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Why ricin was in room is a mystery to police

LAS VEGAS — A motel patron hospitalized after possible exposure to the toxin ricin is "holding his own" in intensive care, his cousin said Saturday as investigators puzzled over why the strictly controlled poison was in the man's room.

Thomas Tholen, 53, of Riverton, Utah, said he didn't immediately want to say more about Roger Von Bergendorff, 57, or the discovery Thursday of several vials of ricin at his extended-stay motel room. Health officials are still trying to confirm whether Von Bergendorff's respiratory ailment stems from ricin exposure. He was hospitalized Feb. 14.

Police, the FBI and homeland security officials were trying to piece together how several vials of ricin — a rare, deadly poison with no antidote — ended up at the motel several blocks off the Las Vegas Strip.

Adding to the mystery, police said late Friday that firearms, an "anarchist-type textbook" and castor beans, from which ricin is made, were found in the room where the poison was discovered.

However, police and health officials have insisted there was no apparent link to terrorist activity. They also say there is no indication of any spread of the deadly substance beyond the vials, which three tests confirmed contained ricin. Authorities have not said how much ricin was involved but expressed confidence they have it all.

"The only positive tests (were) on the powder in question" in the vials, police Capt. Joseph Lombardo said late Friday. The firearms and the book, which was tabbed at a spot containing information about ricin, were seized Tuesday after a manager at the Extended Stay America motel found the weapons and called police, Lombardo said. He did not elaborate.

As little as 500 micrograms of ricin, about the size of the head of a pin, can kill a human, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why ricin was in room is a mystery to police 03/01/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:21am]
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