By MIKE DONOGHUE
A 70-year-old Wake Robin resident is due for arraignment in U.S. District Court on Friday on a felony charge she possessed the poison ricin at the upscale retirement community in Shelburne.
Betty Miller was named in a one-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury last Thursday, according to federal court records. The indictment maintains that Miller knowingly possessed ricin, an unregistered biological agent, in October and until about Nov. 27.
The hearing will be Miller’s first chance to enter a plea. She has retained veteran Burlington lawyer Paul Volk to defend her.
The indictment follows a criminal complaint that the FBI filed on Nov. 30 that led to her arrest.
Miller, who has had two brief appearances in federal court, remains in prison. Federal Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy has ordered her detained, but said he would consider a possible release plan if the defense could find a suitable placement.
The FBI recently obtained at least the third search warrant in the case. Investigators want to look at a black smartphone that belongs to Miller and has been in the possession of the UVM Medical Center. Special Agent Mark Emmons wrote in an affidavit on Dec. 7 that the FBI learned the week of Dec. 4 that the cellphone has remained at the Burlington hospital since Miller’s arrest. The search warrant authorized a forensic examination to identify the electronically stored information on it since June 1. The FBI is targeting information dealing with ricin and other toxins and their production.
The FBI also is interested in any documents that might show any intent by Miller to harm people or that she planned to test the ricin. The FBI also wants to know about any travel and her schedule from June 1 until the execution of the warrant in November.
Authorities earlier obtained search warrants for her Wake Robin residence and her 2014 white four-door Subaru Impreza.
Writing in an affidavit in the case, Emmons noted that he has investigated cases involving weapons of mass destruction and that he has specialized training regarding a variety of hazardous materials. He wrote that ricin is among the toxins that have “the potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety.”
This story will be updated with new developments later in the week.