Investigators cinched their case against alleged anthrax mailer Bruce Ivins after sophisticated genetic tests by a California firm helped them trace a signature mixture of anthrax spores, the Los Angeles Times reports. Well before the deadly 2001 anthrax mailings, Ivins had combined anthrax spores obtained from at least one outside laboratory. With the help of leading outside geneticists and a fresh look at the evidence by a new team of street-savvy investigators, the FBI concluded that only Ivins could reasonably have perpetrated the crimes.
Ivins, 62, a senior microbiologist at the government’s elite biodefense research institute at Ft. Detrick, Md., died last Tuesday in an apparent suicide as federal prosecutors prepared to bring murder charges against him. Since 1980, Ivins had specialized in developing vaccines against anthrax and other biological weapons. Ivins had mixed spores shipped to Ft. Detrick from the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, a facility operated by the Battelle Memorial Institute in Ohio, a private contractor that performs top- secret work for the CIA and other agencies. By cross-referencing the dates when those spores were handled at Ft. Detrick, the FBI sharply narrowed the list of government employees with possible access to the material. “Now, all of a sudden, you can put a time frame on this material,” said one of the people familiar with the evidence. “By mixing the material from the separate institutions, [Ivins] provided what became a signature.”