A teen was arrested after sending a ricin laced birthday card to his romantic rival. Nicholas Helman, age 19, reportedly hand delivered the card to the mailbox of his ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend. Authorities were alerted when Helman bragged about the incident to a co-worker at the Warrington, Pennsylvania, Target department store.
The unnamed co-worker immediately contacted police. Authorities responded the intended victim’s home and managed to intercept the card without incident. Testing later confirmed the “scratch-and-sniff” birthday card was laced with ricin.
As ricin is a deadly toxin, Helman was arrested and charged with attempted murder. When interviewed, Helman admitted creating the dangerous substance with castor beans and sodium hydroxide, which he obtained online.
Among his belongings, authorities discovered a notebook, which contained instructions for making ricin. As reported by CBS News, they also found an open bottle of sodium hydroxide.
The victim admitted that Helman has been threatening him for months. Authorities believe the attempted murder was an isolated incident. Hatboro Police Chief James Gardner said he does not “believe there is any threat to public safety.”
Despite Chief Gardner’s reassurance, the community was concerned, as it was unclear where the suspect hid his supply. Authorities conducted a thorough search of the apartment Helman shares with his mother. However, no ricin was found inside the building.
Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler confirmed that Heckler’s supply of ricin was eventually located under a gas manhole cover in Hatboro. Authorities are confident that they located all Helman’s remaining ingredients and supply.
As explained by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, victims who inhale or ingest ricin usually die within 72 hours following exposure. The toxin works by invading and killing off cells. As the cells die off, the body’s organs eventually fail.
Victims who are exposed to minute amounts may recover. However, immediate treatment is a necessity.
Authorities are concerned that the teen managed to make a “particularly potent” batch of the toxic substance using ingredients readily available online. District Attorney Heckler said Helman “knew what he was doing.”
Although Helman nearly killed his romantic rival, neighbors describe him as having a “quiet, unassuming presence.” Authorities have cleared the property, but an “unsafe for human occupancy” sign remains on the door to the apartment.
Nicholas Helman is currently being held without bond in the Bucks County Prison. Although he likely intended to kill his target, his bragging about the ricin laced birthday card foiled his plan and saved a life.