County authorities credit modern technology for tracing a phone call that threatened county judges and indicated a bomb was in the Mercer County Courthouse.
At about 11:15 a.m. Monday, Oct. 28, Margie Small was arrested at her Shenango St., Sharpsville, home, according to Jeff Greenburg, county public information officer. She was held in Mercer County Jail until she was charged with terroristic threats and harassment in Judge Lorinda L. Hinch’s district court.
According to a news release: At about 9 a.m. Monday, a courthouse employee answered a call from a woman making threats against judges and who indicated that a bomb was in the building. The employee relayed the information to the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, who with the county emergency management agency and commissioners agreed that the threat would be treated as credible. The courthouse was evacuated and closed while K-9 units from the sheriff’s office, New Castle Police and Beaver County Sheriff’s Office searched for explosives, which are part of Region 13’s explosive K-9 detection program.
Greenburg stayed outside with a handful of other officials while the bomb dogs searched the building, while most of the other courthouse employees went home, he said. “If they left their car keys inside, they had someone come pick them up ... or they went to one of the other county buildings,” Greenburg said.
At about 11:30 a.m., officials determined no explosives were present.
“After the building was cleared, they started allowing people to go back in around noon,” Greenburg said. The courthouse re-opened to the public at 1 p.m.
Deputies and the county’s management information systems department – which oversees all of its computer and phone networks – tracked the call to Sharpsville, Greenburg said.
Mercer County Sheriff Gary A. Hartman would not say specifically why Small called in the bomb threat.
“A bigger part of the problem is mental health issues,” Hartman said. “But that doesn’t negate the criminal aspect.”
Small’s neighbor, Maggie Myers, said she has clashed with the family in the past and Small has called many places with complaints. Small called The Herald Friday and claimed that she had seen a transit bus driver taking pictures of her grandchild and other kids on a regular basis close to her home.
During the phone call, she said she was banned from the transit unless she wrote them a letter of apology.
Small’s preliminary hearing was set for 9:30 a.m. Nov. 7.
The Blair County courthouse in Hollidaysburg received a similar threat Friday that was determined to be a hoax.
Herald Staff Writer Melissa Klaric contributed to this report, which was published Oct. 30, 2013.