"As we would on any case, [the syringes have] been submitted into evidence and we'll submit that to the crime lab for testing to see if there's anything either in them or on them that will lead to the person [responsible]," Bartow County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Division Sgt. Jonathan Rogers said Wednesday during a news conference. "We will use any means we can to speed up this investigation."
The Daily Tribune News on Friday first reported a needle was discovered in clothing purchased at the retailer. The Daily Tribune News on Tuesday followed up the story after learning of a second incident and the ongoing investigation.
The syringes that have been found, according to Rogers, appear to be generic, diabetic syringes that are available without a prescription.
To date, three reports have been filed with the BCSO where syringes have been found in pajamas, a bra and a pair of pants. A fourth syringe was found when Rogers began following up on the incidents earlier this week; the store turned over a pair of girl's socks in which they had observed a needle. That needle was collected at a currently unknown date.
The pair of socks had been secured by the store in their own internal investigation, which the retailer believed to be an isolated incident. Upon discovering the connected cases, the store contacted local law enforcement authorities, according to Walmart Media Relations representative Dianna Gee.
"At this point, we really believe this is an isolated situation involving that one specific store," Gee said.
"We are working with Walmart to see if they can help us in any way to direct the investigation," Rogers said. "There's thousands of hours of video to watch from the date this occurred [and the syringe] could have been put it in at any time."
Rogers could not say if the needles on the syringes had been used or were contaminated in any way or if the syringe had anything in it.
"I don't know how long it will take [to receive that information from the crime lab]," Rogers said. "I'm hoping they make this an urgent case."
As of Wednesday, Rogers said he was unaware of any other stores locally or nationally reporting similar incidents.
"I'm shocked that someone out there can do this to someone," said Patricia Headrick, one of the Walmart shoppers who was stuck while looking at a bra. "You know, it's mean. I don't understand why someone would do this. It blows my mind."
Headrick discovered the syringe on Black Friday and sought medical attention at Cartersville Medical Center, where she was tested for previous infections and received a tetanus shot. However, the fear of possibly contracting a disease haunts her mind.
"I panicked," Headrick said. "I was thinking in my mind all the horror stories that you hear about drugs out there that make you pass out so people can rob you. That's going through my mind.
"When I get my husband and realize I'm going to be OK, other things start going through my mind. 'Whose arm was this in? Whose body? Was this a used needle? Am I gonna die from this being in somebody else's body?' I'm scared to death. I don't know what's going to happen. I cry a lot. I'm up and down."
Headrick was told that a medication was available that could deter any HIV that could have entered her blood stream if the needle was contaminated. Though the news is comforting, the drug comes at a hefty price for a family preparing a Christmas celebration.
"It's $1,300 and [Walmart is] not paying for it," Headrick said.
She described the medication as something similar to the flu shot -- it won't prevent the disease, but it could slow it down and she will now play the waiting game for the next six months before she can be tested for HIV.
"What Christmas?" Headrick asked when questioned how the new medical bill affected her holiday. "I basically had to get the medicine. I have a seven-day window to take this medicine. [Walmart] said if they determine after an investigation, if they find that an employee has put the needle in it, they will pay, but that could take a while. And if it's a random person that put it there, they will not pay."
Gee, however, said that Walmart will work with customers.
"If any of our customers were harmed as a result of this, we will gladly work with them to pay for any valid medical expenses related to this," Gee said. "As soon as we were made aware of [Headrick's] claim, we checked into it and we have since reached out to her ... and we wish her well. We are obviously concerned about this."
To ease customers' concerns, Gee said the store has made efforts to solve the case and prevent future incidents.
"We want our customers to feel confident knowing that we have carefully examined the clothing in the apparel department and we have found nothing out of the ordinary that would cause concern," Gee said. "We have carefully examined the clothing, and in addition to that as an extra precaution, we have additional staff in the apparel department to continue monitoring the area and we also have a team in place that's reviewing the surveillance footage."
While the investigation is expected to take some time, Rogers hopes the person responsible will come forward.
"I'd hope they would come forward and turn themselves in," Rogers said. "You have small children that put their hands in clothes and look at things and we don't want anyone else to get hurt.
"Nothing like this has happened before in Cartersville. We don't know if it's a disgruntled employee or a citizen against Walmart or if it's someone out doing some kind of mischievous behavior."
Rogers warns shoppers to be careful, but he also says people should remain calm.
"We don't want people to get into a ... panic," Rogers said. "But at the same time we want them to be vigilant and careful. If you're going to purchase a pair of pants, hold them up by the leg and shake them out and see if anything falls out, and if you feel something, be careful trying to get it out."
To the person responsible for causing the scare, Headrick has one thing to say: "Shame on you."