HARRISBURG, Pa.—A woman who repeatedly aired her frustration at failing to win a jackpot by making obscene and violent threats against Pennsylvania Lottery headquarters faces 53 charges, police said Wednesday.
Towanda Shields, 47, made dozens of calls over the past eight months to the agency’s offices outside Harrisburg, police in Lower Swatara Township said.
“From the calls and stuff I’ve listened to, she’s basically completely obsessed with the lottery and the fact that she doesn’t win upsets her very much,” Detective Robert Appleby said. “She would get really sexually explicit with her insults.”
Appleby said that in late October, Shields said someone would die at the retail store where she buys tickets. He said she has also told lottery employees she had searched for them online, knew where they lived and had hired someone to hurt their family members.
Shields, of Philadelphia, has defended her right to make the calls on free-speech grounds, Appleby said. She does not appear to have a listed phone number.
“She basically taunted me the one time when I spoke to her as well—’I switch phones. Y’all will never figure out where I am,'” Appleby said.
Although Shields has used anonymous burner phones, authorities were able to determine her identity.
“Honestly, had she not made some of the comments she made in the messages, it might have been a lot harder,” he said.
Police on Tuesday filed 25 counts each of harassment and stalking, as well as three counts of making terroristic threats. She left 21 voicemails at lottery headquarters and reached people eight to 12 times, Appleby said.
“Fifty-three counts is a lot of counts, but I can assure you she’s earned them,” he said.
The detective said Shields’ main interest is in scratch-off tickets.
At the end of some of her threatening calls, he said, she signed off with a lottery advertisement catchphrase: “Keep on scratchin’.”