Woman charged with making terrorist threats

NEW CUMBERLAND – A New Cumberland woman has been charged with making terrorist threats for allegedly threatening to harm staff members and residents of Hancock House, from where she was recently evicted.

Laurie Fegal Witzberger, 56, is being held at the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville on one felony count of making threats of terrorist acts. Hancock County Magistrate Michael White set bond at $25,000 cash.

Witzberger is accused of threatening to harm the Hancock House manager and to blow up the eight-floor apartment building after losing an eviction hearing on March 15, according to an arrest warrant filed in Hancock County Magistrate Court.

Hancock House, 720 Third Ave., New Cumberland, provides apartment housing for senior citizens and people with disabilities who meet certain income requirements. The case has since been bound over to Hancock County Circuit Court.

“She was evicted from her apartment and, in the course of that, she threatened to come back and shoot people and cause harm to people, including the building manager,” Hancock County Prosecutor Jim Davis said.

Anyone in West Virginia who threatens to commit a terrorist act can be charged with a felony, Davis said. The law defines “terrorist act” as an act that can result in bodily injury or property damage and that is intended to intimidate or coerce the civilian population.

After the eviction hearing, Witzberger was given until the end of March to vacate her apartment. She returned and allegedly made multiple threats against the female manager who represented Hancock House in the hearing, according to a criminal complaint filed by the West Virginia State Police.

In the course of speaking with residents, Witzberger allegedly spoke about using a gun, shooting people, shooting herself, shooting a dog, destroying her apartment, blowing up the building and killing people, according to the complaint.

In a March 27 interview with David Taylor, supervisor of the Northern Panhandle Community Criminal Justice Board’s Pre-Trial Release Program, Witzberger admitted to having “volatile tendencies” because of multiple health problems and prescription medicines.

A 1974 graduate of Brooke High School, Witzberger told Taylor she had worked as a dispatcher for the Brooke County Sheriff’s Department in the 1970s and ’90s. Her previous employment with the sheriff’s department was corroborated by Brooke County Chief Deputy John Eckersberg, Taylor said in his pre-trial release report.

Witzberger said she is a veteran, having served in the Army from 1978 to 1981, and was treated for post-traumatic stress disorder at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Pittsburgh in 2009, according to Taylor’s report.

Witzberger has a prior criminal record dating back to 1990, including charges of disorderly conduct, obstructing an officer, profane swearing, and intimidating a judicial official, according to her National Crime Information Center report.

Taylor said Witzberger may be a candidate for the mental health court that is part of the Northern Panhandle Adult Treatment Court.

If convicted, Witzberger faces a fine of $5,000 to $25,000 and a prison sentence of one to three years.

(Huba can be contacted at shuba@reviewonline.com)