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Cat hair links woman to bombs mailed to Obama and Texas governor

  • SERGIO FLORES / REUTERS VIA NYT

    Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas at a news conference this month. The authorities charged a woman with mailing him a homemade explosive device, which did not detonate.

Julia Poff nursed a grudge that prompted her to mail homemade explosive devices to President Barack Obama and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, the authorities said, adding that hair from a pet cat helped them connect her to one of the bombs.

Court records say her story began years ago when Poff did not get support from her ex-husband and, for reasons that were unclear, she blamed Abbott, who was the state’s attorney general at the time.

Poff, 46, had applied for Social Security benefits and her applications were denied, court records show. Also, she had said did not like Obama, according to court testimony.

So, on Oct. 2, 2016, Poff mailed homemade explosive devices to Abbott at the governor’s mansion, Obama at the White House and the commissioner of the Social Security Administration in Gwynn Oak, Maryland, federal prosecutors said.

Abbott opened his package, but it did not explode because “he did not open it as designed,” court records say.

“Had the device exploded, it could have caused severe burns and death,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances H. Stacy wrote in an order filed Nov. 17.

The improvised explosive device sent to Abbott included a salad dressing cap from a bottle Poff had bought for her anniversary dinner, as well as a cigarette box, which contained various types of powder; the box was connected to a fuse, court documents said. A search of her home, in Brookshire, Texas, and a Texas tobacco stamp on the cigarette box helped investigators trace the device back to her.

A similar package sent to Obama was detected during the mail screening process. Investigators found cat hair under the address label that the FBI crime lab examined and connected to one of her cats, court records said. The fate of the device mailed to the Social Security Administration was unclear.

Representatives for Abbott, Obama and the Social Security Administration could not be immediately reached tonight.

Poff faces six charges, including two counts of transporting explosives with the intent to kill and injure. If convicted, she faces maximum sentences of decades in prison.

A lawyer for Poff, Ashley Kaper, said in an email that it was too early to comment on the case.

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