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Cat Hair Leads FBI to Woman Who Allegedly Sent a Bomb to Obama

Julia Poff allegedly mailed three explosive devices to the former president, the Texas governor, and the Social Security Administration.
Photo of Julia Poff from the Texas Department of Public Safety/Houston Chronicle via AP

A Houston woman suspected of mailing a homemade bomb to President Obama last year was caught not by attentive neighbors or parents, but by the hair of her own cat, the Guardian reports.

According to court papers filed last week in Houston, Julia Poff, 46, was arrested on suspicion of sending homemade explosives to Obama, Texas governor Greg Abbott, and the head of the Social Security Administration, Carolyn Colvin, last year. While thankfully none of the devices detonated, the documents claim Abbott barely avoided "severe burns and death."

The decision to target three government officials allegedly grew from a domestic dispute between Poff and her ex-husband. According to court documents, Poff was upset "because she had not received support" from him and somehow decided that Abbott, the former Texas Attorney General, was to blame. She had also been denied Social Security benefits and had spoken openly about her distaste for President Obama, which may have influenced her to act against Colvin and the former president, according to the New York Times.

In October 2016, Poff allegedly cooked up a homemade explosive device using black powder, pyrotechnic powder, and a salad dressing cap, and stuffed the materials into a cigarette pack before mailing it off to Abbott, the Houston Chronicle reports. Abbott ended up opening the package, but it didn't detonate. Similar packages were also reportedly sent to the White House and the Social Security Administration, but were intercepted.

The package that had been addressed to Obama was the one that reportedly led the FBI straight to Poff. According to the Chronicle, the shoddy packaging job included some small cat hairs on one of the shipping labels. The FBI was then able to test the hairs and determined "the cat hair on the Obama package was microscopically consistent with the hair of one of Poff's cats." Authorities were able to track down the shipping label and cigarette purchase to Poff, as well.

According to the Guardian, Poff has been charged with "mailing injurious articles and transporting explosives with the intent to kill and injure," as well as food stamp fraud and false bankruptcy declaration. If convicted, she could spend multiple decades behind bars, the Times reports.