CCRC resident arrested after allegedly making toxin, testing it on fellow residents
Credit: Mike Stone / Stringer
A probable cause and detention hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday in the case of a Vermont continuing care retirement community resident who, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI, made the poison ricin in her apartment and then tested it on fellow residents.
Betty Miller, 70, a resident of Wake Robin in Shelburne, VT, was arrested Thursday for possession of ricin and appeared in federal court in Burlington, VT, for an initial hearing the next day. She remains in custody.
If ultimately convicted, Miller could face up to five years in prison.
According to authorities, Miller told investigators Nov. 28 that she researched how to make ricin, a plant-based poison, on the internet, then made some in her kitchen and tested its potency by putting it into the food and beverages of other residents.
President and CEO Patrick McKee said Friday in a statement provided to McKnight's Senior Living that after the community alerted local law enforcement, state and federal agencies quickly became involved. “Wake Robin worked closely with them as they conducted their investigation,” he said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI said that first responders found a bottle labeled “ricin,” as well as plants that can be used to make toxins, in Miller's apartment. The Vermont Forensic Lab subsequently confirmed that the bottle contained the toxin, which is regulated by the federal government due to the severe potential health threat it poses. Investigators interviewed Miller at the University of Vermont Medical Center.
The FBI did not find ricin anywhere else in the community. “Any threat posed by the substances in Miller's apartment has been neutralized,” authorities said. “There have been no fatalities. The Wake Robin community has cooperated with the FBI and state health officials to ensure all of its residents are safe.”
McKee said that Miller will not be returning to the community.
“This was an isolated incident,” he said. “The toxic substance was contained; no residents were evacuated. The affected apartment was closed off and thoroughly searched. We have received assurances from the Vermont Department of Health and the FBI that no one's health is at risk.”