Resident Arrested In Ricin Incident At Shelburne Retirement Community

Violet Powell
December 3, 2017

A Vermont retiree planning to "injure herself" tested the efficacy of homemade ricin poison on other residents of Shelburne's Wake Robin retirement community, federal investigators said.

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.

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.

Police said at this time, no one from the public is in danger.

According to newly filed federal court documents, a Wake Robin resident said she made homemade ricin to harm herself, but first she wanted to test its effectiveness on others to see if it worked.

"This was an isolated incident".

Investigators also found a laptop computer and a sheet of instructions for making ricin that appeared to have been printed from the internet.

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Betty Miller was arrested for making ricin in her apartment, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a statement, according to WCAX. Ricin is a highly toxic substance that only takes a few grains the size of table salt to kill a human.

CBS affiliate WCAX quoted the health commissioner saying one individual became ill with symptoms compatible with ricin ingestion last weekend.

In the written request to keep Miller in custody, Cowles wrote that "it appears even the most stringent of release conditions would not ensure Ms. Miller does not prepare further unsafe substances and/or attempt to harm those around her. Ms. Miller indicated in her interview with law enforcement both an intent to harm herself and a willingness to hurt others in the process of doing so".

FBI investigators say she used instructions printed from the Internet to make ricin, an extremely toxic poison, out of castor beans picked from a garden at Wake Robin. "The affected apartment was closed off and thoroughly searched", McKee said.

Investigators say Miller told them on at least three occasions, she had exposed other residents to ricin she had produced.

The FBI said none of the residents reported symptoms consistent with ricin poisoning.

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. The statement said Wake Robin officials would not be granting interviews on the matter nor would news media be allowed on the Wake Robin property. "My impression of Wake Robin is that it's a very nice facility for seniors which makes it all the more surprising that something like this would happen there".

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