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Friday, August 01, 2008

Anthrax Suspect Dies Of Apparent Suicide

Bruce E. Ivins, a scientist who helped the FBI investigate the 2001 mail attacks, was about to face criminal charges and has been found dead of an apparent suicide.

A top government scientist who helped the FBI analyze samples from the 2001 anthrax attacks has died in Maryland from an apparent suicide, just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him for the attacks, the Los Angeles Times has learned.

Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who for the last 18 years worked at the government's elite biodefense research laboratories at Ft. Detrick, Md., had been informed of his impending prosecution, said people familiar with Ivins, his suspicious death and the FBI investigation.

Ivins took a massive dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine and was pronounced dead at the Frederick Memorial Hospital.

The extraordinary turn of events followed the government's payment in June of a settlement valued at $5.82 million to a former government scientist, Steven J. Hatfill, who was long targeted as the FBI's chief suspect despite a lack of any evidence that he had ever possessed anthrax.

The payout to Hatfill, a highly unusual development that all but exonerated him in the mailings, was an essential step to clear the way for prosecuting Ivins, according to lawyers familiar with the matter.

Authorities were more careful this time after the chaos with Hatfill but they initially focused on the wrong man.

Ivins had the means and opportunity and admitted that he had failed to follow the appropriate procedures when cleaning, checking, re-swabbing contaminated areas and reporting contamination to his superiors.

More at LA Times.