A Bibb County sheriff’s investigation into alleged death threats against interim Animal Welfare Director Deborah Biggs has concluded there seemed to be no real intent to harm her. The sheriff’s office has no plans to file charges.
Sheriff Jerry Modena said the case will still be turned over to the Bibb County District Attorney’s Office and that sheriff’s investigators will continue to monitor the situation. Modena said a series of online messages posted on a couple of Facebook pages and other websites seemed to be more a case of people venting their frustrations rather than intending to actually harm Biggs.
The comments appeared on the web pages after the Animal Welfare center euthanized several dogs in early July.
Some of the Facebook comments included profane and abusive language. Among them: a message from someone who hoped Biggs would die “soon from a painful death,” and another that branded her “a killer ... who should be put to sleep.”
Modena said no threats were directly phoned, texted or e-mailed to Biggs.
He said Biggs, who is on a 60-day contract with the county to run Animal Welfare and to come up with suggestions of how to improve it, compiled the list of harassing communications and turned it over to Bibb County Chief Administrative Officer Steve Layson, who in turn relayed the information to the sheriff’s office.
“Steve was concerned about threats,” Modena said. “He wanted to see if any laws were broken. The law is always about intent (to cause physical harm), and in this case, there was no intent.”
Modena said his deputies at the Bibb County Courthouse have been paying closer attention to visitors, especially on days when the Bibb County Commission meets, as a precaution.
He said since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, law enforcement always treats comments as potential threats until they are investigated.
He noted the recent Aurora, Colo., shooting spree during the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” as an example of why law enforcement takes such comments seriously.
“You’ve got some animal lovers who went too far,” Modena said. “We’re not taking any chances. When people make a threat, we’re not going to laugh it off. We have to determine, are they capable?”
Bibb County spokesman Kevin Barrere said Layson and Biggs are satisfied with the investigation.
“Steve is fine with (the investigation),” he said. “He wanted to be on the safe side and maybe prevent in the future people crossing the line. We’re happy (investigators) didn’t consider them real threats. ... We’re hoping we can move past it.”
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.