The news from the doctors was terrifying. Both of the postal workers were suffering from an acute infectious disease caused by the bacterium known as anthrax - most commonly found in livestock. In humans, the disease can be spread in three ways: by skin contact, through ingestion or by inhaling the spores. Inhalation anthrax is fatal 95 percent of the time - and it was those dreadful odds that confronted Leroy Richmond and Norma Wallace. Miraculously Leroy and Norman survived but anthrax would eventually strike sixteen other victims and claim five lives.
As of September 2005, the investigation into the case seems to have gone cold. Authorities have traveled to four different continents, interviewed more than 8,000 individuals, and have issued over 5,000 subpoenas. The number of FBI agents assigned to the case is now 21, ten less than a year ago. The number of postal inspectors investigating the case is nine.
The FBI and postal inspectors are in the process of preparing an internal report reviewing the history of the investigation. The report will include a list of "persons of interests" and the latest on the scientific tests used on the anthrax material. Investigators still have not determined the lab used to make the anthrax.
The Justice Department has named no suspects in the anthrax case. Although Attorney General John Ashcroft labeled Dr. Steven Hatfil a "person of interest" in a press conference, no charges have been brought against him. Hatfill, a virologist, has vehemently denied he had connections to or anything to do with the deadly anthrax mailings, and has sued the U.S. Government over the insinuation.
The letters contained at least two grades of anthrax material, but all of the anthrax was the same strain. Known as the
Radiocarbon dating conducted by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
in June 2002 established that the anthrax was cultured no more than two years before the mailings.
In August 2002, investigators found anthrax in a
have been us
ed to mail the letters (over 300) were tested for anthrax, with only one positive result. The mailbox was located at
The letters addressed to Senators Daschle and Leahy have the return address:
- 4th Grade
Greendale School Franklin Park NJ 08852
The address is fictitious.
Authorities believe the spores probably came from one of two labs, although they are still open to further research. Meanwhile, with no assurance the elusive killer or killers have ties to either of these facilities, the manhunt continues at home and abroad. A $2.5 million reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and convictions of the person or persons behind the anthrax attacks.
A Timeline of The Attacks
September 11, 2001attacks
- September 17 or September 18: Attack #1 - Five anthrax letters are mailed (
postmark dated September 18), targeting news media: ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, and the New York Post, all in Trenton, New Jersey ; and American Media, Inc. in New York City , which publishes supermarket tabloids. (Only the New York Post and NBC News letters were actually found; the existence of the other three letters is inferred from the pattern of infection). Boca Raton, Florida
- September 22-October 1: Nine people contract anthrax, but are not diagnosed.
- October 2: Robert Stevens, a photo editor at the American Media Inc. tabloid Sun in
, is admitted to the John F. Kennedy Hospital emergency room in Atlantis, Florida presenting disorientation, a high fever, vomiting, and inability to speak. Boca Raton, Florida
- October 4: Robert Stevens is publicly confirmed to have inhalation anthrax. United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson downplays terrorism as a possible cause, suggesting Stevens may have contracted anthrax by drinking water from a stream.
- October 5: Robert Stevens, 63, dies, the first known case of inhalation anthrax in the
since 1976. U.S.
- October 7: Anthrax is found on Robert Stevens's computer keyboard. The American Media building is closed and workers are tested for exposure.
- October 6-October 9: Attack #2 - Some time within this range, two more anthrax letters are mailed (
postmark dated October 9), targeting Senators Daschle and Leahy. (Monday, October 8, was Columbus Day, hence no mail pickup). Trenton, New Jersey
- October 12: The (already opened) anthrax letter to NBC News is found, the first direct evidence of bioterrorism as the cause of the anthrax outbreak.
- October 15: The letter to Senator Daschle is opened. It is quickly confirmed to be anthrax.
- October 17: 31 Capitol workers (five Capitol police officers, three Russ Feingold staffers, 23 Tom Daschle staffers), test positive for the presence of anthrax (presumably via nasal swabs, etc.). Feingold's office is behind Daschle's in the
. Anthrax spores are found in a Senate mailroom located in an office building near the Capitol. There are rumors that anthrax was found in the ventilation system of the Capitol building itself. The House of Representatives announces it will adjourn in response to the threat. Hart Senate Building
- October 19: The unopened New York Post anthrax letter is found.
- October 22: Federal officials announce that two D.C. area United States Postal Service workers have died from what appears to be pulmonary anthrax contracted from handling mail.
- October 23: It is confirmed that the two postal handlers died of pulmonary anthrax. The men are Joseph P. Curseen, 47, and Thomas L. Morris Jr., 55.
- October 25: David Hose, who works at the State Department mail facility, is hospitalized with inhalation anthrax. The source is the Leahy letter, which was routed to the State Department in error.
- October 29: Kathy Nguyen, a
hospital worker, is hospitalized with inhalation anthrax. The source of the anthrax is unknown. New York City
- October 31: Kathy Nguyen, 61, dies.
- November 16: The Leahy anthrax letter is found in the impounded Senate mail.
- November 20: Ottilie Lundgren, of
, is diagnosed with inhalation anthrax. The source was most likely contaminated mail, although no anthrax was detected in her home. Oxford, Connecticut
- November 21: Ottilie Lundgren, 94, dies, the fifth and final person to die as a result of the mailings.
- December 5: The Leahy letter is opened at the American bio-facility USAMRIID, Fort Detrick,
- December 16: DNA testing of the anthrax matches the
strain at USAMRIID. Ames
Timeline of Related Events
al Service begins to decontaminate the
tion with the 2001 anthrax attacks. Divers reportedly retrieved a "clear box" with holes that could accommodate protective biological safety gloves, as well as vials wrapped in plastic from a pond in the
unced that decontamination of the
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