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Barnesville man arrested for alleged anthrax hoax letters sent to Jones deputies, courthouse

The sheriff's office says Ball previously served two years in a federal prison for similar threats he made in 2016

JONES COUNTY, Ga. — A Barnesville man faces charges of terroristic threats after he allegedly sent letters threatening to kill Jones County deputies and employees.

54-year-old Travis Ball is now behind bars at the Jones County Detention Center after the Sheriff says Ball sent threatening letters to the sheriff's office and the Jones County Courthouse. One of those threats was that anthrax was inside the envelopes.

Sheriff Butch Reece and lead investigator Kenny Allen say last Friday the sheriff's office received a letter addressed from someone who lived in Jones County. Inside was a powdery substance, which the note said was anthrax, according to Reece, but that wasn't the only threat investigators say Ball included.

"He was going to kill us all, hope we died," Reece said explaining what was said in the letter.

"Killing all the employees here and blowing up the sheriff's office," noting the other threats made.

Two more suspicious letters showed up this week. One to the Jones County Courthouse and second one to the Sheriff's Office. Sheriff Reece believes Ball, who lives in Lamar County, is the person who mailed them. 

Jones County Sheriff's Office says it was not actually anthrax in the envelopes they received. Allen says he believes it may have been baking soda.

Reece and Allen say it wouldn't be the first time Ball has been accused of sending these threats.

Ball served two years in federal prison after he allegedly sent anthrax threats in 2016 to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, State Bar and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

"When we called the other agencies that arrested him. Right off the bat, when you say his name, they say 'Oh, boy,'" Reece said.

Reece says before receiving the letters, they had an outstanding warrant on Ball for "harassing communications" with a person in Jones County. On Tuesday, investigators searched Ball's home in Barnesville and found evidence that he may have sent more letters.

"They found some more letters, that he'd sent to Washington, so I think we'll be seeing more places that receive some letters in the next few days from him," Reece said.

Because of the search, Reece say he believes Ball may be tied to a letter that Macon's federal courthouse received on Tuesday. The FBI would not comment on whether the cases are connected but did confirm the letter in Macon included a suspicious powder.

"Our preliminary reports on the powder found it was not anything hazardous," said Kevin Rowson, the public affairs officer for FBI Atlanta.

The FBI says they are doing additional tests on the substance found in that envelope as a precaution. 

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