Utah National Guard responds to Logan ricin scare

Posted at 6:34 AM, Oct 03, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-03 13:40:09-04

LOGAN, Utah -- Police said a 37-year-old woman tried to make and ingest ricin in a failed suicide attempt at a North Logan home, and the woman’s attempt forced a family to evacuate.

She remains hospitalized while a family who lives on the upper floor of the house has been allowed back home. Authorities believe the threat has been contained to a basement apartment where the woman lived.

Utah National guardsmen found samples in that basement that tested positive for ricin, a poison found in castor beans. Chief Kim Hawkes, North Park Police, said the woman bought 60 beans online, ground up half of them and swallowed them in a suicide attempt.

"There was a grinder in the apartment that she indicated she ground the beans up with,” Hawkes said. “There was a low positive test for ricin in the particular device.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, if ingested, ricin prevents the cells in your body from making the proteins you need. Neighbor Nancy Jensen knows the woman who has been hospitalized.

"She's a nice person,” Jensen said. “She's very quiet. She's been sick for a long time. From what I know, she has a lot of back problems."

Hawkes said the woman didn’t intend to harm anyone else with the ricin.

"The intent of the subject was not to create this toxin in a form that would be broadcast for large areas or to be vaporized or air-borne,” Hawkes said. “So we feel very confident that it's within just that residence, and there's no concern for the existing neighborhoods surrounding it.”

It was purely a suicide attempt, not a terrorist threat police said.

A relative called cops late Wednesday night, warning them the woman was suicidal. When paramedics transported her to Logan Regional hospital early Thursday morning, she was alert and able to walk but complaining of nausea.

Meanwhile, cops alerted neighbors.

"The police came to my door and told me not to go over there," neighbor Elizabeth Pack said.

No one was else was evacuated except the family who lives on the upper floor of the home. Hazmat teams feared ricin could've spread through the ventilation system, but after checking they no longer believe that’s a risk. The poison has been contained to the basement, which is off-limits.

Police said the hospitalized woman processed the poison after an Internet search, not watching the TV show "Breaking Bad" as was rumored. Even though police don't believe she intended to harm anyone other than herself, she still could face federal charges. The FBI has already begun interviewing her.