FBI arrest woman, 70, for having ricin she planned to poison herself with
The FBI have arrested a 70-year-old woman from Vermont for possessing a biological weapon that she planned to poison herself with.
Betty Miller manufactured the deadly ricin substance at the Wake Robin retirement home where she lived and tested it on her fellow residents, federal officials said.
She was charged on Thursday with violating US laws that prohibit possessing biological weapons after tests revealed she had made it at the home in Shelburne.
Miller told an FBI agent she wanted to ‘injure herself’ and was testing the poison’s effectiveness on other residents.
Police were called to the senior community on Tuesday after Miller told heath care providers she had manufactured the ricin and placed it on other residents’ food and drink over a period of a few weeks.
No residents reported symptoms of ricin poisoning, he said.
Miller said she harvested 30 to 40 castor beans from plants growing on Wake Robin’s property and made two to three tablespoons of ricin twice in her kitchen.
She exposed other residents to the ricin on at least three occasions, the complaint said.
Investigators found a pill bottle half full with powder labeled as ricin in a basket in a kitchen cabinet of Miller’s apartment, along with pill bottles labeled ‘apple seed’, ‘cherry seed’ and ‘yew seed’.
The powder tested positive for ricin. Investigators also found instructions for making ricin that apparently were from the internet, the affidavit said.
Miller said she drove herself to a hospital on Monday to be evaluated.
If inhaled, ricin causes difficulty breathing and other symptoms. If ingested, symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, hallucinations and seizures. Initial symptoms of ricin poisoning are most likely to occur within four to 10 hours of exposure.
Miller made her first appearance in federal court Friday.
Judge John Conroy noted she had a ‘lengthy mental health history’ but did not elaborate.
Miller was placed in custody and was scheduled to be in court again on Wednesday. She said she was working on getting a lawyer.
Wake Robin said in a statement Friday that one apartment was closed off and that the resident living there will not return.
It said: ‘We have received assurances from the Vermont Department of Health and the FBI that no one’s health is at risk.’