Fulton County inmate threatens jail employee in coded letter


When a letter was found in an inmate’s cell at the Fulton County jail, there was no indication that there was anything out of the ordinary about it. But on a hunch, the chief jailer sent it to a cryptographer who found a death threat that was hidden in plain sight.

The letter, found in the jail cell of Janorris Spears, wasn’t what it seemed, Fulton chief jailer Mark Adger said. It started, “What’s up? Listen!! My attorney came to see me.”

In reality, Adger said, the letter was a coded request to kill a jail employee. A cryptographer quickly determined the letter actually said, “Put a team together and cease this rat.”

Adger said it took the cryptographer less than an hour to translate, but to him, the code was “very sophisticated.” Letters corresponded to numbers, and a string of numbers would refer to another word.

The letter was addressed to a P.O. Box, and was being sent by Spears. It was found in October, but wasn’t translated until late November. Adger said the recipient named on the envelope was not a real person, and he did not know who was meant to receive the letter.

Spears, 31, was in jail in connection with the shooting death of Claude Dickerson on University Avenue in July 2014. He was one of four suspects facing murder charges in the the 29-year-old’s death.

Spears has been convicted of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and armed robbery, among other charges, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

It was his gang connections that led jail employees to send the letter to the cryptographer to see if there was anything hidden in the words, Adger said.

Adger said after finding the “overt threat” against an employee, the county performed a welfare check. The employee, who had been out of work with an injury, was OK, and said she didn’t remember interacting with Spears.

Adger said the experience showed him how important it is to keep up with training, and said the jail — which already monitors prisoners’ phone calls — will begin to pay closer attention, so determine if inmates are using coded messages there, too.

“This was a really good get,” Adger said of the letter. “We take protecting our people real serious.”

MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT.

The AJC's Arielle Kass keeps you updated on the latest happenings in Fulton County government and politics. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

 

Never miss a minute of what's happening in Fulton politics. Subscribe to myAJC.com.

In other Fulton news:



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

MONDAY’S WEATHER-TRAFFIC: Stationary storms, then drier air later in week
MONDAY’S WEATHER-TRAFFIC: Stationary storms, then drier air later in week

Monday: High: 90 Monday night: Low: 73 Tuesday: High: 90 Heavy rain and flash flooding may be problems in nearly stationary storms that could set up Monday and early this week, Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Katie Walls said. Damaging winds will also be a concern in the stronger storms that develop, Walls said.  Storms are...
Passenger killed, driver injured in I-75 crash in Cobb
Passenger killed, driver injured in I-75 crash in Cobb

The front-seat passenger was killed Sunday when the car in which she was riding crashed on I-75 South in Cobb County, police said. The driver was taken to WellStar Kennestone Hospital with critical injuries, Cobb police Sgt. Wayne Delk said. The crash happened shortly after noon between Hickory Grove Road and Wade Green Road, police said. “According...
Fans crowd downtown Atlanta for Comic Con, soccer, SEC football
Fans crowd downtown Atlanta for Comic Con, soccer, SEC football

Some were downtown for their fixes of sci-fi, comics or horror. Others whetted their appetites for fall and the near-religion of Southern sports — college football. Tens of thousands more sought the thrills of another kind of football — as in fútbol, soccer, the beautiful game. From Comic Con to the pre-season kickoff to SEC...
3 Missouri police officers wounded in Kansas City shootout; suspect killed
3 Missouri police officers wounded in Kansas City shootout; suspect killed

Police in Missouri shot and killed a suspect they said wounded three officers and was a person of interest in the shooting death of a university student, The Kansas City Star reported. >> Read more trending news The man had barricaded himself in a residence, Kansas City police said. The three officers were expected to live, KCTV ...
Officials seek answers in Gwinnett apartment fire
Officials seek answers in Gwinnett apartment fire

Investigators are seeking the cause of a fire at a  two-story, wood-frame apartment building in Norcross. Crews arrived about 3:25 a.m. Sunday at the KRC Hilltops apartments in the 5000 block of Brook Hollow Parkway, Gwinnett County fire spokesman Tommy Rutledge said. They found flames and smoke coming from two front units, he said. The fire was...
More Stories