FBI investigating discovery of deadly toxin at Vermont CCRC

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Credit: Mike Stone / Stringer
Credit: Mike Stone / Stringer

The FBI is investigating after the toxic poison ricin was found at a continuing care retirement community in Vermont.

First responders were called to Wake Robin in Shelburne, VT, on Tuesday after a report of a possible exposure to the toxin, according to a joint press release from the state departments of public safety and health and the FBI.

The substance found at the retirement community tested positive for ricin in a field test and in a subsequent test at a health department lab.

The toxin was brought into a resident's unit but had not been mailed there, local television station WCAX reported.

All potentially affected areas of the retirement community were evacuated and secured. Authorities said that nobody is in danger, and that nobody has been identified as having been exposed, although one resident was treated at a local hospital. They are considering it to be an isolated incident.

The federal agency has taken the lead on the investigation, and WCAX reported that the FBI remained on-site on Thursday. The retirement community has more than 300 residents, and one of them is former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin, according to the media outlet. She told the television station that the community held a meeting with residents on Wednesday.

A Wake Robin spokeswoman told McKnight's Senior Living that the community is cooperating with authorities.

Dec. 1 update:

Patrick McKee, president and CEO of Wake Robin, released this statement:

“Earlier this week Wake Robin was made aware of a potentially toxic substance in a resident's apartment. The safety and security of Wake Robin residents and staff are always our highest priority. Wake Robin alerted local law enforcement, and state and federal agencies quickly became involved. Wake Robin worked closely with them as they conducted their investigation. Having completed their investigation at Wake Robin, they have all left the campus.

“This was an isolated incident. The toxic substance was contained; no residents were evacuated. The affected apartment was closed off and thoroughly searched. We have received assurances from the VT Department of Health and the FBI that no one's health is at risk. The resident of the apartment in question is now involved with the criminal justice system and will not be returning to Wake Robin.

“On behalf of the entire Wake Robin community, we wish to thank all the local authorities and officials who conducted this important investigation professionally and with sensitivity. I also appreciate the incredible efforts of our staff and all members of our community, who over the past days have shown compassion, resilience, and patience while awaiting information. We will continue to maintain our community's safety and protect their privacy through this time.”

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