Why would a 70-year-old woman want to cook up batches of ricin and then feed it to her neighbors in a community for seniors without them knowing? That was a question police and FBI had for Betty Miller after they were contacted on Tuesday by healthcare workers from Wake Robin, a senior community in Shelburne, Vermont.
Ricin causes difficulty breathing, along with other symptoms if it is inhaled. Symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, hallucinations, and seizures occur if the ricin is ingested. If you are poisoned with ricin, the symptoms emerge within four to 10 hours after you’ve been exposed to it, according to the Chicago Tribune.
According to the court complaint filed, police were called out to the Shelburne location by the healthcare workers after Miller told them she had manufactured the ricin in her own kitchen and then “placed it on other residents’ food and beverages.” She did this on at least three occasions over the past several weeks, according to Vermont Digger News.
She told investigators that she was able to harvest the castor beans from plants that she found growing on the property of the Wake Robin community where she lived. She was able to collect 30 to 40 castor beans for the ingredients needed to make the ricin and she cooked up two batches of the poison.
According to the complaint, Miller told an FBI agent that the reason she secretly spiked her neighbors’ food and beverages was that she wanted to “injure herself.” By secretly feeding it to her neighbors, she was testing out her homemade ricin’s effectiveness on the other residents at Wake Robin senior living facility. None of the residents had complained about getting sick, according to The Vermont Digger News.
Police searched Miller’s apartment and found powder labeled “Ricin” in her kitchen cabinet and that powder did test positive for the poison. The court papers also revealed she had pill bottles in her cabinet labeled “apple seed,” “cherry seed,” and “yew seed.”
Miller was handcuffed when she made her first court appearance on Friday. The judge who is hearing her case did note that Miller “had a lengthy mental health history,” but stopped short of divulging any details of her issues. She told the court she was working hard on getting a lawyer.
Miller is due in court again on Wednesday, but until then, she was placed in custody. The prosecutors thought her crime was “carefully planned.” Besides finding the ricin, this woman “had other substances in her home, besides the castor beans, which could be used to make plant-based toxins.”
The prosecutors argued against allowing Miller’s release. They stated that there is no way to ensure Miller wouldn’t harm herself or others.
“While she has indicated her ultimate intent was to hurt herself, she demonstrated a callous disregard for the lives of others in the process.”