A Vermont woman living in a retirement community has been arrested for allegedly making a deadly poison and testing it out on her fellow residents.
Betty Miller, 70, allegedly harvested castor beans and processed them into powdered ricin at Wake Robin, a senior living facility in Shelburne, Seven Days Vermont reports. She’s facing a charge of possession of an unregistered select agent.
An FBI affidavit filed in court Thursday said that Miller was making the powder to ultimately injure herself, but she “wanted to test the effectiveness” on other people.
Law enforcement got involved Tuesday after Miller went to the University of Vermont Medical Center and asked to be evaluated, according to New England Cable News. She allegedly told staff there she had made ricin and had been putting it into the food and drinks of other residents over the past few weeks.
Investigators subsequently say they found the powder in Miller’s kitchen. An FBI release says her home also contained a number of other plants known to produce toxins.
The Vermont Department of Health told the Burlington Free Press on Friday that it knew of one person from the facility who likely became sick from ricin poisoning.
During her hearing on Friday, a U.S. magistrate judge acknowledged that Miller had a history of mental health issues. Fellow residents of Wake Robin who spoke with the news station said they were surprised at the allegations, describing her as a sweet woman devoted to her dog.
Wake Robin President Patrick McKee said in a statement released Friday that Miller will not be returning to the retirement community.
Ricin, a poison that featured prominently on the AMC series “Breaking Bad,” occurs naturally in castor beans. Miller reportedly learned how to process castor beans into powdered ricin from the internet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of ricin poisoning vary widely depending on the dose and how a person was exposed, but may include heavy sweating, breathing trouble, vomiting or diarrhea. A high enough dose could cause death within 36 to 72 hours.
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