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Last Updated

15 Feb 2003

Source: Associated Press, February 15, 2003

Florida Anthrax Victim Widow Files Claim

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) The widow of a man killed by inhalation anthrax has filed a $50 million wrongful-death claim with the government, alleging lax security at a Maryland Army base allowed the theft of the deadly strain.

Robert Stevens (case 5), a photo editor in a building owned by American Media Inc., publisher of six supermarket tabloids, including The National Enquirer and Globe, died Oct. 5, 2001, after apparently becoming infected from a tainted letter.

Stevens' death was the first known U.S. death from the inhaled form of the disease since 1976 and the first of five people to die nationwide in anthrax attacks in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. No one has been arrested.

Maureen Stevens wants to get more information about her husband's death including a copy of his autopsy report and is pursuing a financial settlement, her attorney, Richard Schuler, said Friday.

"There have been no arrests. There's been no information given to her, no indication that the investigation is progressing,'' Schuler said.

Schuler said he sent the claim to the Defense Department and the Army. If the government denies the claim, he has six months to file a lawsuit.

The claim outlines a theory that Stevens was killed by the anthrax that came from a security breech at Fort Dietrick in Maryland, which houses the Army's Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

The lab develops vaccines and drugs to protect service members from biological warfare agents.

Army spokesman Chuck Dasey declined to comment on the claim.

Schuler did not return a phone message left with his office answering service late Friday.