Analyzing The J-Lo Letter
Ed Lake
August 4, 2008
Latest revision: March 11, 2014

Anyone who has kept up with the publicly available information about the anthrax attacks of 2001 knows that some facts about the case are disputed, others are not.  Plus, they know that some news reports which seemingly contain facts simply do not agree with other news reports which seeming contain facts.  And they know that some so-called "experts" do not agree with other so-called "experts" on what the facts mean.  And, if that's not bad enough, some official reports released years ago do not agree with the facts as we now know them.

So, the intent here is to look at the key "facts" gathered from all sources to determine what they tell us about the so-called "J-Lo letter" received at the AMI building in Boca Raton, Florida, sometime in September of 2001.  It is hoped that this analysis of one small aspect of the anthrax attacks of 2001 will also help to explain why there is so much argument over nearly everything related to the anthrax attacks of 2001. 


The first fact that must be understood is that at least two letters containing powders were received at the AMI building in Boca Raton shortly before Bob Stevens became ill with inhalation anthrax.  No letter was ever found, so all the information about the two letters comes from testimony by people who remember them.  In addition to that, we have the results of many different types of scientific testing intended to determine exactly where the anthrax contamination of the AMI building originated and how it was dispersed. 

One key source of information about these two letters is a report by the CDC dated October 2002 which says this about the so-called "J-Lo letter":

The index patient’s [Bob Stevens'] infection most likely occurred from inhalation of B. anthracis spores following a primary aerosolization, i.e., spores released into the air after opening a spore-containing letter. This scenario is consistent with co-workers’ recollections that the index patient held a letter containing powder over his computer keyboard, as well as environmental samples showing contamination at his keyboard, an incoming-mail desk near his workspace, and his mailroom mailbox.
So, the report says Bob Stevens infection most likely occurred from inhalation of spores released after opening a spore-containing letter.  It also says this is consistent with co-workers' recollections about the J-Lo letter.  No one disputes these facts -- as far as they go.  The dispute results from the facts obtained via scientific testing which point to a different, second letter as being the source of Bob Stevens' infection.

That same CDC report says this about the second letter:

The other co-worker, a 36-year-old woman, sorted mail and opened mail addressed to a periodical different from the one to which the index patient contributed. She recalled opening an envelope that released powder in her office on or about September 25. Afterwards, she discarded it in the trash without reading it. The letter most likely had arrived during the previous 2 weeks while she was on vacation. No other workplace mail likely to contain B. anthracis was suggested through further interviews.
The "36-year-old woman" who opened that second letter is named Stephanie Dailey. 


Buried in the CDC report is this important information:

Of 136 investigation-directed environmental samples obtained during October 8–10 from the workplace and company mail van, 20 were positive, including 10 of 20 from the mailroom, 1 of 2 from the company mail van, 5 of 6 from the office of the asymptomatic mail-sorter who had a positive nasal culture and had opened a letter containing powder, 2 of 21 from the index patient’s work area (at an incoming-mail desk near his workspace and a repeat sample from his computer keyboard), 1 of 9 in the text library, and 1 from the single basement ventilation filter sample
Stephanie Dailey was one of three people at AMI who were identified as having been exposed anthrax.  The other two were Bob Stevens and Ernesto Blanco.  This was also mentioned by CNN, Newsweek, and others in the media. 

But, what about the person who opened the J-Lo letter?


Many people have assumed that Bob Stevens opened the J-Lo letter.  Some may even conclude that it is implied by the CDC report.  But there was a very detailed description of the J-Lo letter and how it was handled in an article in the October 31, 2001, issue of The National Enquirer.  And since the Enquirer is owned by AMI, it is likely the authors had unrestricted access to every AMI employee involved.   The letter was delivered to Joe West on the third floor of the AMI building.

According to the article,

 [West said:] “Something told me, `Don’t open it! So I tossed it into the garbage.” 

But recently hired news assistant Bobby Bender, whose daughter is a J.Lo. Fan, said, “I want to open it.” He grabbed the envelope from West’s garbage can.

