Image: Bruce E. Ivins
Sam Yu  /  Frederick News Post via AP file
Bruce E. Ivins, a biodefense researcher who worked on an anthrax vaccine, is seen in 2003, at Fort Detrick, Md. He committed suicide in July.
updated 1/5/2009 9:49:43 PM ET 2009-01-06T02:49:43

Anthrax mailing suspect Bruce Ivins tormented his wife with rudeness and behaved erratically in the weeks before the Army scientist took his own life by overdosing on Tylenol, according to documents released Monday.

The Frederick Police Department records also reveal that Ivins acknowledged to a nurse the overdose was intentional. The documents, first obtained by The Frederick News-Post, include details of an earlier overdose of drugs and alcohol that an investigator called a suicide attempt, but which Diane Ivins insisted was accidental.

Ivins, who worked in a Fort Detrick biological defense laboratory, died at Frederick Memorial Hospital July 29 as federal authorities were preparing to charge him with mailing the anthrax-filled letters that that killed five people and sickened 17 others in 2001.

Ivins' lawyer, Paul Kemp, maintains that Ivins was innocent and would have been cleared had the case gone to trial.

The police records include a letter Diane Ivins wrote to her husband July 24, the day he returned from a two-week stay in a psychiatric hospital.

"I'm hurt, concerned, confused and angry about your actions over the last few weeks," she wrote. "You tell me you love me but you have been rude and sarcastic and nasty many times when you talk to me."

Gun license application
She scolded him for filling out a gun license application, ignoring his lawyer's advice, taking late-night walks and working odd hours. She questioned whether he was following medical advice for stress reduction.

Ivins apparently responded to the letter by writing on the back of the sheet: "I have a terrible headache. I'm going to take some Tylenol and sleep in tomorrow."

Diane Ivins told police that her husband also had severe headaches July 25 and 26. At about 1 a.m. July 27, she said she awoke and found him unresponsive on the floor of an upstairs bathroom in their house near Fort Detrick. She called 911, and he was taken to the hospital, where he died two days later.

On the day he was admitted, Ivins awoke and was able to nod his head in response to questions posed by a nurse, according to medical records included in the police documents. "When asked, 'Did you intentionally try to commit suicide?' patient nodded yes," the document states.

Barred from labs
Four months earlier, on March 19, police had been called to Ivins' home by his wife, who told the responding officer her husband had taken too much Valium or sleeping pills with alcohol. "I asked Ms. Ivins if she believed her husband was attempting to commit suicide and she stated, 'no,'" Officer Ryan Forrest wrote in his report.

Ivins was taken to the hospital emergency room but was not admitted.

One day before that incident, the Army revoked Ivins' access to all laboratories at Fort Detrick because he had failed to immediately tell supervisors he had spilled anthrax on his pants at work. According to an Army report, Ivins walked home to wash his pants with bleach before returning and telling supervisors. The anthrax strain involved was not the one used in the mailings.

Ivins had already been barred from labs where the most dangerous agents were handled, but he lost access to the rest of the labs after the incident.

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


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