April 21, 2010— -- The late-night phone calls were wrenching for the Vermont families of soldiers serving in Afghanistan -- a stranger expressing sympathy for a son or daughter who had been injured or killed in Afghanistan.
But the tormenting calls were ghoulish hoaxes and state attorney general is looking for whoever is behind them.
"My first thought was, 'How sick,'" Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell said.
Sorrell said he has been in contact with the U.S. Attorney's Office since making such hoax calls during a time of war is a federal felony.
National Guard Lt. Col. Lloyd Goodrow questioned why anyone would pull such a cruel prank on military families already enduring the agony of having a soldier overseas.
"All our families, it's a roller coaster ride," Goodrow said. "Somebody does something like this, it just makes it worse."
Sorrell said he's also researching what kind of state laws may have been violated, but so far it looks like the most they could charge the caller with would be a misdemeanor for threatening or harrassment.
"The fact that they have the contact information for these families indicates to me someone who is close enough to the situation to have some personal information," he said. "Predict at your peril, but my guess is it's someone with a local connection."
The calls came in last week, all from either a woman or "someone trying to sound like a woman," Goodrow said. Three prank calls have been officially confirmed, but Goodrow said he's heard there were as many as nine.
"One time is one time too many and it has to stop," he said.
"The calls were made, starting about 10 o' clock in the night," he said. "It was very compassioned, 'Hey sorry to hear your husband was wounded in Afghanistan. Is there something I can do to help?"
When the family member questions the caller, he or she hangs up.
In one case, Goodrow said, a mother got a call that her daughter, a soldier serving in Afghanistan, had been killed.
"She was very upset," he said. "She called us."
The caller IDs registered either a blocked number or a series of zeros, indicating they were made from an Internet connection. The National Guard is releasing little information about the families to protect their identities, but said they all lived in a "common region" of Vermont.
"If you think it's funny, it's not," Goodrow said, speaking directly to the person making the calls. "If you've always wondered what a domestic terrorist looks like, look in the mirror."