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Police search for sender of e-mailed hit list


April 14, 2001

ELKHART — Police and school officials continue to look for the person who e-mailed students at two Elkhart schools with a threatening message.

Titled "Hit List 4/20/01" — the second anniversary of the Columbine High shooting — the e-mail was sent to students from Memorial High School and West Side Middle School at their homes, according to Douglas Hasler, Elkhart Schools director of employee and student relations.

The names of some 43 students in all were listed on the e-mails. About one-third of the students attend West Side and about two-thirds go to Memorial, Hasler said. The names of the students were listed under the names of their respective schools and that was the entire scope of the message.

"We are treating it very seriously, not knowing what we are looking at and what the intentions of the sender are," Hasler said.

Hasler said it is strongly suspected the sender is a student at one of the two schools. The sender sent the e-mail by an America Online (AOL) service and it was received by only AOL customers. The message had a return e-mail address on it.

On Thursday, Elkhart police were in the process of serving a search warrant on AOL.

AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said all search warrants for AOL must be sent to the Loudoun County Courthouse, in Leesburg, Va., where the company has its headquarters. Loudoun County has a full-time sheriff's employee dedicated to the task of handling AOL search warrants. The sheriff's department then serves a warrant to AOL, where employees are on duty 24 hours a day to identify who holds the AOL account for that e-mail address.

In addition to violating the law, threatening e-mails violate AOL's user agreement and the customer's service can be terminated, Graham said.

West Side School Principal Kristie Stutsman was told Thursday about the threatening e-mail by a student, Hasler said.

Parents of all the students on the list were called by officials at the two schools.

"For parents who didn't know about it at all, it's a terrible phone call to receive," Hasler said, "but one they appreciate."

by Tribune Staff Writer Keith BenmanCopyright © 1994-2001 South Bend Tribune


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