A Vermont retiree planning to “injure herself” tested the efficacy of homemade ricin poison on other residents of Shelburne’s Wake Robin retirement community, federal investigators said.
Betty Miller, 70, made the poison herself and sprinkled it in other residents’ food and beverages, apparently to see how it would work, the Burlington Free Press reports. Miller told health care providers about her scheme on Tuesday, and law enforcement was called.
Ricin is a poison derived from castor beans, which are used to make castor oil. (Miller apparently made her homemade version using castor beans on the retirement community’s property, according to the Free Press.) The poison invades the body’s cells, preventing them from creating the right proteins until they eventually die, according to the CDC. Ricin poisoning can be fatal.
No residents reported symptoms of ricin poisoning — which, when ingested, can include vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, low blood pressure, seizures and organ failure, according to the CDC — although the Free Press reports that the Vermont Department of Health became aware of one person who may have been infected but was no longer ill.
“This was an isolated incident. The toxic substance was contained; no residents were evacuated. The affected apartment was closed off and thoroughly searched,” Wake Robin President and CEO Patrick McKee said in a statement. “We have received assurances from the VT Department of Health and the FBI that no one’s health is at risk. The resident of the apartment in question is now involved with the criminal justice system and will not be returning to Wake Robin.”
Miller appeared in court on Friday, the Free Press reports, where the judge made a reference to her “mental health history.”
She is currently in custody and will return to court on Wednesday. She could face up to five years in prison if convicted.