A resident of a Vermont retirement community went awry and tested his ricin prescription by putting the deadly toxin in his neighbors' food and drinks over the course of several weeks, the researchers said.
Betty Miller told FBI agents that she wanted to "hurt herself" and that she was testing the potency of her homemade poison in other residents of the Wake Robin senior residence, according to a criminal complaint.
The FBI and the Vermont Health Department interviewed Miller on Tuesday after she told health care providers that she created ricin in her kitchen and gave it to other residents.
During his first appearance in court on Friday, Judge John Conroy said Miller had a "long-term mental health history," but offered no further details.
Investigators searched Miller's home and discovered a jar labeled "ricin" along with other bottles labeled "apple seed," "cherry seed," and "yew seed," according to the complaint.
The 70-year-old suspect said he collected 30 to 40 castor seeds on Wake Robin's property, which allowed him to make two or three tablespoons of the toxin.
He admitted during the interviews that he has a fascination with plant-based poisons and sought instructions to make his own line, which the authorities also discovered in his home, according to a statement from the Vermont district attorney's office.
The Health Department said on Friday there is a person who probably got sick from exposure to ricin, but said no one is currently sick as a result of the poison.
The federal government regulates the toxin because of the threat it poses to public health. If inhaled, ricin can cause difficulty breathing. When ingested symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, hallucinations and seizures and can be fatal. The signs of intoxication begin to manifest with four to 10 hours of initial exposure.
Wake Robin in a statement on Friday said that an apartment building had been closed and that Miller was no longer welcome at the facility.
"We have received badurances from the Vermont Health Department and the FBI that no one's health is at risk," the statement said.
Miller was charged with unregistered possession of a select agent, ricina, and will remain in custody until it is likely to cause and detention hearing, scheduled for December 6.
With News Wire Service
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