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Domestic dispute leads to ricin investigation

  • Story Highlights
  • Ricin-like substance found in Washington state house
  • Police originally called to house after domestic incident
  • FBI agents rule out any connection to terrorism
By Patrick Oppmann
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EVERETT, Washington (CNN) -- Police and federal authorities blocked off a suburban street Thursday about an hour north of Seattle, Washington, while searching a home for the deadly poison ricin.

Hazmat crews entered the home while officials assured the public that there was no threat from the substance, which is made from castor beans and can be fatal if injected, inhaled or consumed.

"It is contained in this house. It's not a danger to the neighborhood," said Roberta Burroughs, spokeswoman for the FBI's Seattle office. "Why does someone need to have a potent, toxic poison? There's really no good reason. It's against the law to produce or possess it. If it turns out to be ricin, there will be federal charges."

Authorities expected testing to determine on Friday whether the material they found in the house was ricin, Burroughs said. Agents had ruled out any connection to terrorism, she said.

Police were first called to the home Monday for a domestic disturbance.

"When we arrived, we discovered a female outside the residence who was pretty bloodied up. She looked like she had gone through quite an event," Everett police Sgt. Robert Goetz told CNN.

As officers tended to the woman, Goetz said, other officers entered the home and found her husband on the floor, "suffering from some kind of medical condition."

The couple, whose names have not released, were taken to a hospital. On Wednesday, the woman returned home, Goetz said.

Goetz said the woman found "suspicious items" in her husband's office and contacted authorities.

"They recognized the items as possible ricin or items that could be developed into ricin," Goetz said.

Everett police notified the FBI, who obtained a search warrant and brought ricin experts from Washington, D.C.

Neither the women, nor the officers who entered the house, have shown signs of ricin poisoning, Goetz said. The husband remains hospitalized with an unknown condition.

At the house late Thursday, FBI agents and police came and went as neighbors watched anxiously from the street. None of the observers said they knew the couple.

"They really kept to themselves," said a woman who called herself Patty, shaking her head at the flurry of law-enforcement activity.

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