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Courier's mysterious poison-pen letter

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

(Editor's note: The website thefreedictionary.com, defines a poison-pen letter as "an anonymous letter or note containing abusive or malicious statements or accusations about the recipient or a third party." In this recent poison-pen letter, however, the writer(s) chose to employ a forged signature rather than send the missive anonymously.)

Apparently there's more intrigue in City of Bandera politics than occurred at the former courts of the Borgian popes.

Last week, the Bandera County Courier published a letter purported to have been written by Robert Perry, who was identified as being a property owner in the city. Prior to running Perry's letter to the editor, the Courier did due diligence, discovering that the newspaper subscriber lives on Rugh Hill Road.

As it turned out, however, Perry did not write the letter, which excoriated the department of City Marshal James "Charlie" Hicks. In a visit with Courier publisher and owner Gail Joiner, Perry said he supports the marshal's office and was very complimentary to municipal law enforcement.

The fact remains that both local newspapers were punked by a phony letter to the editor designed to denigrate the city's current law enforcement department. Hicks' response to the bogus letter is published on the Opinion Page of this week's Courier.

According to Hicks, Perry is determined to "get to the bottom" of the person or persons who actually sent the letter and forged his name to it. He plans to take the matter to 198th District Attorney Scott Monroe for investigation, added Bandera City Administrator Mike Cardenas.

Intrigued by the unfortunate occurrence, the Courier employed a software recognition program in its own quest to unravel the mystery. By analyzing misspellings, syntax and phraseology, the program determines attributes about a writer, such as age, educational background and gender.

In the interest of full disclosure, the version of the letter run through the software program was unedited with misspellings, lack of punctuations, run-on sentences and sentence fragments left intact. Since the computer program came up with very little hard evidence, including the definitive gender of the letter writer, it appears that more than one person might have concocted the letter. This would also be underscored by various spellings of the word "marshal." Also, the sentence, "OH! The city swells with tourist [sic] on holiday weekends" reads more like a sentiment a woman would employ than a man.

Additionally, the letter purports Perry to be a property owner, not a city resident. Although he maintains a home on Rugh Hill, when Perry's name is entered on the Central Appraisal District's website, the San Antonio address used in the letter appears. In fact, the San Antonio residence belongs the Perry's sister with whom he is currently staying, according to Cardenas.

Perhaps the real letter writer(s) wanted to select a person with possible legitimate concerns, but who he-she-they erroneously assumed would have no knowledge of letters published in local newspapers since he-she-they assumed Perry lived in San Antonio.

Another interesting allegation is the idea that "the current City Marshal is 'empire building' just as his predecessor did..." Hint to those who concocted the phony letter, don't employ that phrase again in public lest identities be given away.

It is the Courier's hope that Perry continues his quest to "get to the bottom" of this reprehensible act.

Since the letter was sent through the United States Postal Service complete with a forged signature, perhaps federal charges could be filed against the skells once they're unmasked.

For his part, Hicks is exploring several possibilities, but his official comment is "No comment" at this stage of the investigation. However, he indicated that the document would be checked for fingerprints and that handwriting analysis may be conducted on the signature.

Meanwhile, it appears "politics as usual" will continue in the City of Bandera with behind-the-scenes pot stirring rather than open and civil debate.