Annapolis shooting suspect sent letter to a Virginian-Pilot editor, police say

The Virginian-Pilot

A Norfolk Virginian-Pilot editor who was harassed for years by the man charged in the killings of five journalists in Maryland received a letter Thursday that police believe was sent by the suspect.

Eric Hartley, who once worked for The Capital in Annapolis, found the pink, card-sized envelope in his newsroom mailbox on Thursday. The return address on the envelope was simply “anonymous source.” It was addressed to Hartley at The Virginian-Pilot, and postmarked June 28, the day of the shootings.

The letter was turned over unopened to the Norfolk police.

Police told Hartley that the envelope contained an unsigned card along with a compact disc. Police did not indicate what was on the CD. Hartley said the unsigned, store-bought congratulatory card said, “Smile, you’re on camera” and “It’s your big day. All eyes are on you.”

Police told Hartley that they found no messages in the envelope that directly threatened him. A Norfolk police lieutenant told the Pilot’s executive editor, Marisa Porto, on Thursday that police believed the card was from suspect Jarrod W. Ramos.

The department turned the letter over to the FBI, which will take it to the Anne Arundel County Police Department, a Norfolk police spokesman said.

An Anne Arundel police spokesman declined to comment Thursday on any letters received or sent in relation to the Ramos case.

Anne Arundel police said Monday that Ramos sent threatening letters to the Capital’s former attorney, a Baltimore City judge and Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals before the shooting rampage at the Annapolis newspaper.

Former Capital publisher Thomas Marquardt said the newspaper’s former attorney gave police a document, signed in Ramos’ name, saying he was on his way to the newsroom “with the objective of killing every person present.”

It included instructions to share a copy with Marquardt, who showed it to The Baltimore Sun.

Police say Ramos, 38, used a shotgun to blast through the doors of The Capital newsroom and kill five staff members.

The Laurel man is charged with first-degree murder in the killings of editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, 59; Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent who led special publications; editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, 61; editor and sports writer John McNamara, 56; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a recently hired sales assistant. Ramos is being held without bail.

Hartley, the former Capital columnist, was harassed by Ramos for years. Ramos’ grievance against the paper is believed to have begun in 2011, when Hartley wrote a column about a criminal case involving Ramos.

In the column, Hartley wrote that Ramos had been charged with misdemeanor harassment for a long series of threats he made against a former high school classmate.

Ramos sued Hartley and the newspaper for defamation, but lost the case and an appeal.

The document received by The Capital’s former attorney was formatted in the style of a legal motion to Maryland’s top court, but it was not clear whether it was actually filed.

The court refused in 2016 to hear Ramos’ appeal.

“You were too cowardly to confront those lies, and this is your receipt,” the writer says. “I told you so.”

The writer says a copy was being sent to the newspaper’s lawyer.

“I further certify I then did proceed to the office of respondent Capital-Gazette Communications … with the objective of killing every person present,” the writer says.

A letter attached to the document is addressed to retired Judge Charles Moylan Jr. Moylan wrote a scathing opinion against Ramos in the defamation case.

“Welcome, Mr. Moylan, to your unexpected legacy: YOU should have died,” the writer says. “Friends forever, Jarrod W. Ramos.”

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