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Radioactive threat lands Winder man behind bars

WINDER -- A peeved Winder man was arrested on terroristic threats charges Monday after claiming he'd doused a Barrow County cemetery's grounds with a radioactive substance, officials said.

The incident triggered a large public safety response that included a Gwinnett hazardous materials team and tied up a major thoroughfare and several side streets for hours in Winder, authorities said.

Thomas Donald Finch, 77, was upset over some flowers he'd placed on a gravesite near Barrow Memorial Gardens that had vanished, according to Barrow County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Matt Guthas.

Initially, Finch told cemetery employees he'd placed a radioactive substance on the ground, or near some flowers by a grave, in order to harm potential thieves, Guthas said.

"Employees were convinced his intent was indeed malicious when Finch displayed a pill bottle to them stating anyone who touched the substance would need the pills," Guthas said.

Sheriff's deputies responded to the scene and shut down traffic on nearby Atlanta Highway for about two hours.

Hazardous materials technicians conducted a thorough inspection of the area and determined no threatening substances existed, Guthas said.

Sheriff's deputies arrested Finch on charges of terroristic threats and acts.