Federal agents arrested a 48-year-old Pasco County woman in connection to a threat that locked down Broward County schools earlier this month and prompted a top aide to step down from a congressman-elect's office.
Ellisa Martinez of New Port Richey surrendered late Tuesday to FBI agents near Los Angeles. She is accused of sending an e-mail on Nov. 10 to South Florida conservative radio talk show host Joyce Kaufman, who was tapped to be U.S. Rep.-elect Allen West's chief of staff.
The e-mail praised Kaufman for encouraging people to "exercise our Second Amendment rights" and said "something big" would happen at a government building in Broward County, maybe a school.
"We'll end this year of 2010 in a blaze of glory for sure," the e-mail said, according to federal investigators.
The following morning, a woman called the radio station, WFTL 850 AM in South Florida, and reported her husband had sent the threatening e-mail. The woman added that her husband was going to a school in Pembroke Pines to carry out a shooting and asked the station to broadcast a plea to her husband to not do it.
Schools in Pembroke Pines were immediately put under lockdown. Several hours later, the Broward School District — the nation's sixth-largest — opted to do the same with all its schools. Several private and parochial schools followed the lead. All in all, more than 230,000 children were affected. Until dismissal time, students were prevented from leaving their classrooms except by escort. Parents and visitors were not allowed into the schools.
Investigators say they tracked down Martinez the day the threat was made by tracing the e-mail and telephone call to New Port Richey. She denied making the threat. Martinez told agents she had temporarily lost her phone at a local cafe that morning and that her home computer was unsecured. When agents went to get a search warrant for Martinez's phone and computer, she was able to slip out and not return, according to the federal documents.
Investigators seized a computer from her home and they found evidence that the e-mail to the radio station came from it, authorities said.
Martinez was taken into custody late Tuesday at her attorney's office in Van Nuys, Calif., said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller in Los Angeles. Martinez had been staying in Van Nuys for a short while, Eimiller said, and her attorney and FBI agents negotiated her surrender.
She is charged with interstate communication of a threat to injure another and was being held in a federal detention center in Los Angeles.
Miami FBI spokesman Michael Leverock said agents have no motive for the threats.
Police said they had no reason to believe that Kaufman, the talk radio host, was connected to the threat. But the next day she withdrew her acceptance of the job as U.S. Rep.-elect Allen West's chief of staff, saying she didn't want to tarnish West's reputation.
After her appointment had been announced, blogs and cable news shows highlighted some of her more inflammatory remarks. Her words, she said, were being twisted to hurt West.
Information from the Associated Press and Miami Herald was used in this report.