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Federal Bureau of Investigation arrests 70-year-old retiree for possession of 'biological weapon'

03 December 2017
Federal Bureau of Investigation arrests 70-year-old retiree for possession of 'biological weapon'

According to investigators, Betty Miller had made the highly toxic powder from castor plant seeds in the home in Shelburne and had wanted to "injure herself", but was accused of testing the poison's power on her neighbors for weeks.

Betty Miller told an Federal Bureau of Investigation agent that she wanted to "injure herself" and was testing the poison's effectiveness on other residents at the Wake Robin senior living facility, according to a criminal complaint.

The 70-year-old suspect said she collected 30 to 40 castor beans on the Wake Robin's property, which allowed her to manufacture two to three tablespoons of the toxin. Miller told health care providers about her scheme on Tuesday, and law enforcement was called.

State health officials say no one is now ill with ricin poisoning, but that their investigation has revealed one Wake Robin resident reported becoming ill recently.

The FBI is charging Miller with "knowing possession of an unregistered biological agent, where such an agent is a select agent".

Miller first appeared in Burlington federal court Friday and will remain in custody until her probable cause hearing December 6. She said she was working on getting a lawyer.

In a statement, Wake Robin President & CEO Patrick Mckee said Miller will not be welcome back to the community.

A team made of members from the state's Hazardous Material Response Team and the Vermont National Guard's 15th Civil Support Team went into Miller's residence at Wake Robin to look for suspicious powders and test for ricin.

The FBI determined that there was probable cause to to support a criminal complaint and issue and arrest warrant.

Miller was placed in custody and is scheduled to be in court again on Wednesday.

On Monday Miller drove herself to the hospital to be checked out. A subsequent search of her residence found various pill bottles, including one marked "Ricin" that was half-full of a yellowish/white powder that later tested positive as ricin, Emmons said.

Safety personnel from several agencies, including the FBI, Vermont Department of Health, Vermont State Police and Shelburne Police and Fire Departments were involved in the investigation. A Wake Robin spokeswoman said residents were safe. She exposed other residents to the ricin on at least three occasions, the complaint said.

No residents reported symptoms of ricin poisoning - which, when ingested, can include vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, low blood pressure, seizures and organ failure, according to the CDC - although the Free Press reports that the Vermont Department of Health became aware of one person who may have been infected but was no longer ill.

Federal officials say no other residents reported symptoms of ricin poisoning. Miller stated she made a decision to test the effectiveness of the Ricin on other residents of Wake Robin.