Jail finds love affair with high-profile inmates

PORTLAND, Ore. — Jailers near Portland say defendants in two of Oregon’s highest-profile recent crime sprees carried on a clandestine relationship behind bars, devising a complex communication strategy fit for a spy novel.

Columbia County jail officials uncovered the relationship last month when they found a love note written by Andrew Barnett, accused of perpetrating a recent anthrax hoax that targeted a number of Portland law enforcement and commercial centers. The object of his affection was Holly Grigsby, charged in a three-state killing spree.

Barnett’s note was found hidden in a law book on a library shelf. Most of the four-page letter was vulgar and sexually explicit, and it included a racist rant against the African American judge presiding over both their cases, Lt. Tony Weaver, a jail supervisor, told The Oregonian.

Barnett devised a complex way to communicate that involved book bindings marked with stars and other symbols, dog-eared pages and a numeric code so Grigsby could find the book where he hid his letters, Weaver said. At least two other inmates also were using books in the library as dead-drops for secret communications.

“They called it their `email’ system,” Weaver said.

Authorities moved the jail’s law library to a more secure location on Nov. 16, he said, and inmates can still access those books. But to read general fiction and non-fiction books, they must pick them off a cart that rolls cell to cell.

Grigsby is awaiting trial on federal racketeering charges alleging that she and an accomplice, David “Joey” Pederson, killed four people, including an Everett couple, last fall as part of a campaign to “purify” and “preserve” the white race. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Barnett has a long history of challenging authorities from behind bars. He’s accused of mailing a parcel in December 2011 with a mysterious white powder to a federal prosecutor, which the government alleges was an attempt to convey that it was anthrax and that a biological attack was occurring. After the first letter sent to the prosecutor, a slew of similar parcels showed up at six other Portland buildings, including the Lloyd Center mall, the downtown Hilton and the Port of Portland’s office at the airport.

The letters were all determined to be nontoxic. He’s pleaded not guilty.

Barnett was moved from a Portland jail to the Columbia County Jail in St. Helens, where he was issued a pencil with orange lead — the only one of it’s kind in the jail — so jailers would know if he was writing threatening or otherwise forbidden notes.

Barnett got permission to use the library so he could prepare to defend himself against his federal charges. Inside the library, he found a ventilation shaft that connected to the women’s housing unit in the next room.

By shouting through the vent, he made contact with Grigsby, Weaver said.

More in Local News

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

John Miller, congressman, author activist, has died

He was known for his dedication to the marine industry, energy and human rights.

Church takes a quiet, contemplative approach to worship

Alternative services at First Congregational Church of Maltby offer “a good deal of silence.”

Funds up for council vote would aid conservation district

District stands to receive an extra $1 million each year, if the County Council gives its approval.

Snohomish County hosts its annual Focus on Farming conference

The event features a trade show as well as talks on agriculture, jam-making and more.

Supportive housing for man accused in attacking his mother

Mental state impaired man’s ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions, judge rules.

Lynnwood mayor challenged by councilman in general election

Three City Council members also are facing challengers on the Nov. 7 ballot.

‘Horrific’ child-porn case: Former Arlington man sentenced

Raymond Devore, arrested in 2015, had a cache of disturbing photos and video on his cellphone.

500 tires go up in flames at a store south of Everett

There were no injuries. And it was nowhere near as bad as that months-long tire fire in 1984.

Most Read