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$1,000 reward offered in ongoing Jaffrey investigation

JAFFREY — A $1,000 reward is being offered by the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce, Atlas PyroVision Productions and Silver Ranch Airpark to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the August letters threatening mass violence, which resulted in the cancellation of the 23rd Annual Jaffrey Festival of Fireworks.

Wednesday, Jaffrey police made public an exact transcription of the letter — sent to local authorities as well as a New Hampshire newspaper — in which the anonymous writer blames town officials’ for the loss of his home and warns them that people would be injured and killed at the festival.

The investigation into the letter that caused so much disruption in the lives of Jaffrey festival organizers and some 30,000 ticketholders is ongoing, said Jaffrey Police Chief Bill Oswalt on Wednesday. Local police, the chamber and the Keene Sentinel each received letters on Aug. 16 stating primarily the same thing — that the festival would be the scene of death and destruction — prompting law enforcement from near and far to begin probing the letters’ source, and organizers to cancel the event out of concern for public safety.

While the Keene Sentinel published a portion of the letter in late August, Oswalt declined to release the letter to media sources. Three months later, Oswalt said police are at a stage in the investigation in which publication of the letter may help.

The $1,000 reward offer is something the chamber has been contemplating for awhile, Co-chair of the Jaffrey Festival of Fireworks Cyndy Burgess said, but the hope is that pairing it with the release of the letter will give it more weight.

“We chose not to give the public many specifics as we investigated the original leads, but now it is time to put it back into the limelight,” she said. “We would really like to see this person captured. The sooner, the better.”

Atlas’ Chief Executive Officer Steve Pelkey told the Ledger-Transcript on Wednesday that the threatening letter “placed a dark cloud over all of us and hopefully this creates an incentive for someone that may have information to come forward.”

The FBI continues to investigate physical evidence in the case, including an original letter received by the Keene Sentinel, Oswalt said. He would not comment on whether or not police have any suspects in the case.

The letter, which is addressed to “all the Jaffrey selectmen and all town officials,” reads, “All of you are in your happy homes but some of us are not in our happy homes because of your poor decisions. ... I have a lot more time on my hands since I have no job or home anymore but I had a little stash to invest and with my extensive military training I will be setting off my own fireworks display on Saturday and it will not be a crowd pleaser to all your fun festivalgoers who are there.”

The writer next addresses the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce, warning people who attend the event “..to be on guard, no one will know if they are in my danger zone of my fireworks display.”

In the final section of the letter, the writer describes the extent of the brutality he or she had planned for the event, while addressing the Jaffrey Fire Department: “I am sorry of the scene [that]will arrive on Saturday as [there] will be a lot of blood, perhaps some dismembered bodies and most likely multiple deaths.”

After receiving the letter Jaffrey police immediately contacted the N.H. Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Attorney, New Hampshire State Police, the U.S. Postal Service, the FBI and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Law enforcement treated the case as a bomb threat, which ultimately led to the decision to cancel the show, but Oswalt said Wednesday no explosive materials were ever found by authorities at Silver Ranch Airpark.

Although the cancelation of the festival had a negative financial impact on organizations and businesses in Jaffrey, Burgess said Wednesday that the community has supported one another in the aftermath. Despite the initial financial setback, Burgess said the chamber is planning to move forward with its programs and events, including Santa’s House, thanks in large part to donations. “Operation Santa will go on,” Burgess said of the more than 20-year tradition. “When we cancelled the fireworks, we offered advanced ticket purchasers a refund, but many donated the money to Santa’s House.”

The annual wrapping party for Santa’s House is scheduled for Dec. 20, when volunteers will spend the day packaging gifts for Jaffrey children in need. Last year, the event generated gifts for 214 children and 87 families.

Police are encouraging anyone with information about the letter to contact the Jaffrey Police Department at 532-7865 or by email at oswaltw@townofjaffrey.com.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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