Going Postal, or Manipulating the Postal System. It’s All Bad…



“No one is innocent and everyone is a victim when any agency is allowed to police themselves” (From a 2006 Letter Carrier Publication)

It’s been decades of maligning the  U.S. Postal Service for one thing or another –  poor service,  indifferent employees, government mentality at its worst…and of course, notable homicides beginning in 1970 through 1997 in which  more than 40 people were killed by current or former employees in at least 20 incidents of workplace violence. 

Homicides at the Post Office

I examined some the more prominent cases in this 2011 blog-   Disgruntled Workers: “Going Postal” and Other Human Tragedies from Connecticut to California….

Patrick Henry Sherrill - Postal“Crazy Pat” Sherrill who killed 14 employees, and wounded six others was described in contradictory terms regarding work performance- misdirected mail, late to work, good worker who scored high on the exam, filled with anger over “something”, talked of Vietnam but had never served, was a neighborhood peeping Tom, taunted by neighborhood children.  Of course, he would be on edge when he received verbal reprimands by two supervisors the day of the deadliest massacre occurring on August 20, 1986. Somehow, he exhibited a “window of compassion” the day before, telling a liked co-worker to “stay home from work the next day.”

Did this mass murder pave the way for permission for others to do the same?

As of August 2000, researchers have found that the homicide rates at postal facilities were lower than at other workplaces;  0.22 per 100,000 versus 0.77 per 100,000 workers in general.

In major industries, the highest rate of 2.1 homicides per 100,000 workers per year was in retail.

In 1993, a Congressional hearing on violence in the U.S. Postal Service found that “despite the postal service accounting for less than 1% of the full-time civilian labor force, 13% of workplace homicides were committed at postal facilities by current or former employees.”

A Female Mass Murderer

On the evening of January 30, 2006, Jennifer San Marco killed a total of seven victims.Jennifer San Marco Mass Murderer Reportedly,  the Postal Service had forced San Marco to retire in 2003 because of her worsening mental problems. This incident is believed to be the deadliest workplace shooting ever carried out in the US by a woman.

She began as a police dispatcher prior to becoming a postal employee. She received the standard background check and psychological evaluation. After several months as a dispatcher, she left the job due to the high stress conditions (which is not unusual for such positions). Jennifer eventually pursued an entry level clerk job at the mail processing plant.  However, in 2003, she had to be removed by police for acting strangely and “was put on a psychological disability for her own protection.”

Her rampage began by shooting two employees in the parking lot, and forced her way into the building with someone else’s key card. She used a semi automatic pistol, shooting all  victims in the head and then fatally shooting herself.

What was known about her? She formerly lived in New Mexico and appeared to have racist leanings, publishing something called “The Racist Press.” Police also discovered written material that  she thought she was the target of a conspiracy centered at the Goleta postal facility. The motive remains unclear. There was no evidence she was angry at her boss and no supervisors were killed.

What is clear was that she experienced severe mental illness, characterized by paranoia  depression, anger and suicidal ideation.

My question, have the Feds sufficiently changed their protocols and psychological evaluation processes in order to pick up such at risk persons prior to working at a police station or Federal job? Clearly, this should have been foreseen given her instability and behaviors!

Post Office Crime of a Different Kind –

caroline.zarate.boyleDeceit, fraud, misuse of time, funds and playing on the emotions and compassion of your employer and the masses! This is what con artist, Caroline Boyle of Aurora, Colorado did! 

Boyle, age 60 when she was convicted, began constructing her scheme to defraud her employer in 2015.  Several news sources report that she forged notes from two different doctors about treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

In total she was granted 112 days of sick leave, was allowed to work part-time or from home and received paid administrative leave.

Formal Charge – Boyle was indicted by a federal grand jury on March 16, 2017 on felony counts of forged writings, wire fraud and possession of false papers to defraud. In April, she pleaded guilty without a plea agreement.