And Bobby Bender then opened the J-Lo letter.  Yet, Bobby Bender is not one of the three people who tested positive for exposure to anthrax.

Bender then proceeded to carry the letter around the third floor offices of the AMI building.  The article says,

“Bobby Bender came around the corner with this letter in the upturned palms of his hands,” said photo assistant Roz Suss, a 13-year Sun staffer. 
So, he was not only carrying it around the third floor offices, he was carrying it opened and "in the upturned palms of his hands."   Roz Suss was looking at the letter when "Bob Stevens came walking from his desk" and the article says,
He [Bob Stevens] was obviously curious about it and held out his hands. Bender delicately transferred the letter from his palms to Bob’s palms.

“Bob walked back to his desk and sat down, holding the letter in his cupped palms over the keyboard of his computer, with his arms bent so his face was right over the powder and just inches away from it.” 

This is how The Enquirer and many others believe Bob Stevens became exposed.  But they give no explanation for why Bender, Suss and West were not also exposed.  And they give no explanation for one obvious and critical problem with their reasoning: 


There is some additional, very important information buried in the CDC report.  It says this about the first environmental sampling tests:

Of 136 investigation-directed environmental samples obtained during October 8–10 from the workplace and company mail van, 20 were positive, including 10 of 20 from the mailroom, 1 of 2 from the company mail van, 5 of 6 from the office of the asymptomatic mail-sorter who had a positive nasal culture and had opened a letter containing powder, 2 of 21 from the index patient’s work area (at an incoming-mail desk near his workspace and a repeat sample from his computer keyboard), 1 of 9 in the text library, and 1 from the single basement ventilation filter sample
Between October 8 and 10, 2001, they took 136 samples and got 20 positive results.

10 of the 20 samples (50 percent) they took in the mailroom were positive.

5 of 6 samples (83 percent) they took in Stephanie Dailey's office were positive.

2 of 21 samples (10 percent) taken in Bob Stevens' work area were positive, BUT that was only true because they went back to Bob Stevens work area and did REPEAT tests on his computer keyboard. 

The CDC report also says there was another series of tests done from October 25 to November 8 to see where anthrax spores could be detected in the AMI building.  These tests were evidently done by the Environmental Protection Agency.  The report includes the charts which show the distribution of the anthrax on the three floors:

The CDC report says this about the results from that second series of samples:

Eighty-four of 460 workplace samples obtained during October 25–November 8 yielded B. anthracis (Figure 2). Isolates of B. anthracis were obtained from 66 of 247, 10 of 95, and 8 of 112 samples from the first, second, and third floors, respectively; none of 6 specimens were positive from the parking garage or roof vents. The northeast quadrant of the third floor, which contained executive office suites, a conference room, and storage areas, was the only quadrant of any floor without detected contamination. The index-patient’s office was located on the third floor of the building. The mailroom (the work area of the second case-patient) and the office near the mailroom where a powder-containing letter was opened are both on the first floor.
There were 84 positive samples from a total of 460 taken.

66 of the 247 samples (24 percent) taken on the first floor were positive for anthrax.

10 of the 95 samples (11 percent) taken on the second floor were positive for anthrax.

8 of the 112 samples (7 percent) taken on the third floor were positive for anthrax.

The environmental samplings say that the 3rd floor was the least contaminated floor in the AMI building and the 1st floor was the most contaminated floor in the building.

Bob Stevens worked on the 3rd Floor.  Stephanie Dailey worked on the 1st floor near the mailroom.

If Bobby Bender had actually opened a letter containing anthrax and carried it around the third floor in his open palms, the third floor should have been the most contaminated floor in the building. 


The October 31, 2001, article from The National Enquirer provides a lot of information about what "the J-Lo letter" looked like and what was in it:

1.  The letter was delivered to Joe West on September 19, 2001.

2.  The "letter" was actually "a bulky manila envelope."

3. "The envelope sent to the Sun was addressed: 'Please forward to Jennifer Lopez, c/o the Sun.'" 

