Four days after four Penn State students received threatening anti-gay and racist e-mails, Penn State Police Services found a new lead in the investigation.
The e-mails were sent from the same America Online account, the students reported.
"We've identified the owner of the online account," Clifford Lutz, Penn State police supervisor, said.
The police will interview the out-of-state resident for further information and continue their investigation from there, he added.
At this point no arrests have been made.
"They have some detective work to do," Bill Mahon, Penn State spokesman, said.
While police continued their investigation, a coalition of concerned students held a press conference today to respond to the acts of hate.
At the conference three students -- Kamillah Cole (freshman-journalism), Takkeem Morgan, Black Caucus vice president and Jennifer Storm, co-director of Lambda Student Alliance -- were identified as recipients of threatening e-mails.
The fourth student, a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, chose to remain anonymous.
Messages sent to Cole, Storm and another member of the LGBT community threatened their lives and proclaimed death to all "queers." The message sent to Morgan contained racial slurs and claimed Morgan wanted everyone to take a black history course.
Morgan is among a group of students working to establish diversity initiatives in the curriculum, including a mandatory course on racism.
Although the owner of the AOL account is believed to live out of state, there is a possibility the incident can be traced back to a member of the Penn State community. The author of the e-mails allegedly got information about the students from a message board posting on a white supremacist Web site. The author of the posting claimed to be a Penn State student.
The victims' names and group affiliations were published in articles in The Daily Collegian this semester.
Black Caucus President David Davis, Cole and Storm spoke at the press conference yesterday.
Storm said after she received the e-mail, she signed on to a computer later in the day and had a conversation on AOL Instant Messenger with an individual who claimed to be the person who sent her the hate e-mail.
In that conversation the individual threatened to torture her, Storm said.
The writer also made references to Matthew Shepard, the University of Wyoming student who was murdered two years ago because of his sexual orientation, Storm said.
Storm ended the conversation, saved the text and sent it to police as evidence, she said.
Cole, the first one to open a threatening e-mail Thursday morning, said she did not know what to do when she received the e-mail. She said she went online to report it on the Zero Tolerance for Hate Support Network, but her student account password was denied.
She said she was surprised at the lack of support available to her, especially after then-Black Caucus President Lakeisha Wolf and several other student leaders received racially-charged hate mail last year.
"There's no one to talk to at this point," Cole said, adding that she thinks members of her community are the only people who are supporting her.
Stephen Shetler, Center for Counseling and Psychological Services psychologist, said he is openly gay and is willing to talk with anyone who needs his services.
"When something like this occurs, we try to make ourselves more available," he said, adding that CAPS does not have a protocol for dealing with incidents of hate.
Davis said Penn State needs to take a proactive rather than reactive approach to the way it handles incidents of hate.
"Right now, Penn State is being targeted by a white supremacist group," Davis said.
He called for a central office that would deal with hate, offer support and counseling, and monitor hate groups that target members of the university.
"There are a lot of different outlets that I think need to be pieced together," Davis said.
Davis said Terrell Jones, vice provost for educational equity, has been in contact with the students throughout the weekend.
Jones said he has met with students and plans to work on their concerns. He also offered to help students if they need extensions on classwork.
He said the nature of electronic media makes it difficult for police and university officials to confront this sort of hate.
"There's simply no way we can keep it from happening," Jones said. "I wish there were."
Mahon said Penn State President Graham Spanier e-mailed the victims to let them know he was aware of the situation, and he met with a group of colleagues to discuss the events.
Davis said a group of student leaders have requested a personal meeting with Spanier to address the idea of a central office for dealing with hate.
Despite the threatening nature of the e-mail she received, Storm said she will not give up her dedication to activism.
"During my time here at Penn State, I have been an advocate for human rights and I will not stop that today," Storm said. "This has only made me steadfast in my beliefs."
Storm urged the Penn State community to move beyond the confines of the university by supporting state House Bill 1493, which is a proposed amendment to the current hate crimes act that would make acts of hate based on gender, sexual orientation or disability illegal.
Davis said everyone should be concerned about the threatening e-mails that have been sent to students.
"A threat to Jennifer Storm is a threat to Penn State," Davis said.