by Timothy McQuiston Vermont Business Magazine On Monday, Betty Miller, a resident at the Wake Robin retirement facility in Shelbume, admitted to health care providers about manufacturing Ricin, a highly toxic powder produced from the seeds of the castor oil plant, and placing it on food and/or in beverages ingested by other Wake Robin residents. Miller also indicated that she intended to injure herself and wanted to test the Ricin on other residents. According to initial police and Wake Robin officials, no one was taken sick or inured in the alleged incidents, including Miller. However, the Associated Press reported Friday that Vermont Health Department officials said one person likely had been sickened by Ricin and had recovered.
Patrick McKee, President & CEO of Wake Robin, issued this statement Friday: “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.”
According to an FBI affidavit filed Thursday, November 30, 2017: On November 27, Betty Miller indicated to health care providers that she had attempted to poison other Wake Robin residents using homemade Ricin, which she had placed in multiple servings of other residents' food and beverages over a period of weeks.
Miller drove to UVM Medical Center for evaluation and observation personal vehicle. On November 27, 2017, based on concems for public health, Vermont Police transferred Miller's vehicle to the VSP impound lot in Williston.
No other residents had reported symptoms consistent with Ricin poisoning at the time.
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.
A team then entered Miller's apartment and located a wicker basket containing pill bottles in the kitchen cupboards. The pill bottles were labeled "Apple seed", "Cherry Seed", 'Yew seed", "Ricin", "Castor beans", and another type of seed. The bottle labeled "Ricin" was approximately 1/2 full of a yellowish/white powder. This powder was tested in the HHA (Hand Held Analysis) and RAMP, with a positive result on the HHA for Ricin. The RAMP system malfunctioned and did not provide a usable result.
Based on the above results, the Ricin pill bottle was placed in an additional container, then placed in an evidence bag. The VDH Sample form and VHMRT Screening form were completed and placed with the evidence cooler with the Ricin pill bottle. This was then transported to the Vermont Department of Health lab for additional testing.
Entry teams also observed a sheet of instructions for making Ricin that appeared to have been printed from the internet, and a laptop computer in the residence.
During a police interview Tuesday evening (November 28), Miller told investigators she had become interested in plant based poisons during the past summer. Based on research conducted on the internet using her laptop computer and cell phone, Miller harvested 30-40 castor beans from plants growing on the property of Wake Robin. Following instructions obtained online, Miller manufactured a total of between 2 and 3 tablespoons of Ricin on two separate occasions in the kitchen of her residence. Miller stated she decided to test the effectiveness of the Ricin on other residents of Wake Robin. On at least three occasions, Miller exposed other residents to the Ricin she had produced by placing it on food and/or in beverages she expected them to ingest. Miller estimated that approximately half a tablespoon of Ricin powder and some castor beans were in a basket stored in a kitchen cabinet above her stove. Miller indicated her goal was to injure herself, but she wanted to test the effectiveness of the Ricin on others.
The FBI determined that there was probable cause to to support a criminal complaint and issue and arrest warrant.
Source: US District Court, District of Vermont, Burlington. Case 2:17-mj-00106-jmc Document 9 Filed 11/30/17. Wake Robin 12.1.2017