Anthrax Scientist Commits Suicide As FBI Closes In

WASHINGTON  — A U.S. official says federal prosecutors investigating the 2001 anthrax attacks had been planning to indict a top Army microbiologist and seek the death penalty against him.

Bruce Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital in Maryland. His brother says he was told it was a suicide.

Ivins was a leading anthrax researcher and had worked for 18 years at the government’s biodefense labs at Fort Detrick, Maryland, where he had been developing a vaccine. Officials say investigators were examining whether Ivins released the anthrax to test his vaccine.

Five people died and 17 were sickened in the weeks after 9/11, when letters containing anthrax powder were mailed to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, TV networks in New York and newspaper offices in Florida.

A colleague says Ivins had been “hounded” by aggressive FBI agents and was hospitalized for depression in recent weeks. Dr. Russell Byrne says he does not believe Ivins was behind the attacks.

In June, the government exonerated another of Ivins’ colleagues who’d been named as a “person of interest” six years earlier. Steven Hatfill received more than 5 million dollars to settle a lawsuit over the issue.