Inmate behind Mich. anthrax hoax

An envelope containing a suspicious white powder was opened today at the Ionia, Mich., County Courthose, prompting the Ionia Public Safety Hazmat team to be called in.

White powder, Ionia County Sheriff Dwain Dennis told The Sentinel-Standard, flew out of a letter from an inmate at Ionia Maximum Security Prison when an employee opened the letter.

The inmate, whose name has not yet been released, was confirmed as being incarcerated at IMAX by Warden Willie Smith, Dennis said.

The Hazmat team evacuated the clerk's office, closing off the area to test the substance. Three tests were run on the powder, which was revealed to be Desitin baby powder. Desitin, Warden Smith told The Sentinel-Standard, is available to inmates at an on-site store.

“It was scary,” Janae Cooper, chief deputy clerk and the person who opened the envelope, told The Sentinel-Standard. “I’m so relieved [it was harmless].”

Charges are expected to be filed and the incident is still considered under investigation.

Ionia County Prosecutor Ron Schafer said that this is not the first time that an unidentified powder has been sent to the courthouse.

“A few years ago, we received letters in this office with all kinds of substances,” Schafer told The Sentinel-Standard. “We always reported it, but that was before the threat of bioterrorism.”