Mailman still not charged

Friday, February 24, 2012

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

A Petersburg man's case is still pending, more than a year after he was accused of stealing a veteran's medicine out of the mail.

On Jan. 5, 2011, the Tribune reported that mail carrier Michael Murdock was stopped on his route by law enforcement officials and a search warrant was later executed at his home on Brown Shop Road.

Since then, "Special Agents with the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General completed their investigation ... and presented the results to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chattanooga," public information officer Scott Balfour wrote in an e-mail.

"It is the responsibility of the U.S. Attorney's Office to determine what, if any, criminal charges are appropriate, and to initiate criminal proceedings," Balfour continued. "It is my understanding that no criminal charges have been filed yet."

On the administrative side, the USPS regards the case as "still pending" and Murdock "remains on the rolls in a non-pay status," according to corporate spokesman David Walton.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District, said it was office policy not to comment on open cases.

Last year, Marshall County Sheriff's Department Detective Sam Bragg explained to the Tribune that a Veterans Affairs Department patient complained about not getting his proper medication.

"Apparently the Postal Service received complaints over time that things were missing from the mail, medicine being mailed to the VA patient," Bragg said.

"They got a box [of medicine that was to be mailed] and treated the box with clue spray. It's invisible but under fluorescent light, it fluoresces," the detective said. "Apparently, they contacted the person who was to receive the package asking that he contact them when it was delivered.

When it was, "they inspected it and determined that it had been tampered with," Bragg continued. "It was found to have been opened and there was a substitution made."

Shortly thereafter, "They traffic stopped him," Bragg said of Murdock.

The detective surmised from the circumstances that Murdock "was questioned and he and the vehicle were examined by the special light.

"It was determined that he had the substance on him and in his vehicle, indicating that he had ... opened the package," Bragg said.

"He was glowing," the detective said.

Sheriff Norman Dalton reported at the time that Special Agent Gina Koivula led a team of six from USPS OIG, along with an inspector from the VA. Also assisting the federal officers were Petersburg Police Chief Larry Hardin, Petersburg Police Officer Alan Moorehead, Dalton, Bragg and Deputy Chad Bass.

Murdock was not arrested, and made no statement to the press.

In a comment posted to the Tribune's Web site, Patrick Fulwood, a rural letter carrier in West Tennessee, cast doubt on the investigation process.

"It would seem to me that the postal inspector in charge of the investigation, if their true intent is to uncover the perpetrator, should have intercepted the package in question after it left each facility," Fulwood wrote.

"In my orientation with the post office (it was) explained to us that the inspectors should be there when the package was handed over as to not allow the citizen to tamper with the package either. The fact that the authorities waited on a call from the man just reeks of poor judgment. This investigation should have been conducted properly from the right starting point, then charges would have already been filed and be on the books instead of hanging in the air over a potentially innocent man."