The apparent suicide of 62-year-old scientist Bruce E. Ivins on Tuesday shook up his co-workers at the military biodefense labs in Maryland where he’d worked for nearly two decades. But the significance of his death extended beyond personal tragedy when it emerged that Ivins was about to be prosecuted by the Justice Department for alleged involvement in the anthrax attacks of 2001.
Los Angeles Times:
Ivins, whose name had not been disclosed publicly as a suspect in the case, played a central role in research to improve anthrax vaccines by preparing anthrax formulations used in experiments on animals.
Regarded as a skilled microbiologist, Ivins also helped the FBI analyze the powdery material recovered from one of the anthrax-tainted envelopes sent to a U.S. senator’s office in Washington.
Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital after ingesting a massive dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine, said a friend and colleague, who declined to be identified out of concern that he would be harassed by the FBI.
The death—without any mention of suicide—was announced to Ivins’ colleagues at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID, through a staffwide e-mail.
“People here are pretty shook up about it,” said Caree Vander Linden, a spokeswoman for USAMRIID, who said she was not at liberty to discuss details surrounding the death.
The anthrax mailings killed five people, crippled national mail service, shut down a Senate office building and spread fear of further terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Hamilton, N.J., postal sorting facility is shown in March 2005, just before reopening after being shut down in October 2001 because it had been found to be contaminated with anthrax spores.