A 70-year-old retiree in Vermont made ricin and tested the deadly toxin on her retirement home neighbors by putting it in their food or beverages, federal officials said Friday.
She said she wanted to "injure herself".
Betty Miller, who lives in Wake Robin retirement community in Shelburne, was arrested by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on Thursday on suspicion that she was stockpiling the highly toxic substance which is produced in the seeds of the castor oil plant. She made a total of 2-3 tablespoons of the highly toxic powder and then placed it in multiple servings of other residents' food and beverages over a period of weeks. However, the Health Department said Friday that no one is now ill with ricin poisoning.
Miller drove herself to UVM Medical Center on Monday for evaluation and observation, court documents show.
The U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI announced the arrest of Betty Miller on a federal criminal complaint charging her with unregistered possession of a hazardous substance, ricin.
Miller, who made an initial appearance at federal court in Burlington Friday, is now in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.
Authorities say they found a bottled labeled "ricin" in Miller's residence. On at least three occasions she exposed other residents to ricin to test it, the documents say. During the interview, authorities said Miller stated she "had an interest in plant-based poison and had conducted internet research on how to make them". In her request to detain Miller, Cowles noted that: "Health Department testing of one individual Miller admitted to poisoning came back positive for the presence of ricin".
"We are now aware of one person who likely became ill with ricin poisoning, and we have been following up with that person", he said.
Investigators searched Miller's home and discovered a pill bottle labeled "ricin" alongside other bottles labeled "apple seed", "cherry seed" and "yew seed", according to the complaint. Miller stated she made a decision to test the effectiveness of the Ricin on other residents of Wake Robin. "The resident of the apartment in question is now involved with the criminal justice system and will not be returning to Wake Robin". Through inhalation and ingestion, it can cause a person to develop breathing difficulties, fever, cough, nausea, tightness in the chest vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, seizures, blood in the urine, and within days it can cause the liver, spleen, and kidneys to stop working resulting in death.
Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine and other Health Department staff met with Wake Robin residents, staff and administrators at a large group meeting on Tuesday, Truman said.
Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans and can be turned into a powder, mist or pellet, according to the Centers for Disease Control.