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California mayor resigns after receiving threat in the mail

March 15, 1997

SEAL BEACH, Calif. (AP) _ The mayor of this small, quiet town resigned after a rifle bullet with a threat written on it was sent to her at City Hall.

The nature of the threat against Mayor Gwen Forsythe was not disclosed. She announced her resignation Wednesday and left this town 20 miles south of Los Angeles with her family for a few days.

In the past four years, letters with similar threats were sent to people and groups involved in controversial development projects.

``These letters seem to have been the result of disputes regarding land development and conflicts with Indian burial issues,″ police Lt. Ken Mollohan said Friday.

Forsythe, 42, was involved with a proposal to build 70 homes and a golf course at an area called Hellman Ranch. She also helped create the city’s Archaeological Advisory Committee and spearheaded the City Council’s firing of an archaeologist who determined that the 231-acre ranch may have been an American Indian site.

In December, a bullet was sent to Lee Whittenberg, Seal Beach’s director of development services, who also was involved in the ranch project. And The Irvine Co., a major Orange County developer, received a rifle cartridge in 1994.

A cartridge with ``Remember Our Ancestors″ written on it in red nail polish was sent in 1993 to Nancy Whitney-Desautels, an archaeologist working for the developer involved with the proposed Bolsa Chica wetlands restoration.

That threat came shortly after the discovery of human remains in the wetlands that are believed to be thousands of years old. Whitney-Desautels said American Indian tribes protested what they viewed as the disruption of their ancient burial grounds.

``It shook me up a bit and I watched over my shoulder,″ she said. ``In time, it all dissipated.″

Members of American Indian tribes deny any involvement.

``We are very gentle and docile people,″ said Anita Espinosa, a member of the Juaneno tribe. ``It’s someone else doing it.″

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