Real Name: Unknown
Aliases: No known nicknames
Wanted For: Murder, Terrorism
Missing Since: October 2001
Details: In October of 2001, Americans were still trying to deal with the tragedy and shock of the September 11 terrorist attacks when another attack occurred. An unknown individual (or group) began sending a number of letters laced with anthrax. As the letters began circulating, they affected the lives of several unconnected individuals. All of the letters had been sent from Trenton, New Jersey, between September 18 and October 9.
The first victim of the anthrax letters was sixty-three-year-old Robert Stevens, photo editor of the Sun newspaper in Boca Raton, Florida, who died in the hospital on October 6. It was believed that the anthrax came from a letter, but it had been thrown away before police could read its contents. The next victim was Norma Wallace. On October 16, Norma arrived at the Trenton Post Office in New Jersey where she worked. She wasn't feeling well and believed she had the flu. However, as the day went on, she became increasingly ill. She felt that she couldn't breathe. Three days later, she was placed in the hospital fighting for her life.
Postal worker Leroy Richmond of Washington D.C. was sent to the hospital under identical symptoms. The two learned that they had been infected with anthrax. It is believed that they had inhaled the spores while at their work. The anthrax most likely came out of the envelopes as it went through the sorting process. Leroy and Norma feared that they were going to die, as anthrax inhalation had a 95% fatality rate. However, both of them miraculously survived. Sadly, others would not be so lucky.
Within the next few weeks, sixteen others would be affected with the anthrax spores, with four more dying as a result. Federal investigators found letters sent to NBC News and the New York Post in Manhattan, all post-marked from Trenton. A search of Trenton mailboxes turned up no trace of the anthrax, however. The last two letters were sent on October 9 to Senators Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) at their offices in Washington D.C.
The next victims to die were Leroy's co-workers, two Brentwood mail facility employees, Thomas Morris Jr. and Joseph Curseen. Thomas died on October 21 while Joseph died the next day. The final two victims who succumbed to the anthrax spores were Kathy Nguyen and Ottille Lundgren. Kathy was a hospital worker in New York City; she passed away on October 31. Ottille lived in Derby, Connecticut; she passed away on November 21. Nobody could determine how they were exposed to the anthrax, although it was believed that the came into contact with anthrax-tainted mail.
The letters suggested they were being sent by Arab extremists, or possibly Osama bin Laden, who had orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. However, investigators soon determined that the letters were probably sent from someone in the United States. They believed that the letter's content was a ruse to lead investigators to believe that Arab terrorists were responsible. Handwriting analysis confirmed that all of the letters came from the same source.
On November 30, investigators determined that the anthrax came from the same strain of the bacteria. The "Ames" strain was confined to only six research labs in the United States: Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Flagstaff, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Utah Desert; Columbus, Ohio; and Ft. Detrick, Maryland. This led them to believe that the perpetrator had access to one of these facilities. The perpetrator also had to have certain equipment to place the anthrax into the letters.
In May of 2002, scientific analysis of the genetic fingerprint of the anthrax spores determined that the came from one of two labs: either the US Army Proving Ground in the Utah Desert, or the USAMRIID in Ft. Detrick, Maryland. Investigators are administering polygraph examinations to workers at these two sites. They hope that someone has information on the attacks. A $2.5 million reward is being offered leading to the person or persons responsible for the attacks.
Extra Notes: This segment originally ran on the June 20, 2002 episode.
Results: Captured. On August 6, 2008, federal prosecutors declared that government scientist Bruce Edward Ivins was responsible for the Anthrax attacks. They revealed that they were bringing charges against Ivins in the case. Ivins was a Infectious Diseases scientist at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Ivins had been considered a suspect for several years and was actually one of the country's leading anthrax researchers helping in the case.
He was first brought to the attention of the FBI by a former colleague who recalled him sending emails to her about his involvement in the Anthrax investigation. Based on photographs he sent, she believed that he was bragging about being responsible for the crimes. She also had previously suspected him of being involved in burglary, harassment, and vandalism against her and other colleagues during the 1980s. Finally, the letters had been sent across the street from a sorority that the colleague was associated with.
However, it was not until years later that he was more thoroughly investigated. At the time, the FBI was looking into another suspect, Stephen Hatfill, who was later cleared. In 2006, investigators looked more closely at Ivins. They discovered that, around the time of the attacks, he had spent several late-night hours alone in his lab, after he was supposed to be done with work. He was never in the habit of working excessive late night hours in the lab, either prior to or after the mailings.
Scientists hired by the FBI had matched four genetic mutations in the attack anthrax to the same mutations in a flask of anthrax in Ivins' lab, labeled RMR-1029. According to investigators, he was the "sole custodian" of the flask. Ivins was among the very few anthrax researchers nationwide with the knowledge and ability to create the highly purified spores used in the mailings. Also, everyone else that had access to the flask was ruled out because they lacked the ability and/or opportunity to prepare and store the material.
Investigators were able to trace back the type of envelopes used in the attacks to a specific post office in Fort Detrick. Ivins frequented this office and had a post office box there. Investigators also found similarities between language in emails he sent around the time of the attacks and messages in the letters sent to the senators. Hidden messages and codes were used in some of the letters; Ivins was known to be fascinated with this subject. The letters "A" and "T" were highlighted in some of the notes; these letters are significant in genetics. The codes and hidden messages in the letters matched those found in a code book that Ivins had in his possession, which he tried to hide from investigators.
Investigators discovered that a few months after the attacks, Ivins had taken environmental samplings of anthrax contamination from the lab without permission. He also decontaminated his office and lab without reporting it. Also, he had submitted false anthrax samples to FBI officials, apparently to throw them off of his trail. There was also evidence that he had tried to frame his co-workers. He also threatened to kill anyone who wronged him, including those investigating the case.
Investigators discovered that Ivins' mental health deteriorated following the attacks. In the Spring of 2008, he posted violent messages on the Internet and made death threats at a group therapy session. A mental health provider noted that, for decades, he had a history of homicidal threats, actions, and plans. A prior psychiatrist also believed that he was a sociopath with homicidal intentions.
When questioned, Ivins was unable to explain the evidence against him. Before investigators were able to arrest him, he committed suicide on July 29, 2008, by swallowing excess amounts of Tylenol PM. Authorities have yet to establish Ivins' motive in the case, but they pointed out he was bitterly disappointed that funding for his research project had been cut. They suspect that he may have committed the attacks so that his project, which involved the analysis of anthrax vaccines, would get more funding and attention.
The FBI formally ended their investigation in February of 2010, concluding that Ivins was responsible and had worked alone.
- The Anthrax Killer at Unsolved.com
- 2001 Anthrax Attacks on Wikipedia
- Anthrax Investigation on FBI's Website
- Anthrax Investigative Summary
- Two Deaths Probed in D.C. Anthrax Scare
- Mailing, delivering lethal anthrax extremely difficult
- Search for Antrhax Widens
- Anthrax testing expands
- Solution to anthrax mystery eludes investigators
- Anthrax Survivors, One Year Later
- Anthrax Suspect Dead
- U.S. Officials: Scientist was Anthrax Killer
- FBI Presents Forensic Evidence on Anthrax Attacks Suspect
- Forensic search for anthrax culprit was long, scientific
- FBI Concludes Investigation in Fatal Anthrax Mailings
- Timeline: How the Anthrax Terror Unfolded
- Strange sorority fixation was link that led to anthrax suspect
- When Anthrax-Laced Letters Terrorized the Nation
- Robert Stevens, Thomas Morris Jr, Joseph Curseen, Kathy Nguyen and Ottilie Lundgren at Find a Grave