Thursday, August 07, 2008

I Love a Mystery

by Joyce Tremel

Like many others, I'm fascinated by cases that appear to be unsolvable: The Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Jon Benet Ramsey, and of course The Boy in the Box.

One of the most fascinating cases, though, occurred seven years ago shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, when five people died and seventeen were injured from being exposed to anthrax. People were panicked. Was this another terroristic attack? Although it appeared that those in the media and politicians were the targets, no one really believed they were safe. At the police department, we had calls daily from residents who received what they thought was suspicious mail. The department had to quickly develop a protocol for handling items that residents turned over to them. None of the mail turned out to be hazardous, but it was still a trying time for those involved.

Now that everyone has become complacent again and mostly forgotten about the Amerithrax case, there has been a break in the case. Just as the FBI was preparing to charge 62 year old Army scientist Bruce Ivins with murder, he committed suicide by taking an overdose of Tylenol with codeine.

Using new, state of the art scientific testing, authorities were able to determine that the anthrax strain used in the attacks was very rare and narrowed it down to a sample that Ivins controlled. If this testing had been available earlier, the case would have been solved years ago.

We now know who did it, but with Ivins' death, we may never know why--or how.

How was he able to take his anthrax sample and make a powdered form without any of his co-workers knowing about it? Why were the media and former senator Tom Daschle targeted? How and why did he go to New Jersey to mail the anthrax-laced letters? Was his motive to promote his recently patented anthrax vaccine? Or was he a just a "revenge killer" as his therapist Jean Duley stated?

Hopefully, with US District Judge Royce Lamberth unsealing certain documents we may get a few answers. These documents are now posted on the website of the Department of Justice if anyone wants to take a look.


Tory said...

Very interesting story, Joyce!

I was listening to this on the radio the other day. Did I get it right, the first suspect's (who we now know to be innocent) career was basically ruined over this?

So sad!

Annette said...

Wow, Joyce. The affidavits alone make fascinating reading.

At least Ivins saved the taxpayers some money by eliminating the whole jury trial and long-term, tax-funded lodging thing.

nancy said...

Is anyone else thinking the therapist is the one who has the most gripping story?

Great blog, Joyce!

Wilfred Bereswill said...

I find it ironic that I use that case as the opening of my book, A Reason For Dying and those opening scenes were written over three years ago. The guilty party? An army doctor. Now, he was caught up in greed and then fear for his wife and terrorist were involved.

I've been following this and I'm clicking over to read. Thanks, Joyce.

When I started writing, I wrote a mission statement that I wanted it to be completely believable. I wanted someone to put the book down after they finished and ask themselves if this could really happen. Scarey, huh?

mike said...

What I find interesting about this case is the great difference between the investigators' profile of Ivins as a deeply troubled, probably psychotic demon-driven scientist--thru therapist's testimony, his e-mails, poems, etc.--and the perception of Ivins' neighbors and coworkers of an otherwise unremarkable, hard-working family man. It's like we're talking about 2 different people. Some commentators are saying the FBI case is not airtight, but it sounds pretty convincing to me.

Yes, Tory, the first suspect's career was ruined, but he sued the government and won, walking away with several millions (less taxes and lawyers' fee, natch) in compensation.

Gina said...

I wonder more about why the therapist didn't come forward sooner -- it is well established, legally, that patient confidentiality does not preclude reporting someone who is a threat to the lives and safety of others. In fact, the therapist has a duty to at least warn potential victims. If the therapist knew he was killing people -- which her testimony seems to suggest she did -- then anyone injured or deprived of a loved one should be suing her.

Joyce said...

Nancy, I think the therapist would have a fascinating story.

I don't think she knew that he had actually killed anyone--just that he was capable of it. From what I've read, she was frightened enough of him to file for a protection order in July. She would have most likely have had to voice at least some of her concerns before the court to get the order.

Joyce said...

Mike, it's just like the people who live next door to a serial killer and say what a nice person he was.

Will, I still have to order your book. I'm a slacker, I know.

Anonymous said...

Good one, Joyce! Another fascinating and disturbing question that I would love to see answered is, "Just why is a homicidal/suicidal maniac working for our government in a BSL-4 (Biosafety Level 4) containment facility?"
Your sister, Amy