4. The envelope contained:

 A metal cigar tube with a cheap cigar inside.

 An empty can of chewing tobacco. 

 A small detergent carton.

 A handwritten letter to Jennifer Lopez. 

The writer said how much he loved her and asked her to marry him. The letter also contained some sexual innuendo.

It was a business-size sheet of stationery decorated with pink and blue clouds around the edges. It was folded into three sections, and in the middle was a pile of what looked like pink-tinged talcum powder.

Buried in the powder was "a little Star of David with a little loop for a string or chain."

An October 8, 2001, article in Newsweek magazine had somewhat different description of the powder inside the letter:
It was described by sources as a “weird love letter to Jennifer Lopez”— similar, outwardly, to the types of mail the tabloids often get. But inside the oddly-worded letter was what was described as a “soapy, powdery substance” and in the pile of that a cheap Star of David charm.
In summary, the J-Lo letter was a "love letter to Jennifer Lopez." Among other things, it contained a "small detergent carton" and a powder that at least one source described as "soapy."  Plus, it was "similar, outwardly, to the types of mail the tabloids often get."


The two environmental samplings done from October 8 to 10 and from October 25 to November 8 which showed the first floor of the AMI building to be the most contaminated floor in the building, and the mail room to be the most contaminated area, were evidently not enough to be conclusive.   On August 26, 2002, the FBI announced that they were going to go back into the AMI building to do more exhaustive tests and to see if they might actually could find the anthrax letter(s).  They began their searches on Wednesday, August 27, with 2 days of "reconnaissance sweeps."   According to the August 29, 2002, issue of the Palm Beach Post, the search warrant dated August 26 authorized them to search for two weeks.  The article also says,

On Friday, FBI agents are expected to start their anthrax search, teamed with technical specialists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

"The methods to be used for the analysis of AMI are on the cutting edge of bioterrorism investigations," Dwight Adams, assistant director of the FBI's Laboratory Division, wrote July 12 to AMI Chief Executive David Pecker.  "This operation will put to the test a variety of methods and concepts that are among the first to be applied in the emerging field of microbial forensics.

"The quantity of spores at each sampling location will be estimated, providing data for a three-dimensional map relating levels of contamination with positions in the building," Adams wrote. It is believed that such a map may allow a reconstruction of events that led to the illnesses of the AMI employees.

According to the September 11, 2002, issue of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the search concluded on Tuesday, September 10.  According to the September 13, 2002, issue of The Palm Beach Post, "nearly 5,000 pieces of evidence were collected."

Note added January 16, 2011:  The information below about the copy machines was NOT any conclusion reached by the FBI or the investigation team.  It was something one of the people doing the swabbing mentioned to a reporter as  a possibility, and it got reported by the Palm Beach Post as fact.

Note added March 11, 2014: The FBI produced a report showing the results of their tests inside the AMI building a year after the attacks.  That report can be viewed by clicking HERE.

On September 15, 2002, The Palm Beach Post published some of the findings of the search:
FBI investigators believe photocopy machines helped spread anthrax throughout the American Media Inc. headquarters last year before the building was quarantined.

While testing the three-story building for anthrax spores, investigators found that every copy machine in the building -- more than two dozen in all -- tested positive for anthrax, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

The anthrax is believed to have gotten into the copiers from reams of copy paper that had trapped airborne spores in the company's mail room, where the paper was stored.

The FBI's theory helps explain for the first time the presence of anthrax throughout the 68,000-square-foot building. 

Once investigators realized the copy machines were contaminated, they traced the anthrax back to its point of origin: an open storage area in AMI's first-floor mail room.

Apparently, someone in the mail room opened a letter containing anthrax, which dispersed the microscopic particles. The spores settled on the company's supply of copy paper. 

