Details of Ivins' death released in police report [audio]

Bruce Ivins

An intentional overdose of acetaminophen led to kidney and liver failure and eventually death for Bruce Ivins, according to an investigation by the Frederick Police Department.

Ivins, 62, a Fort Detrick microbiologist and the FBI's prime suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks, was found unresponsive in his home around 1 a.m. July 27.

Lab tests run later that day showed a fatal concentration of acetaminophen in his system, according to police records released to The Frederick News-Post on Monday. Doctors diagnosed liver and kidney failure the following day, records show, and his family chose not to put him on a transplant list.

The police investigation did not determine how the acetaminophen got into Ivins' body, though records show he bought Tylenol PM at a Frederick Giant Eagle on two separate occasions, less than an hour apart, on July 24. Ivins also refilled three prescriptions for psychiatric drugs that day, but police said none of those pills were missing when they arrived at his Military Road residence.

At the time of his death, federal agents were preparing to charge Ivins with sending the anthrax-laden letters that killed five people and sickened 17 others in October 2001.

During a moment of consciousness at Frederick Memorial Hospital the day of his suicide attempt, Ivins nodded when asked if he had intentionally tried to kill himself, and he then tried to remove his tubes. Ivins also became agitated when his blood pressure and other vitals began to improve later that day, and staff had to administer a surgical anesthetic to calm him, records show.

Police said Ivins' wife, Diane, asked hospital staff members not to discuss the suspicions that Ivins was responsible for the anthrax attacks, and the FBI agents who had been monitoring Ivins did not enter the hospital.

Ivins died July 29, after doctors removed life support.

According to the police investigation, Diane Ivins wrote a note to her husband a few days before he was hospitalized, noting that he had lately been "rude and sarcastic and nasty many times," and that he was "jumpy and agitated" from caffeine use. She also expressed concern that Ivins had been going to work at odd hours and walking around the neighborhood late at night.

Diane Ivins also wrote that she knew her husband had nothing to do with the anthrax attacks and that she never doubted his innocence, she told police in an interview.

Diane Ivins told police her husband stayed in bed with a headache most of the day July 25 and 26, though he did get up to eat and read the mail. She said at one point she found a red liquid in a glass near the bed, and assumed it was alcohol mixed with juice.

When she checked on him around 1 a.m. July 27, she found him lying on the bathroom floor, breathing but unresponsive, police records show.

Police said Ivins did not leave a suicide note, but on the back of the note from his wife he wrote, "I have a terrible headache. I'm going to take some Tylenol and sleep in tomorrow. Bruce." The phrase "Please let me sleep. Please." was crossed out. Diane Ivins told police she didn't find any Tylenol containers in the house.

Ivins had been admitted to a Sheppard Pratt facility in Baltimore two weeks before, after counselor Jean C. Duley told police he had made homicidal threats during a group therapy discussion about father/son relationships. He was discharged July 24, and Duley obtained a protection order against him, claiming he left threatening messages on her answering machine during his stay at Sheppard Pratt.

Diane Ivins also said she believes her husband attempted suicide once before. Emergency personnel were called to Ivins' house the afternoon of March 19, 2008, after Diane Ivins said she believed her husband had taken sleeping pills or Valium and alcohol.

The FBI has not closed the anthrax case, but maintain that Ivins is the sole suspect in the investigation. Diane Ivins told police she is convinced the stress of the FBI investigation drove her husband to kill himself.

"He's been incredibly, incredibly stressed because of the way he's been hounded by the FBI," she said. "Innocent until proven guilty did not apply in this case. They've always treated him as if he was guilty, and I just felt that he just couldn't take it anymore."


Bruce Ivins, a Fort Detrick scientist and leading anthrax researcher, was named the sole suspect in the 2001 anthrax mailings. The U.S. Department of Justice investigators said they believe Ivins was responsible for the 2001 anthrax mailings that killed five and hospitalized 17 others. Ivins died in July, after an apparent overdose of painkillers. An attorney for Ivins maintains he is innocent.

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