The Denver Post reported, “Although she did not have cancer or any other serious illness, she took 112 days of sick leave from the USPS Customer Products and Fulfillment Category Management Center in Aurora over the next 20 months and was allowed to work part-time or from home. She also was granted paid administrative leave that did not count against her sick-leave balance.”

The Jig is Up and… Why She Did It-

The sick time was nearly exhausted and others “put two and two together.” Caroline Boyle carelessly misspelled the name of one of the two physicians names whom she emailed to supervisors in order to carryout her ruse.  In addition, it was learned that in the past, as a postal supervisor, she denied a subordinate accommodation when requesting leave time for that person’s cancer and accused this employee of faking it. This employee truly did  have cancer and ultimately testified against her! (Yay!) Was Boyle “just tired of working” and this former incident “planted the seed?”

No… a retirement plan was hatched in which she planned to continue to defraud the government until her upcoming retirement in April, 2017. She planned to “celebrate” with a Hawaiian cruise….  Why? Supposedly because she was “passed over for a promotion” in the summer of 2015.

(Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!)


Boyle did not know who she was up against when it came to punishment with U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore. Moore ruled that Caroline Boyle be sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. She also must pay $20,798.38 in restitution to the U.S. Postal Service AND must spend 652 hours doing community service at a cancer treatment center, cancer research center or hospice!  This may be poetic justice!

Women Embezzlers-  According to a 2011 narrative written by Dr. Linda Grounds, Clinical & Forensic Psychologist,(Portland Oregon) “there is very little research regarding the psychological characteristics of women who embezzle. What little psychological data that we do have about women who embezzle suggest that the motivations of women who embezzle and the rationalizations that women use to justify their embezzlement may differ notably from those of men who embezzle.”

Dr. Grounds and her residents did an initial study in which 28 women charged with embezzlement, ten facing federal charges and eight in state court. The amounts of money stolen by these women from their employers ranged from a low of about $3,000 to a high of $750,000.

Often, women had no prior criminal history or convictions, nor did they implicate co-defendants and they appeared to accumulate small to very large sums of money over a period of several years. “I was only borrowing the money.”

Researchers have postulated that women embezzlers are motivated by “higher loyalties” desire to meet a variety of needs of their families (e.g., shelter, medical care) or their response to a direct request or indirect, but clear pressure from a male partner, spouse or boyfriend in order to preserve that relationship. Among this latter group, there was a good deal of psychological control or abuse by the male partner, though this was frequently denied by the accused woman.

In some cases, women studied had significant gambling problems and the rest were primarily motivated by their need to “buy stuff,” often a lot of it, to distract themselves from emotional or relationship problems or to please a partner or child.

However, in the case of  postal supervisor, Caroline Boyle, the motivation appears to be pure revenge and greed!



1) https://donnagore.com/2011/03/14/disgruntled-workers-“going-postal”-and-other-human-tragedies-from-connecticut-to-california…/

2) http://murderpedia.org/male.S/s/sherrill-patrick-henry.htm

3) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/08/23/a-postal-worker-faked-cancer-and-got-paid-to-miss-two-years-of-work-heres-how-a-judge-punished-her/?utm_term=.ebff5dbcb80d&wpisrc=nl_sb_smartbrief

4) http://www.westword.com/news/meet-seven-colorado-women-accused-of-faking-cancer-8939414


6) http://www.denverpost.com/2017/08/22/faked-cancer-to-get-paid-leave-highlands-ranch-community-service/

7) http://www.drlindagrounds.com/2011/forensic-psychological-evaluations-women-embezzle/


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Disgruntled Workers: “Going Postal” and Other Human Tragedies from Connecticut to California….

