The Los Angeles Times broke the story that Bruce E. Ivins, 62, died of an apparent suicide on July 31. Ivins, a prominent scientist who worked at the U.S. government’s biodefense research laboratories and assisted authorities in the anthrax investigation, had allegedly learned that the FBI was going to file charges against him.
Ivins died “after ingesting a massive dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine,” the Los Angeles Times writes.
In October 2001, soon after the September 11 attacks, letters containing anthrax were mailed to several Capitol Hill lawmakers and members of the news media. Five people had died by November and 17 others had fallen ill.
In August 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft named biowarfare expert Steven J. Hatfill a “person of interest” in the investigation. Hatfill sued Ashcroft and government officials for defamation a year later, and was eventually paid $5.8 million in a settlement. Hatfill also sued The New York Times, but that suit was dismissed by a federal appeals court last month.
By late 2006 the investigation had veered away from Hatfill. Ivins had generated suspicion from a series of anthrax breaches that occurred from December 2001 to late April 2002 at the Army’s main biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick that he chose not to report.
A colleague told the Los Angeles Times that Hatfill had suffered from depression and, following the government’s settlement with Hatfill, Ivins had reputedly told a therapist that he was thinking about suicide.
Ivins’s brother commented on the scientist’s personality: “He had in his mind that he was omnipotent.”