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Last Updated

26 Aug 2008

Source: Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2008.

Victims, Their Families Find Evidence Convincing, But Questions Linger


WASHINGTON -- After listening to a four-hour federal briefing at locations across the East Coast Wednesday, victims of the 2001 anthrax attacks said they were mostly convinced by the evidence against Bruce Ivins.

Ramesh Patel, whose wife Jyotsna Patel (case 13) was one of the postal workers in Hamilton, N.J., hospitalized for anthrax inhalation, said he believed investigators, although he remained wary given the many twists the case has taken.

"The way they presented it, they tried everything they could, and all roads really lead to this scientist, Bruce Ivins," said Mr. Patel, who said he was particularly convinced by proof of Dr. Ivins's unusual work patterns ahead of the attacks and the picture of his mental state.

"Unless anything else comes up further in their investigation, at this point in time we've got to believe that he was the guy," Mr. Patel said.

Federal officials Wednesday unsealed a series of court documents relating to the investigation of the Maryland scientist, detailing what they said is evidence he committed the attacks. The government hopes the move will put to rest the seven-year anthrax probe, one of the most complex and controversial investigations undertaken by federal law enforcement.

Mr. Patel said investigators acknowledged that seven years had been a long time to identify the attacker. Mrs. Patel, now 49 years old, hasn't returned to work since the attacks, her husband said.

"At this point, mentally, I don't think she'd want to go near the post office," Mr. Patel said. "If he is the guy then we should definitely be relieved."

The Patels heard the briefing by teleconference at an FBI office in Newark. Patrick O'Donnell (case 12), another postal worker in Hamilton, traveled to Washington and said it was "worth the trip."

"I got a lot of answers today," after years of being told by federal investigators that they couldn't give him more information, he said. "It was out there in the open."

"I knew eventually it would come out, the truth. I was just wondering if I was going to be around when it came out," said Mr. O'Donnell, who is 42 years old and has returned to his job at the Hamilton facility, working near the spot where he contracted skin anthrax.

Maureen Stevens, the widow of Bob Stevens (case 5), a Florida photo editor who was the first of five people to die in the attacks, flew to Washington, D.C. Family members of Joseph Curseen (case 16) and Thomas Morris (case 15), two of the other victims who died, were also at the closed-door session at the FBI headquarters.

Ms. Stevens concluded that "they had some pretty significant evidence" against Dr. Ivins that made "a strong circumstantial case" that he was responsible, according to her lawyer, Richard Schuler. However, she still wants to review the FBI documents in greater depth, he said.

Ms. Stevens flew back to West Palm Beach Wednesday afternoon and Mr. Schuler said she wouldn't be available for comment until Thursday morning when she plans a press conference to call on the FBI to make public all of its evidence.

Ms. Stevens's children, Casey and Nick, participated in the FBI briefing at FBI offices in West Palm Beach and Tallahassee, respectively.

Not all of the victims were convinced of Bruce Ivins's guilt. David Hose (case 20), a State Department employee who was hospitalized after contracting inhalation anthrax, said he followed today's claims on cable television from his home in Winchester, Va., calling the FBI's efforts to keep victims appraised of developments in the case "usually a waste of time."

Mr. Hose, who is 65 years old, said he didn't believe that Dr. Ivins had killed himself, or sent the anthrax-laced letters, saying he suspected a larger conspiracy.

"I still don't see that they've gotten any questions answered," he said.