ELKTON – Deputies arrested a woman at the Cecil County Circuit Courthouse on Friday after she allegedly approached more than a dozen people there, including numerous employees, and rubbed a pungent, unknown substance on them, according to police.
The series of incidents occurred at approximately 8 a.m. near the entrance of the courthouse, as people were entering the building at 129 E. Main Street about 30 minutes before courtroom hearings and other business were scheduled to start for the day, police reported.
“As the employees continued to enter the building, advising (security deputies in the lobby) that they were touched with a substance that caused a strong odor, the employees began to become very concerned with the unknown substance they were touched with. The increasing reports from the employees caused a mass hysteria regarding fear of a chemical attack,” according to Cecil County District Court charging papers.
One of the alleged victims described the strong odor coming from the substance as “flowery perfume” and reported that she later suffered a headache from the smell emanating from her hand, where the woman allegedly had touched her, court records show.
Deputies were able to confiscate a clear glass bottle containing a dark brown liquid from the suspect, whom investigators identified as Sandra Wyvet Potts, 59, of Charlotte, N.C., police said.
Because an unknown substance had been applied to people without their consent, Cecil County Department of Emergency Services’ Hazmat Team agents responded to the courthouse and tested the liquid, which Potts had maintained was Frankincense, police added.
“It was determined that the substance was a non-toxic substance that did not pose a further threat to individuals inside the building,” Lt. Michael Holmes, a Cecil County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, told the Cecil Whig.
Potts was at the courthouse because her son, Ashton Stroud, 26, was a defendant in a criminal trial scheduled to resume Friday on the second floor of that building, court records show.
Stroud stood accused of sodomizing an 8-year-old Cecil County boy on two occasions in 2018 and of committing other criminal offenses against him.
(On Monday afternoon, after three hours of deliberation, the jury found Stroud guilty of 10 charges, including second-degree rape, child sex abuse, sodomy and second-degree assault. Scheduled for a Dec. 9 sentencing, Stroud is facing up to 100 years in sentences.)
While investigating the unwanted rubbings of the unknown substance, CCSO deputies learned that Potts allegedly “wanted to disrupt courthouse activities” on Friday, Holmes reported.
Potts told witnesses that she had wanted to participate in the pre-trial jury selection on behalf of her son and that “there would not be trial” because she had been excluded from that process, court records indicate.
“Witnesses advised that Ms. Potts was rubbing an unknown substance on several individuals without their consent as they were entering the building. The unknown substance has a very strong odor that was recognized by individuals after contact was made. Multiple individuals reported having mild adverse reactions after the substance was applied to them,” Holmes said.
As of Monday, a total of sixteen people had been identified as having had the substance applied to them against their will, including CCSO Sr. Dfc. William Muller, while two others reported that Potts attempted to place her hands on them, according to Holmes.
Muller encountered Potts at approximately 7:40 a.m. Friday, when she tried to enter the courthouse and he, in turn, explained to her that the building would not be opening to the public until 8:30 a.m., police reported.
“Muller stated that, as he was speaking to the woman, she grabbed his arms and hands several times. Muller advised that the woman’s hands were covered in an unknown oily, wet product. Muller reported an immediate strong odor about his arms that caused him to obtain a strong headache and become nauseous,” court records allege.
Court records indicate that Potts, who was described as a “well-dressed woman,” approached her alleged victims in a friendly manner.
One of the alleged victims told investigators that Potts placed her hand on her upper arm while complimenting her on her “beautiful shirt,” police said. Several minutes later, police added, the alleged victim noticed a strong odor coming from her arm, where she had been touched by Potts.
Another told investigators that Potts touched his left shoulder as he walked into the courthouse and greeted him with, “Good morning,” according to court records, which further indicate that, as the alleged victim continued into the building, “He observed a potent smell about his left shoulder area that was so strong, he changed into another shirt.”
At least one other courthouse employee changed his shirt because the odor was so strong and because the substance left a stain, after Potts allegedly had touched him.
Another victim told investigators that Potts allegedly “lightly smacked” her left arm, as she was walking into the courthouse, and said, “You must be freezing like I am,” police said. That employee also was overwhelmed by a strong odor coming from the area where she had been touched, police added.
Deputies arrested Potts without incident on the premises, according to Holmes, who explained that CCSO is responsible for security at that courthouse. Muller is one of the deputies who is assigned to that security detail.
The CCSO deputy who arrested Potts and filed the criminal charges against her reported in court records that, at the time she was taken into custody, Potts had “a very strong odor about her” and that her hands “appeared to be oily.”
Potts, who is scheduled for a Nov. 8 trial, is charged with disorderly conduct and nine counts of second-degree assault, including one relating to the CCSO deputy, according to court records.
After spending the weekend in the Cecil County Detention Center, Potts was released Monday on an unsecured $5,000 bond, court records show.
Potts was not seen in the courtroom later that morning, during closing arguments in her son’s child sex abuse trial and when the jury returned that afternoon with the 10 guilty verdicts against him.