According to the FBI's reconstruction of events, AMI employees unwittingly distributed the clinging spores throughout the building when taking reams of copy paper to every department in the building, including AMI's library, executive offices and such publications as The National Enquirer, Weekly World News and National Examiner, which were published in the building.

When the copy paper was inserted into the machines and used to make copies, investigators believe, the spores dislodged and were "aerosolized" into the atmosphere by the whirring fans and other moving parts of the high-speed copiers. 

(Interestingly, the CDC released its report sometime in October 2002,  after the FBI's results were made public.) While the full report of what the FBI found in its search is considered "evidence" and is confidential, there is enough that is publicly known to confirm that the anthrax did NOT come from the J-Lo letter.  It came from the letter opened by Stephanie Dailey in her office, which was in or near the first floor mailroom.


The onset date for Bob Stevens' symptoms was September 30, four days after the evening he worked late and 5 days after Dailey opened the anthrax letter.

The onset date for Ernesto Blanco's symptoms was September 28, three days after Stephanie Dailey opened the anthrax letter at her desk near the mailroom, and probably four days after Blanco personally handled it.

According to the Mayo Clinic, "In most cases, symptoms develop within seven days of exposure to the bacteria." That fits with BOTH anthrax cases at AMI and the opening of the letter by Stephanie Dailey.

Exposure to the J-Lo letter on September 19 would mean an incubation period of 9 days for Blanco and 11 days for Stevens. While not impossible, it is ANOTHER FACT which says they were far more likely BOTH exposed to spores in the letter opened by Dailey, NOT anything in the J-Lo package opened by Bobby Bender.

The facts say that the older a person is, the easier it is to become infected with anthrax. Stevens was 63.  He should have become infected very quickly. There is NO explanation or logic for why it took ELEVEN days for Stevens to become infected if he received a MASSIVE exposure to anthrax spores by holding the J-Lo letter up to his face and sniffing the contents.  The FACTS therefore say that the J-Lo letter did NOT contain anthrax.  Stevens was infected by the letter Stephanie Dailey opened on the 24th or 25th, his exposure was NOT massive, and it took Stevens just FIVE days to show symptoms.  Ernesto Blanco was 73 years old.  That is totally consistent with just three or four days between exposure and the onset of symptoms.  Nine days would be extraordinary.


In addition to the above facts, there is other evidence that the anthrax letter received at AMI was part of the same mailing postmarked September 18, 2001, that sent letters to Tom Brokaw at NBC, to the New York Post and almost certainly to CBS and ABC.

In another CDC report from October 2002, the CDC produced this chart which seems to connect the known September 18 envelopes with the AMI infections:

The article associated with that chart also suggests that the AMI letter could have been postmarked in Trenton on September 18:

Although no B. anthracis–positive envelopes were recovered in Florida, B. anthracis was isolated from environmental sampling at the AMI building (the worksite of the Florida case-patients) and at least six postal facilities along the path of mail delivered to AMI. The dates of illness onset in AMI media company employees in Florida suggest possible exposure to envelopes mailed in mid-September 2001 
Click HERE to link to a list of CDC reports related to the anthrax attacks of 2001.

Another chart from the CDC shows the postal facilities identified as having been contaminated by the anthrax letters.   This chart also connects the AMI letter to the letters postmarked in Trenton on September 18 (click on the chart to see a larger version): 

While the chart doesn't show contamination at the Lantana post office, it does show that the Lake Worth post office tested positive for anthrax contamination.  The Lake Worth post office served as the "dead letter" office and delivery site for the old Lantana address for the National Enquirer and other American Media Inc. tabloids.   According to the Associated Press:

Postal officials said Friday [October 19, 2001] that an anthrax-tainted letter that infected the employees may have been mailed to an old address before being rerouted to the company’s headquarters.
According to the December 5, 2001, issue of The New York Times:
The one thing that is clear is that at least one tainted letter came to one of the company's tabloids, The National Enquirer.

This became evident after testing was done of all the post offices that served the area and spores were found leading through the post office that served Lantana, Fla., where The Enquirer had been located until about a year ago.

