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News: Top Stories

Feds: Sacramento man penned nearly 50 threats in plot to frame dad

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 3/26/2019 By Megan Cassidy
a wooden table: File photo of court room gavel.
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The targets were government officials, a pastor, reporters and LGBQT activists — located in places ranging from Sacramento to Dallas.

They were among the recipients of nearly 50 death threats and harassing letters — some laced with white powder — sent by one man who authorities said was trying to frame his father and father’s associates.

Sacramento resident Darnell Ray Owens was arrested in Tulsa on Friday after officials connected him to the threats through DNA evidence taken from letters sent through the U.S. mail, authorities said. Federal prosecutors in Sacramento charged Owens, 32, with interstate threats and a hoax involving biological weapons, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott said Monday.

If convicted, Owens could face up to five years in prison for each of the two charges.

Court documents released on Monday say the threats began in February 2018. They included the return addresses of several different people, in what FBI agent described as an elaborate scheme by Owens to frame others.

Some of the first letters were mailed to the LGBTQ Community Center in Sacramento, where the letter’s author used hate speech and threatened to “murder” every gay and transgender person in the city.

Another addressed to the Sacramento Police Department claimed that officers were trying to start a race war by killing people of color, and threatened to “murder you pigs with my words and weapons.”

In July, an employee of the First Baptist Church in Dallas opened a letter containing a white powder, vowing to “assassinate your pastor in the name of Allah,” and “burn down Christian churches.”

The Sacramento County Department of Revenue Recovery received another letter containing white powder in August, with the letter’s author threatening to burn down the building and “kill a lot of people.”

The woman who opened the letter told FBI agent Stacy Landrus that she spilled white powder on her hands and “had never been so scared,” according to court records.

More letters mailed through late 2018 threatened to kill specific television news reporters in Sacramento, the Elk Grove mayor and “white people in general.”

Most of the threats were sent via U.S. mail. Other threats were submitted via online complaint forms.

The final letter listed in court documents arrived on about March 21, addressed to Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s office. The letter stated that the prosecutor had “failed this city and the people” and detailed how the author would assassinate her.

Most of the letters were postmarked in Sacramento, and included the return address of Owens’ father or others associated with Owens’ father.

One of the people Owens allegedly targeted told investigators that Owens and his sister had been in an argument with their father about parties they had at the dad’s apartment. The father told the siblings they needed to move out, court documents state.

Officials said they connected DNA evidence from the letters to a birthday card Owens sent to a distant cousin.

The case is part of an ongoing investigation by the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Sacramento Police Department.

Megan Cassidy is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: megan.cassidy@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @meganrcassidy

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