Police: Retiree made ricin, tested it on neighbors

A sign marks the entrance to the Wake Robin retirement community, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, in Shelburne, Vt. Vermont State Police and FBI said they were investigating the source of the deadly toxin ricin that was found at the retirement community. A Wake Robin spokeswoman said residents were safe. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A retirement community resident made ricin and tested the deadly toxin on her neighbors by putting it on their food or in beverages over a period of weeks, investigators said.

Betty Miller told an FBI 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 filed in federal court on Thursday.

Police were called to the senior community in Shelburne on Tuesday after Miller told heath care providers she had manufactured the ricin and placed it on other residents’ food and beverages, the agent said in the complaint. 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 2 to 3 tablespoons of ricin twice in her kitchen, the complaint said. 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 a midst other pill bottles labeled “apple seed,” ”cherry seed” and “yew seed,” the complaint said.

The powder tested positive for ricin. Investigators also found instructions for making ricin that apparently were from the internet, the affidavit said.

Miller was scheduled for an initial court appearance on Friday on charges of possessing ricin. A federal public defender did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

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.

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