Staff member identified in investigation

Officials gather during the Stevens Hall investigation last Thursday.

Staff Report

When elementary education major Paige Bonafede was waiting for her instructor in a classroom on the fourth floor of Stevens Hall last Thursday, she was shocked when a police officer told her class they needed to evacuate.

Unsure about why they were being evacuated, Bonafede and other students followed the officer’s orders. Within minutes, the building was locked up due to an investigation in which a threatening letter that contained a suspicious powdery substance was opened on the fifth floor.

“My original thought was that it was a bomb threat,” she said. “We just ran down the stairs and out of the building as fast as we could because we didn’t really know what was going on.”

Earlier this week, UNA police arrested senior administrative assistant Mary Lee Hudson, 56, of Tuscumbia, on Class C felony charges for making a terrorist threat, which are punishable for up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Hudson, who works for Student Financial Services, surrendered to police Monday at 2 p.m. after a warrant was issued for her arrest. She was released from jail after posting a $5,000 bail later that afternoon.

UNA police Chief Bob Pastula said the threatening letter was written to a faculty member in the College of Education, whose name has not been released. Pastula said Hudson had worked in the education office from 2003-2010 and had numerous disagreements with three other female workers in that department.

“The letter said something like, ‘What goes around comes around’ and ‘you’re going to get yours,'” Pastula said. “We had some corroborative evidence [against Hudson] because she had sent threatening letters to them before.”

Three unknown staff members who work on the fifth floor of Stevens Hall were exposed to the suspicious substance last Thursday and were held for decontamination the remainder of the afternoon. The powdery substance was sent to the Alabama Department of Forensics earlier this week.

Josh Woods, director of University Communications, said UNA worked quickly to inform students, faculty/staff and the community members with updates about the Stevens Hall investigation. Woods and David Shields, vice president of Student Affairs, sent out Lion and media alerts as the investigation unfolded.

“This is the student’s and the taxpayer’s institution and they have a right to know what’s going on,” Woods said. “This is a bad thing that happened on a great campus, but we did our best to keep them in the loop about what was going on.”

Woods, who posted regular media alerts on the UNA website, said the “Emergency Information” page received more than 4,800 unique visits by 11:59 p.m. Sunday night. Last Thursday, the website received 2,300 unique visits by 11:59 p.m. that night.

Colbert County Hazmat, Florence Police Department, Florence Fire Department, the FBI, the county EMA, the Department of Homeland Security and the Alabama Department of Public Health assisted in the investigation.

“We had a tremendous amount of support from everybody,” Shields said. “We have a lot of resources at our disposal.”

Check The Flor-Ala website at for regular updates about this case.

News Editor Lucy Berry, Staff Writer Josh Skaggs, Staff Writer Jason Lankford and Life Editor Jenn Lyles contributed to this story.