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Suburban Utah Home Searched for Ricin

FBI Agents Don Haz­mat Suits to Search Sub­ur­ban Salt Lake City Home After Ricin Scare

by Doug Alden


FBI agents wear­ing pro­tec­tive suits searched Sun­day for the dead­ly poi­son ricin at a sub­ur­ban home where a man pos­si­bly sick­ened by the dead­ly poi­son had once lived.

Author­i­ties believed they had found all of the ricin in sev­er­al vials recov­ered Thurs­day from a Las Vegas motel where Roger Von Bergen­dorff had been stay­ing, but they want­ed to also check the home in River­ton, out­side Salt Lake City.

“We are tak­ing all the pre­cau­tions nec­es­sary to ensure pub­lic safe­ty,” FBI agent Tim­o­thy Fuhrman said at a news con­fer­ence Sun­day.

Near­by homes were evac­u­at­ed as FBI agents, cov­ered from head to toe in full haz­ardous-mate­r­i­al pro­tec­tion suits, metic­u­lous­ly searched the home belong­ing to Von Bergen­dorf­f’s cousin Thomas Tholen.

Von Bergen­dorff had been stay­ing in the motel room where the ricin was found and has been hos­pi­tal­ized since Feb. 14. Von Bergen­dorff has been uncon­scious, so police and the FBI have not been able to ques­tion him about the ricin found in his room.

Health offi­cials are still try­ing to con­firm whether Von Bergen­dorf­f’s res­pi­ra­to­ry ail­ment stemmed from ricin expo­sure.

The FBI got a search war­rant for Tholen’s home, where Von Bergen­dorff once lived. The search began Sun­day morn­ing and con­tin­ued into the after­noon.

Fuhrman said it would be a long process because agents were poten­tial­ly deal­ing with such a tox­ic sub­stance. He would not say whether the FBI sus­pect­ed that Von Bergen­dorff had man­u­fac­tured or stored ricin in the home or the rent­ed stor­age units.

Res­i­dents from three sur­round­ing homes were allowed to return by Sun­day after­noon, but the Tholen house was still closed off late in the day as the search con­tin­ued. Author­i­ties planned to decide soon whether to con­clude the search Sun­day night.

Las Vegas police said that firearms, an “anar­chist-type text­book” and cas­tor beans, from which ricin is made, were found in the room where the poi­son was dis­cov­ered. The book was tabbed at a spot con­tain­ing infor­ma­tion about ricin.

Fuhrman said inves­ti­ga­tors were still try­ing to fig­ure out why Von Bergen­dorff would have ricin but said there was no indi­ca­tion of any ter­ror­ist activ­i­ty.

Neigh­bors say Von Bergen­dorff lived in the Tholen home for about a year before mov­ing to Las Vegas about a year ago.

Police and health offi­cials have tried to assure Las Vegas res­i­dents there is no pub­lic health threat. There was no indi­ca­tion of any spread of the dead­ly sub­stance, they said.

As lit­tle as 500 micro­grams of ricin, about the size of the head of a pin, can kill a human, accord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. The only legal use for ricin is can­cer research.


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