A clear trail of spores led through that post office to the one for Boca Raton. Spores were also found in a van that Mr. Blanco used to carry mail to the building and all around the mailroom on the first floor. 

Interestingly, Larry King interviewed Stephanie Dailey on October 11, 2001.  Here's part of what was said:
KING: Stephanie, do you remember having opened anything that in retrospect was suspicious to you?

DAILEY: No, not really. No.

KING: Any packages that looked funny, any envelopes? I mean, that kind of place where they publish tabloids must get a lot of weird mail.

DAILEY: Well, there was one that I opened but it wasn't anything. It was just like baby powder or something.

KING: But how do you know it wasn't?

DAILEY: Well, they said that if I, you know, had I guess I would have been sick. So it wasn't that. 

King then talks with retired Air Force Colonel Randall Larsen, director of the Anser Institute for Homeland Security, who says:
What I have here is what a biological weapon actually looks like. And actually, for most civilians to look at, it's going to look exactly like baby powder. So, that's what you're sort of looking for: a white powdery substance like that -- 99 percent of the time it's not going to be anything to worry about is the real key here.
Stephanie Dailey didn't open letters addressed to the Sun.  If the letter was addressed to the Enquirer, she would have opened it.  And the evidence indicates it was addressed to the Enquirer.  That's how she became exposed.  And since Ernesto Blanco brough the letter from the Boca Raton Post Office, we also know how he was exposed.

But what about Bob Stevens? 


If the J-Lo letter, which we know that Bob Stevens handled, wasn't the anthrax letter, then how was Bob Stevens exposed?  It's highly unlikely that he handled the second letter.

There are no definitive answers to that question.  But, in a building as contaminated as the AMI building was, it could have happened in many ways.  But why just him and not many others?  That same question would apply to the J-Lo letter: How could Stevens become infected when the person who opened the letter and others who saw it were not infected?

The letter that Stephanie Dailey opened in the mailroom was the anthrax letter beyond any reasonable doubt.  The evidence could explain how Stevens became infected: 

The media anthrax was a crude powder.  90% of the powder was harmless sporulation debris (mostly dead germs).  Statistics of the attacks show that the youngest fatality was age 47.  That suggests that older people with weaker immune systems could be more prone to getting inhalation anthrax.  Stevens was 63.

We also know that Bob Stevens worked very late on Wednesday, September 26, the day before he left for a vacation in North Carolina.  Working late could have tired him, which would also weaken his immune system. 

ADDED NOTE FROM MARCH 11, 2014: The FBI filed a report

Information added July 3, 2011 - Did Bruce Ivins send the J-Lo letter?

Page 61 of the FBI Summary Report says:

          Dr. Ivins also liked to send “care packages” and other items in the mail, while disguising his identity in an effort to have the recipient – frequently [Mara Linscott] – “decode” who the sender was.  For example, in an e-mail sent to [Linscott] on March 13, 2001, Dr. Ivins made the following reference to a series of packages he had sent her: “The detergent from Laundry Boy was mailed from Virginia during an IPT meeting.  The gift certificate and birthday card were mailed from Gaithersburg.  The jacket – when it finally came – was to be mailed from Gettysburg, but you had already figured out who sent you everything else, so I just went ahead and sent it from Frederick.”

So, Bruce Ivins sent a box of detergent to Mara Linscott before the anthrax mailings and before the J-Lo package was mailed.  And he sent Linscott other objects which he wanted her to decode.

There are at least three connections to Ivins in the J-Lo letter: (1) mailing a box of detergent, (2) folding the letter into three sections (the pharmaceutical fold), and (3) the fact that there appears to have been some kind of "hidden message" in the J-Lo letter, since there is no known explanation for the tobacco items, the detergent or the Star of David pendant.  And, it's also known that Ivins was a regular reader of the National Enquirer, which is a sister publication of The Sun.  Ivins sent an anthrax letter to the National Enquirer a week or so after the J-Lo letter was mailed to the Sun.  And there are probably other - more tenuous - connections.

