SUSPECT ARRIVED UNINVITED TO RABBI’S HOME
By Alex Estroff
After a search for a man accused of sending a series of threats to the members of Congregation Beth Tefillah, Sandy Springs Police have located Charles Cortell and he is currently in police custody. Cortell has been charged with three counts of disorderly conduct for reports of him harassing and threatening members of the Sandy Springs synagogue for over a month. Phone calls, emails, and text messages were sent to various members of the congregation, all containing threatening remarks and suggesting that Jews would die. Cortell even arrived uninvited to the home-office of one of Beth Tefillah’s rabbis.
These threatening acts are rather surprising, considering Cortell himself is Jewish. Police believe that the 47-year-old suffers from mental illness. Sandy Springs police spokesman Sgt. Ron Momon states that Cortell has expressed, “paranoia about certain political and governmental facets.” Although not diagnosed, Cortell is thought to have bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Cortell also was apparently living in his car, in the trunk of which, a gun was previously seen. The arrest was made after a tip led police to an area near Windsor Parkway. Having an active warrant out for his arrest, police took Cortell into custody at an Alpharetta jail. While in jail, Cortell will undergo a psychological evaluation and subsequent treatment.
The motive behind these threats is unclear at the moment, as well as why Beth Tefillah alone was targeted. Cortell used the alias of “Charles Baruk Shwartz” as he contacted congregants. Among the things Cortell discussed in his messages were the IRS, Russian president Vladimir Putin, and a general hatred toward Jews.
In a letter to the congregation, Synagogue Director, Irina Nikishin, thanked the Sandy Springs police department, Detective Ryan Finley, and Dick Raisler for all their assistance in the case.