Disgruntled Workers: “Going Postal” and Other Human Tragedies from Connecticut to California….

v  On average, 584 million pieces of mail were processed on any given day in 2009;
v  The USPS had 596,000 “career employees” according to 2009 data;
v  There were 15 incidences of homicide within the US Postal Service between 1986 and 1989;
v  This was “the high profile time period” spawning the maligned term, Going Postal…..
v  Most likely to be slain… includes occupations such as chauffeurs and taxi drivers – 121 times that of postal workers and 5 times greater than police officers…
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics kept track of workplace homicides in general, reporting that:
v  For the years of 1997 to 2008, 7,606 people died in workplace homicides, an average of nearly 700 per year;
v  Workplace homicides numbered 586 in 2008 alone.

A few years ago, I recall sitting in my agency’s cafeteria to participate in a three hour workplace violence presentation.  Prior to my arrival in year 2000, our small state agency, had suffered much more than most.  Just prior to my career as a state employee, other employees were subjected to a long term real life Peyton Place scenario that is still whispered about today.  It undermined the agency’s operation and mission, sworn to serve the disabled and emotionally held people hostage.
Since that time, other unsavory elements have visited our institution in the form of predatory behavior and domestic violence incidents among others.
Our agency was bruised and battered…..   Hence, the need for a full time security guard.   However, the real reason for this workplace violence presentation, (besides government protocol) was an incident that rocked our state, etched in the minds of Connecticut residents; forever known as “the Lottery shootings” which occurred in March, 1998.
At the time, this blogger was 2,582 miles away in Phoenix, Arizona pursuing an alternate career and residence.  Those who bore witness to this event, encountered a “disgruntled accountant”, age 35, named Matthew Beck who bitterly complained in writing that the Connecticut State Lottery Corporation, “created an environment that does not hold any long term growth or promotional opportunities.”  Government, being government, is steeped in bureaucracy.  This man was politely told by an HR official that once his initial grievance was settled, “I will be happy to meet with you to answer any additional questions.” Beck felt cheated that his job involving computer skills was re-classified, and denied an upgrade that every other accountant received.
Unfortunately, in his warped perception of reality, he chose not to wait…. but to return to work eight days early from his stress-related leave of absence and fatally shoot four of his bosses, prior to ending his own life. Beck’s boss, lottery president, Otho “Ott” Brown reportedly was chased by Beck, who led the gunman away from other employees, saving their lives.
Matthew Beck had no previous such episodes and had received positive work reviews.  However, a psychiatric history of suicide attempts was in his past.

The human toll and emotional scars are immeasurable….

Fast forward to August 2010 in Manchester, Connecticut, in which another disgruntled employee of Hartford Distributors went on a deadly rampage killing nine people.  Racism was the charge, ending in a cowardly suicide once again…   This guy was given a break and promoted to a truck driver and eventually got caught twice on video stealing cases of beer.
According to union officials, Thornton had poor work habits and a lack of understanding that it takes years to rise through the ranks as a senior driver in a union shop.   His employer made the fatal mistake of allowing him to walk free among his employees on the day he was fired.
A recently completed investigation says that a forensic examination of perpetrator Omar Thornton’s cell phone revealed no evidence of racism. He never filed a formal grievance.  Instead he formulated a plan that spelled justice to him.
Few Studies, Lack of Answers:
This topic cries out for more focused study, particularly in a depressed economy like no other in history….   The most conclusive study found to date on postal homicides was completed in 2000. The “Report of the United States Postal Service Commission on a Safe and Secure Workplace” provides detailed statistics.  During the 1990’s, postal workers were only a third as likely to be murdered at work as compared to “the average worker.”

Question by this author… What does it mean to be a third less dead???

The Center for Disease Control disagrees and states that previous rates in the 1980s were roughly equal. 
The National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health reported in 2008 that 30 workplace occurrences included multiple deaths and that 12% the perpetrator was a co-worker or former co-worker.
Fred Blosser of NIOSH reports that the risk factors most likely to result in workplace homicide include:  handling money, working late at night, risk of robbery and working alone.
The USPS employed more than 750,000 part-time and full time workers in the year 2000 and hired 40,000 workers a year.  Is it a stretch to say that “going postal” no longer lives up to its reputation?

