updated 8/6/2008 8:36:44 PM ET 2008-08-07T00:36:44

As federal authorities revealed evidence of their case against suspected anthrax killer Bruce Ivins on Wednesday, family and friends of the Army microbiologist gathered to remember the charmingly eccentric, though obviously troubled, man they knew.

The memorial service at a nondenominational chapel on the Fort Detrick Army base was closed to news media and the public. Another service is scheduled Saturday at the church in Frederick where Ivins played piano at Sunday services.

His musical gifts, juggling skills and mild-mannered disposition are what friends recalled of Ivins, who committed suicide last week as the FBI was preparing to charge him in the 2001 anthrax letter attacks, which killed five people.

"He was an interesting character — funny, always outgoing, a real hard worker," said John W. Ezzell, an anthrax expert who retired in 2006 from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, where Ivins worked for more than three decades.

Friends like former microbiologist LuAnn Battersby said the meek, rumpled Ivins she knew during eight years at Fort Detrick didn't seem capable of murder or suicide.

"If you asked me to make a list of the six nuttiest people there, Bruce wouldn't even hit it," she said.

'Paranoid, delusional thoughts'
But the picture painted by law enforcement is one of a deeply troubled and unstable man with serious mental health issues.

One affidavit released Wednesday contained excerpts from e-mails Ivins sent to a friend. In several, written more than a year before the attacks, Ivins describes himself as paranoid.

"I wish I could control the thoughts in my mind," he writes in an e-mail dated Aug. 12, 2000. "It's hard enough sometimes controlling my behavior. When I'm being eaten alive inside, I always try to put on a good front here at work and at home."

He goes on, "I get incredible paranoid, delusional thoughts at times, and there's nothing I can do until they go away, either by themselves or with drugs."

In another e-mail, dated Sept. 26, 2001, Ivins discusses his therapy group and how all of the other people in it are battling depression, sadness and stress. But he's different, he says. "I'm really the only scary one in the group."

Friend: He seemed fine
The affidavit by Postal Inspector Thomas Dellafera says Ivins had been prescribed various psychotropic medications, including antidepressants, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs, from 2000 through 2006.

A friend, however, who saw him on July 10, just 17 days before Ivins took a lethal dose of painkillers, said he seemed fine.

Jeffrey J. Adamovicz, a former head of the lab's bacteriology division, said he wasn't with Ivins later that day when police removed him from his Fort Detrick office and took him to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation prompted by a mental-health counselor's complaint that he was dangerous. Ivins committed himself for two weeks of inpatient psychiatric treatment.

Adamovicz recalled signs of disturbance during a chance encounter in March, when Ivins was distraught over FBI surveillance and tactics.

"He said, 'Well, they told my family that I was a murderer,'" Adamovicz said.

He said Ivins also told him during that meeting that he was in therapy.

"What he said was, 'My therapist is revealing all my private conversations to the FBI,'" Adamovicz said.

Shifting through truth
But Adamovicz said Ivins was "somewhat prone to hyperbole. When you talked with him, you'd have to sift through what he was saying to get to the truth of it."

Adamovicz said he had heard recently from other colleagues that Ivins had joined Alcoholics Anonymous. Adamovicz was surprised, he said, because Ivins was known for his inability to drink much.

"Everybody knew Bruce couldn't drink," Adamovicz said. "One glass of wine and it would make him really goofy."

He said Ivins wasn't athletically gifted but that didn't stop him from joining his colleagues as a cheerleader at their intramural softball, volleyball and bowling matches.

"Bruce was like the guy that was yelling at the top of his lungs," Adamovicz said. "He loved it and we liked to have him there."

He said Ivins also sometimes joined about a half-dozen of his colleagues on trips to West Virginia, where one of them had a farm where they practiced shooting.

Although Ivins owned a handgun, which Adamovicz said the FBI seized in a household raid, he wasn't a marksman, Adamovicz said. "He was very clumsy and could not hit the broad side of a barn," he said.

"The picture sometimes gets painted that he was some sort of Timothy McVeigh-type person," Adamovicz said, referring to the Oklahoma City bomber. "He liked to be with people. He liked to be part of the group."

In the affidavit, though, other co-workers saw his mental state deteriorate dramatically around the time of the anthrax attacks.

In an e-mail from Oct. 16, 2001, a co-worker tells a friend that "Bruce has been an absolute manic basket case the last few days."

And then there is a bizarre poem written months after the attacks. In it, Ivins described "exchanging personalities" and said the sensation was "rather fun."

Another poem went like this, according to the affidavit:

"I'm a little dream-self, short and stout.

"I'm the other half of Bruce — when he lets me out.

"When I get all steamed up, I don't pout.

"I push Bruce aside, them (then) I'm Free to run about!"

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments