun about her waist line.”
The chief said the officers took the gun, handcuffed her, found she also had a club and transported her to the Mission jail where the FBI eventually helped identify her.
Fast-forward more than a year to Sept. 16, last Wednesday, and Dominguez says Guerra, the sheriff, told him about the ricin-filled letters that HCSO received. The following day, the chief said the FBI approached him asking for a copy of the March 12, 2019, offense report against Ferrier.
“During the days that followed and into the weekend, we worked with the local FBI Office in regards to the arrest made by our organization back in March 2019,” Dominguez said.
The chief’s concern now was that Ferrier had sent a poisoned letter to the Mission Police Department because of that arrest.
On Sept. 20, he says he contacted the local U.S. postal inspector and expressed his concern. The postal inspector agreed to come to the Mission Police Department early the next day, Sept. 21, a Monday.
The postal inspector, who Dominguez said wore protective equipment, first searched his administrative assistant’s desk but didn’t find an envelope matching the description.
“Before departing, I asked the Postal Inspector to look over a number of envelopes located in my office that were being received from throughout the country based on the recent passing of Mission Police Officer Jorge Cabrera,” Dominguez wrote.
Cabrera died in late August from the coronavirus.
“During the review of those envelopes, an envelope matching those sent to other law enforcement agencies was discovered,” the chief said.
That letter was addressed to Dominguez, who said he contacted the Mission fire chief to ask for a hazmat team. The fire chief coordinated with Pharr and that city’s hazmat team arrived at the Mission Police Department and secured the letter before turning it over to the FBI.
“This coordinated effort was important in assuring that no one would become a victim of the defendant’s intent to poison anyone who came into contact with the contents of the envelope,” Dominguez wrote.
Ferrier made her first appearance in court in Buffalo, New York on Tuesday on a charge of threatening the president. She was arrested at a border crossing there on Sunday.
It’s also not immediately clear whether Ferrier will face charges in the Southern District of Texas.
When asked, a spokesperson said they couldn’t comment on anything that is not in the public record and could not speculate as to potential future charges.
Ferrier is scheduled for detention, probable cause and identity hearings in Buffalo, New York on Monday.