Let’s take a closer look …

A standard in the Human Resources industry for Workplace Violence presentations includes the showing or partial showing of a training film entitled “Murder 9 to 5: Violence in the Workplace, a 1994 HBO Production.

This author was recently told by a Department of Administrative Services official that the three day training provided to HR officials for the State of Connecticut  after the lottery shooting, was ordered to “be condensed to three hours” for state employees.  Thus, only a 10 minute showing of excerpts of this film was available for our viewing.
Although somewhat dated, it remains very relevant film and prominently features:

1) The 1986 story of postal worker and killer Patrick Sherrill “Crazy Pat” who committed homicide on 14 workers in Edmond, Oklahoma prior to his suicide.   Dr. Park Diez, a forensic psychiatrist and FBI consultant also appeared in the film.  Much has been written about this event.

2) August 10, 1989, Escondido California mailman, John Merlin Taylor shot his wife to death, then drove to a nearby post office in Escondido and opened fire on fellow employees, killing two and wounding a third before putting the gun to his head and shooting himself. U.S. Postal Service spokesman Ken Boyd said Taylor had been a letter carrier for 25 years and was nearing retirement.

The rampage, which began at 7:30 a.m. on East Valley Parkway on the eastern edge of the northern San Diego County city, left postal workers scrambling for safety. When the gunfire subsided, survivors were seen exchanging hugs and crying quietly.

“He fired well over a dozen rounds, and there are expended cases all over the floor there,” Escondido Police Lt. Earl Callander said.

“There is also a box of about 100 rounds that apparently was going to be used for re-loading.

Police said they knew of no motive for the shootings and believed that the victims were shot randomly, but co-workers said Taylor had succumbed to increasing pressure at work.
Author’s note:  Perhaps this was really a domestic violence issue that spilled over into the workplace……

3) Ridgeway, New Jersey, 1991 was the date and location of the next in a series of postal homicides by clerk Joseph Harris.

Writing a two page note, he referred to the Edmond, Oklahoma deaths and explained his own unfair treatment by the Postal Service.  Carol Ott, a supervisor at the Ridgewood, New Jersey post office.  A personality conflict existed….
She ordered him to take a “fitness for duty” psychological exam with a doctor chosen and paid by the Postal Service.  Insulted, he refused to cooperate with the request and Ms. Ott instituted proceedings that resulted in Harris’ dismissal in April 1990.Armed with guns, grenades, homemade bombs, and a samurai sword, he booby trapped the front door of his apartment and drove to the suburban home of Ms. Ott.  After forcing entry, swinging his sword in a great arc, he deeply slashed her left shoulder and continued to thrust as she staggered backwards.  After killing her, he crept down the stairs and shot her live-in boyfriend, Cornelius Kasten, Jr. behind the right ear as he sat watching television in the basement.

October 10th, 2 am, Harris entered the rear of the Ridgewood post office where he shot and killed two mail handlers, Joseph Vander Pauw and Donald Mc Naught.  Barricading himself in the basement, he shot at truck driver Marcello Collado who had become suspicious when he arrived at the back dock and found nobody to help him unload his truck.

Collado escaped unscathed and drove to the nearest police station.
Police attempted to enter the post office but were forced to retreat and await assistance when Harris lobbed an explosive device at them.The Bergen County SWAT team surrounded the building and attempted to telephone Harris.  Refusing to answer, he kept the SWAT team at bay until 6:30 AM when he surrendered to a police negotiator

Joseph Harris was subsequently convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death.  He died on death row in 1996.

4) Thomas McIlvan, Royal Oak , Michigan, November 14, 1991.

A former postal clerk, 31, furious that he had been dismissed from his job, for “getting into altercations with postal customers on his route,” walked into a regional postal center opened fire with a sawed-off .22-caliber rifle, killing three workers and wounding six, before fatally wounding himself.
Three other workers were injured while trying to escape by jumping out windows of the two-story building during the shooting spree, which the police estimated lasted five or six minutes.

