In a surprising turn of events, cat hair led to the arrest of a Texas woman who was accused of mailing homemade bombs to then-President Barack Obama and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in 2016.
Evidence that helped authorities connect Julia Poff to the explosive devices included “cat hair found under an address label,” which was on a package sent to Obama, the Associated Press reported. (Other key items in tracking Poff were an “obliterated shipping label” with her address and a cigarette box she had purchased to make the device.)
According to court filings from a Nov. 17 detention hearing, an FBI crime lab found the cat hair on the package to be “microscopically consistent” with the hair of one of Poff’s cats, the AP reported.
Animal hairs, including cat hair, “can link a suspect or location to a crime of violence,” according to material on the FBI’s website. (Take, for instance, the 1994 murder of Shirley Duguay, a crime that was solved thanks to cat hairs found in the killer’s jacket lining.)
“When an animal hair is found, it is identified to a particular type of animal and microscopically compared with a known hair sample from either an animal hair reference collection or a specific animal,” the FBI site notes. “If the questioned hair exhibits the same microscopic characteristics as the known hairs, it is concluded that the hair is consistent with originating from that animal.”
Poff—who has been indicted by a grand jury on six counts, including mailing injurious articles and transporting explosives with the intent to kill and injure—reportedly “didn’t like” Obama.
At the hearing, a federal agent testified that Poff was angry with Abbott because she did not receive support from her ex-husband when Abbott served as Texas Attorney General, the AP reported. Of the three packages Poff sent (the third was sent to the Social Security Administration near Baltimore), only Abbott opened his, the article stated. Luckily it did not detonate because “he did not open it as designed,” court records stated.
Poff is currently being held at a Houston federal detention center, and a pretrial conference in the case is scheduled for early 2018.