Feds Were Closing In on Anthrax Expert

They planned to indict, seek death penalty; scientist killed himself
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2008 10:15 AM CDT
State environmental officials work with hazard materials personnel before removing contaminants from a home in Danbury, Conn. Thursday Sept. 6, 2007.    (AP Photo/Douglas Healey)
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(Newser) – If Army microbiologist Bruce Ivins hadn’t killed himself, he might have been executed. Federal prosecutors were on the verge of indicting Ivins in the 2001 anthrax mail attacks that killed five people, and they would have sought the death penalty, the AP reports. One official says an ongoing grand jury was closing in on the 62-year-old Maryland man, who spent more than a decade working on an anthrax vaccine.

The Los Angeles Times, which reported the investigation and the suicide earlier today, said Ivins had taken a massive dose of a prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine, after being informed of the impending prosecution. In June, the FBI exonerated one of Ivins' colleagues, Steven Hatfill, a development that reportedly made the researcher anxious. An FBI spokesman declined to provide any information about the case.