Texas Rainmaker
Ricin Found in University of Texas Dorm
February 25th, 2006 5:24 am

From The Daily Texan (hat tip: reader Nita Rene):

Two female students from Moore-Hill dormitory were still being treated late Friday for Ricin exposure after coming into contact with the toxin Thursday afternoon, law enforcement and UT officials said.Students began evacuating the dorm shortly after 11 p.m. when University Residence Hall resident assistants began knocking door-to-door evacuating residents…The toxin was first discovered around 2:30 p.m. Thursday when one of the students who received treatment discovered a white powder after opening a roll of quarters from a non-local bank to do laundry on the first floor, Spalding said. The quarters had been in her dorm room on the second floor for several months, Spalding said. The powder fell out on the student’s hands, which she washed immediately before reporting the incident to the UT Police Department, Spalding said.

U.T.’s associate director of Student Health Services, Theresa Spalding, says:

“There is no threat coming from this… the authorities do not believe there is any type of terroristic plot against the University of Texas.”

Yet, according to the CDC:

It would take a deliberate act to make ricin and use it to poison people. Accidental exposure to ricin is highly unlikely.

Looks like another instance at a University where officials are quick to dismiss the obvious in favor of the “no threat here” line.The University said, in a prepared release that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating this event deemed by university officials as a non-threat. (Sound familiar?) According to the website of the San Antonio field office of the JTTF:

The JTTF is responsible for all domestic and international terrorism matters. The JTTF mission is to prevent acts of terrorism, and investigate acts of terrorism in an effort to identify and prosecute those responsible.

In fact, during the 2003 Ricin-terror plot investigation in London:

The FBI advises U.S. law enforcement agencies about the dangers associated with ricin following the discovery of the deadly poison in London. The FBI notice says ricin “could be used in a terrorist operation to contaminate closed ventilation systems … drinking water, lakes, rivers and food supplies.”

According to KXAN, students who lived in the dorm were interviewed and said that they were not aware of the problem when it was first found on Thursday. They weren’t informed or evacuated until sometime Friday! The Daily Texan confirms:

The decision to evacuate was made more than 24 hours after the powder was first found because samples of the substance had to be expedited to a lab in Atlanta, Spalding said. The substance was reported back from the lab as Ricin from preliminary tests, Valadez said.Students were still able to access the exposed areas of Moore-Hill, including the first floor laundry room. No areas were closed until the dorm was evacuated at 11 p.m.

So they sent the samples for testing because they thought it might be a dangerous substance, but allowed students to remain in the building without warning for more than 24 hours. Something doesn’t seem right about that.

The Austin Police Department, Austin Fire Department, EMS and UT Police Department were called to the area after the substance was confirmed to be Ricin.

So authorities were called in after the Ricin was confirmed? Seems like they would’ve been called once U.T. officials thought the substance was suspicious enough to send it to CDC labs for testing.It appears the response to this has been questionable from the beginning. Probably explains why authorities are so quick to dismiss this whole event.

Here are some photos from the scene (Courtesy Daily Texan Staff):





 Update: Looks like USAToday, Fox and ABC are finally picking this story up…

Other Ricin discoveries and officials’ “nothing to see here” line:February, 2004 - Dirksen Senate Office Building mailroom.

-“Federal authorities said Tuesday they have found no indication of international terrorism in the discovery.”

November, 2003 - An intercepted letter addressed to the White House.

-”That letter is now part of a federal investigation”

October, 2003 - Greenville, S.C. airport postal distribution center.

- Greenville, S.C. airport postal distribution center. -”officials said Wednesday they do not believe the incident is related to terrorism”

Update 2:
AP has identified the victim as 19 year old Kelly Heinbaugh, a freshman kinesiology major. UT’s Student directory confirms she’s a resident of Moore-Hill. According to her personal website on Xanga, her dad is in the military. It also appears she is in the Air Force ROTC, Detachment 825 (where she was “IMT cadet of the month” this month).

The second victim was her roommate, Sophomore Casi Adams.

Update 3: It’s being reported that 3 tests were conducted, each with a different result. One positive, one negative and one inconclusive. Further tests are being done at CDC and officials hope to know for sure whether this was in fact ricin or not by Sunday.

Update 4: The FBI is reporting that further tests were negative.

The FBI tests did not identify the substance, but they came back negative for the poison that is extracted from castor beans, said San Antonio FBI spokesman Rene Salinas.”There were no proteins in there to indicate it was in fact ricin,” Salinas said. He said was unlikely further testing would be done.

Texas health officials did “just a quick test and they don’t check for the proteins in ricin,” Salinas said.

If they didn’t check for ricin in the first place, why are we having this discussion? Obviously, someone checked for ricin proteins… and allegedly found them.

Others:

Bryan has info on another weird Ricin case. Michelle has a roundup, including a “chronology of incidents involving ricin“. Deborah hits the nail on the head: “Let’s see if the MSM gives this story as much play as it gave U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s hunting accident.” -I’m not holing my breath.

Posted by TexasRainmaker |
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