“Double Trouble”  on May 6, 1993

Firty-five year old Larry Jaison, a postal mechanic with 24 years of service in Dearborn Michigan shot and killed another postal mechanic and wounded a supervisor and administrative clerk prior to killing himself.   Reportedly the victims were targeted. This post office had the reputation as having “an authoritarian structure.”

Dana Point, California- May 6, 1993

A mere four hours later…. fired postal employee Mark Richard Hilburn killed his mother and her dog.  And then… he proceeded to the Dana Point post office and fatally shot letter carrier Charles Barbagallo and injured clerk Peter Gates.  Hilburn continued his mass murdering rampage wounding three others prior to being captured 36 hours later.

Hartford , CT Postal Worker Wounds Three Cops with Semi-automatic Rifle- September 4, 1998

After a neighbor accused Hartford postal worker, Edward Premo, 40 of vandalizing her car, police showed up to investigate. Premo was waiting in his yard and opened fire with two handguns. Officers returned fire.  The    wounded perpetrator continued to fire on backup officers. Premo was apprehended.  His trailer contained several homemade explosives. No fatalities occurred.

The City of Industry, California, July 10, 1995

Postal clerk, Bruce Clark, with 22 years of service, apparently punched his postal supervisor, James Whooper III in the back of the head without provocation.  Clark soon returned to the room with a brown paper bag containing a .38 caliber revolver and instantly pulled the trigger.  Other workers were able to subdue Clark until his arrest by police.

And, finally……. the tragic case of Jennifer Sanmarco, Goleta, California, January 30, 2006

In the mid -1990’s Jennifer Sanmarco worked as a police dispatcher prior to becoming a postal employee. At that time, she was the recipient of a standard background check and psychological evaluation. After several months as a dispatcher, she left the job due to the high stress conditions (which is not unusual for such positions). Jennifer eventually pursued an entry level clerk job at the mail processing plant.  However, in 2003, she had to be removed by police for “acting strangely” and was put on a psychological disability for her own protection.
On January 30, 2006, newspaper accounts reveal that  Ms. Sanmarco shot and killed her one time neighbor and then proceeded to go to her former workplace.
US Postal Inspector Randy DeGarperin reported that Sanmarco apparently entered the massive facility by following others into the gate.  She began her rampage by shooting two employees in the parking lot, and forced her way into the building with someone else’s key card.   The shooter used a semi automatic pistol, shooting all in the head.  Subsequently, she also fatally shot herself.
Before moving to the Goleta area, Ms. Sanmarco moved to a small town in New Mexico and attempted to start a publication called “The Racist Press.”
Former colleagues stated that Jennifer had a history of “making racially charged statements.”
Although a true motive was unclear, writings recovered in her home by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s office indicated that she thought she was the target of a conspiracy centered at the Goleta postal facility.

“These incidents don’t occur because someone just snaps”, stated workplace violence Federal government expert and psychologist, Mary Tyler. She also expressed surprise that the shooter was a woman.
“I tried to think of another crime of this type perpetrated by a woman
and I couldn’t.”
Police and psychologists have offered theories as to her motive.
Paranoia and a history of mental illness, severe depression, anger and frustration and suicidal ideation are common.
There was no evidence she was mad at her boss and no supervisors were killed.
The Case of Jenifer Sanmarco remains a mystery….
Non profit experts in trauma offer that many victims relive the workplace violence event over and over again which is different from remembering.  Victims have individual ways of coping with these horrible events, but they do recover…
Psychologists from the Traumatic Stress Institute in New Britain, CT offers an explanation versus an excuse, during their trainings… “Hurt people hurt people.”
Indeed….. and complacency breeds a false sense of security and the potential for more violence.
After chronicling all incidents from year 2000 to 2006, a 2006 letter carrier network publication closes with the following words:

“No one is innocent and everyone is a victim when any agency is allowed to police themselves”

This blogger thinks that a book needs to be written on this topic….
Maybe I will…. someday…….