AKA Bruce Edwards Ivins
Birthplace: Lebanon, OH
Location of death: Frederick, MD
Cause of death: Suicide
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Biologist, Scientist
Party Affiliation: Democratic
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Anthrax researcher and suspect
Beginning on 18 September 2001, while America was still reeling from major terror attacks a week earlier, several letters contaminated with the bacterium Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) were mailed. Among their recipients were Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, and the anthrax mailings are known to have killed at least five people — a 94-year-old woman in Connecticut, a New York hospital worker, a National Enquirer photo editor in Florida, and two DC-area postal workers.
Microbiologist Bruce Ivins was the primary researcher on anthrax in the Bacteriology Division at Fort Detrick's United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). In 2003, for his anthrax-related work, Ivins was awarded the Defense Department's Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service, described as the Defense Department's highest civilian honor, but eventually he became the FBI's top suspect in the anthrax killings.
In December 2001, a technician at USAMRIID told Dr Ivins that she suspected her work area had been contaminated. Ivins tested the area, confirmed her suspicions, and decontaminated her workspace, but did not notify his own superiors -- he later said he "had no desire to cry wolf". Ivins became suspicious of another contamination incident in April 2002, and on 16 April 2002 he reported finding the deadly Ames-strain anthrax, generally described as "the preferred strain for biodefense research", in the men's changing room and around his own office.
Ivins cooperated with the FBI's investigations over the six years following the anthrax mailings, but by early 2008 federal agents made it clear that he was the prime suspect. Feds tailed him everywhere, around the clock, month after month. Ivins complained that FBI agents had offered to pay $2.5M to his son if he would provide evidence incriminating his father, and the FBI confronted his daughter with photographs of the anthrax victims, telling her, "This is what your father did".
In an apparent suicide, Ivins died on 29 July 2008 after overdosing on Tylenol with codeine. For several days after his death, the media reported incriminating tidbits about him -- he was reportedly being treated for alcoholism and depression, he had been vaccinated against anthrax (like most of the workers in his section at USAMRIID), and his long-estranged brother, Thomas Ivins, described him as having "had in his mind that he was omnipotent". Eight days after his death, US Attorney Jeffrey Taylor called a press conference and announced that Ivins had been the sole suspect in the anthrax killings.
Curiously, Ivins' area of expertise was immunization against anthrax -- building better vaccines. Colleagues and experts have expressed doubt that he had the knowledge or access to equipment necessary to turn the spores into weaponized anthrax. His supervisors have maintained that the quantity of anthrax used in the mailings could not have been produced with USAMRIID's equipment, and that the mailed anthrax was chemically dissimilar to anthrax from strains cultured at USAMRIID.
After his death the family's lawyer said in a press release, "We assert his innocence in these killings, and would have established that at trial." A 2011 inquiry by the National Academy of Sciences disputed the FBI's claim of scientific evidence showing that the anthrax came from Ivins' lab. A separate inquiry by the US Government Accountability Office in 2014 found that the FBI's investigation and conclusion "lacked precision, consistency and adequate standards."
Father: Thomas Randall Ivins (pharmacist)
Mother: Mary Johnson Knight Ivins
Brother: Thomas R. Ivins, Jr.
Brother: Charles W. Ivins
Wife: Diane Ivins (b. circa 1955, m. circa 1975, until his death)
Son: Andrew Ivins ("Andy")
Daughter: Amanda Ivins (b. circa 1984)
High School: Lebanon High School, Lebanon, OH
University: BS Biology, University of Cincinnati (1969)
University: MS Microbiology, University of Cincinnati (1971)
University: PhD Microbiology, University of Cincinnati (1976)
American Red Cross
Took the Fifth grand jury testimony (May-2007)
Polygraphed twice (2002)
unknown detox facility Maryland (2008)
Risk Factors: Depression, Alcoholism
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