WASHINGTON (AP) -- A top U.S. biodefense researcher apparently committed suicide just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him in the anthrax mailings that traumatized the nation in the weeks following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to a published report.
The scientist, Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who worked for the past 18 years at the government's biodefense labs at Fort Detrick, Maryland, had been told about the impending prosecution, the Los Angeles Times reported for Friday editions. The laboratory has been at the center of the FBI's investigation of the anthrax attacks, which killed five people.
Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick (Maryland) Memorial Hospital. The Times, quoting an unidentified colleague, said the scientist had taken a massive dose of a prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine.
Tom Ivins, a brother of the scientist, told The Associated Press that another of his brothers, Charles, told him Bruce had committed suicide.
A woman who answered the phone at Charles Ivins' home in Etowah, North Carolina, refused to wake him and declined to comment on his death. "This is a grieving time," she said.
A woman who answered the phone at Bruce Ivins' home in Frederick declined to comment.
Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr and FBI Assistant Director John Miller declined to comment on the report.