A 70-year-old woman has been arrested after she admitted to making and testing a poisonous substance on residents living in a Shelburne, Vermont, retirement facility.
Betty Miller has been charged with possessing a biological agent under federal laws after ricin was found in her Wake Robin apartment on Tuesday, Nov. 26, the FBI said in an affidavit.
On Wednesday, Miller told health care providers that she had attempted to poison other Wake Robin residents by putting homemade ricin into their food and beverages over the past several weeks.
She then drove herself to UVM medical center for evaluation and observation. During that time, no other residents reported symptoms consistent with ricin poisoning.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ricin is a poison naturally found in castor beans. If the beans are chewed and swallowed, the released ricin can cause injury.
This poison can be turned into a powder, and purified or refined into a terrorist or warfare agent.
“Ricin works by getting inside the cells of a person’s body and preventing the cells from making the proteins they need. Without the proteins, cells die. Eventually, this is harmful to the whole body, and death may occur,” the CDC website reads.
Symptoms of ricin poisoning depend on how it was taken. 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.
According to the affidavit, investigators found a wicker basket filled with pill bottles in the kitchen cupboard, with two bottles labeled “Ricin” and “Castor beans.” The bottle labeled “Ricin” was approximately half full of a yellowish-white powder and was confirmed to be ricin.
Miller told investigators she got interested in the plant-based poison during summer. After harvesting 30-40 castor beans growing on the property of Wake Robin, she then made her ricin powder using instructions from the internet.
The FBI said she had made between two to three tablespoons of ricin on two separate occasions in her kitchen. Miller said she ultimately wanted to use the ricin for self-harm and decided to test the effectiveness of the poison on her fellow residents on three separate occasions.
The FBI also said Miller did not hold a registration allowing her to possess ricin.
The U.S. attorney is pushing to keep Miller locked up as the investigation continues, reported NBC.
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