Los Angeles Times
August 1, 2008
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 Ivins, 62, who for the past 18 years worked at the government’s elite biodefense research laboratories at Fort Detrick, Md., had been informed of his impending prosecution, said people familiar with Ivins, his death and with the FBI investigation.
Ivins, whose name had not been disclosed publicly as a suspect in the case, had played a central role in research to improve anthrax vaccines by preparing anthrax formulations used in experiments on animals.
Regarded as a skilled microbiologist, Ivins also had helped the FBI analyze the powdery material recovered from one of the anthrax-tainted envelopes sent to a U.S. senator’s office in Washington, D.C.
Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital after having ingested a massive dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine, said a friend and colleague who declined to be identified out of concern, he said, that he would be harassed by the FBI.
The death – without any mention of suicide – was announced to Ivins’ colleagues at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in an e-mail.
“People here are pretty shook up about it,” said Caree Vander Linden, a spokeswoman
for USAMRIID, who said she was not at liberty to discuss details surrounding the death.
The anthrax mailings killed five people, crippled national mail service, shut down a Senate office building and spread fear of terrorism in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The extraordinary turn of events came after the government’s payment in June of a settlement valued at $5.82 million to a former government scientist, Steven Hatfill, who was long targeted as the FBI’s chief suspect despite a lack of any evidence that he had ever possessed anthrax.
Soon after the government’s settlement with Hatfill was announced June 27, Ivins began showing signs of serious strain. One of his longtime colleagues told the Times that Ivins, who was being treated for depression, indicated to a therapist that he was considering suicide.