Could the J-Lo letter have been another letter written by Ivins containing another hidden message to another woman?   Just how common is it for mentally disturbed men to send boxes of detergent to women they secretly love or admire?  If it's common, what does the laundry detergent symbolize?

I'd calculate the certainty level that Ivins sent the J-Lo letter at maybe 20% or 25% (compared with a .001% chance that al Qaeda sent the J-Lo letter).  As far as I can recall, Ivins never mentioned Jennifer Lopez anywhere else.   But, in later years he had a bizarre fascination with a woman he saw on the TV show "The Mole" - Kathryn Price.  What other women was he fascinated with?  Was there an article about Lopez in The Sun in early 2001?  Or maybe Ivins had just seen Jennifer Lopez as a U.S. Marshal in "Out of Sight," in which George Clooney kidnaps her and ties her up.  That sort of thing would connect with Ivins' known fantasies.  The movie came out in 1998, but he could have rented it or watched it on TV.

Some research finds another movie Lopez made that's closer to the right time frame, and the movie contains the right kind of story.  It's the movie "The Cell," which came out in 2000.  I don't remember much about "The Cell" (except that I didn't like it), but the Internet Movie Database says this about the plot (Jennifer Lopez plays Catherine Deane):

Catharine Deane is a psychotherapist who is part of a revolutionary new treatment which allows her mind to literally enter the mind of her patients.  

Yes, indeed, it's very easy to see Ivins being fascinated with Jennifer Lopez after she played a psychotherapist who could literally enter the mind of a patient.  Ivins had been searcing for such a woman for decades. 



I failed to realize that the FBI's finding that the anthrax was spread around the building by people using copy paper could be a very good explanation for how Stevens became infected.  If he was working late and needed to use the copier, but the copier was out of paper, he would have gone to the mailroom to get more paper.  And he could have been one of the first to be exposed to the spores on the paper.

Furthermore, when he opened the reams of paper, he could have caused spores to fly into his face much in the same way as it is believed Ottilie Lundgren was infected by tearing her junk mail in half, causing spores to fly into her face.



With all these facts making it certain beyond almost any doubt that the J-Lo letter did not contain anthrax, why is there any argument? 

Answer: Because it cannot be proven that it is impossible for the J-Lo letter to have contained anthrax.


There is absolutely NOTHING to indicate that the J-Lo letter contained anthrax.  It was only the timing, the fact that people remember it, the fact that  it contained a powder, " and the fact that it was handled by Bob Stevens that made the J-Lo letter newsworthy. 

From a review of a book by Graysmith:

Graysmith correctly concludes that the Jennifer Lopez letter which was opened at AMI on September 19 2001 is the "Holy Grail" of the entire case. The AMI staff members remember that this letter contained a powder and that Bob Stevens, the first victim, held it up closely to his face. The official conclusion of the CDC was that Bob Stevens was infected with the disease from that letter.


As a result of the discusson on, I took another look at the information that I had put on my web site about the J-Lo letter back in February of 2003.  To my dismay, I saw that I had said that Bob Stevens opened the J-Lo letter.

It sometimes seems that the only time anyone believes me is when I'm wrong!


December 2, 2011 - Revised a sentence in the "How was Bob Stevens exposed?" section to make the meaning more clear.
September 21, 2013 - Added "Fact #6" about how both Stevens' and Bianco's onset dates agree with the day Stephanie Dailey opened the real anthrax letter.
November 13, 2013 - Corrected the time between exposure and onset for Stevens and Bianco.  Changed from 12 (Stevens) and 11 (Bianco) to 11 and 9.   Also added
a paragraph explaining why it is illogical for Stevens to have taken 11 days to show symptoms if he received a massive dose by sniffing a letter filled with anthrax.
March 11, 2014 - Added a brief note showing that the FBI produced a report HERE about what their experts found in the AMI building.  I obtained it via an FOIA request.

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