Elderly Woman Accused Of Putting Ricin In Neighbors' Food And Drink Admits Possession Of the Poison

Castor beans (seen in a handout from the National Counter Terrorism center) are used to produce ricin. Reuters

An elderly woman accused of making the poison Ricin and testing it on other residents at a retirement home in Vermont has admitted to possession of the substance.

Betty Miller, 70, pleaded guilty to possessing ricin on Friday. She had been arrested in November 2017 after telling staff at the Wake Robin community in Shelburne she had put the poison in food and drinks consumed by residents, The Independent reported at the time.

The elderly woman has a history of mental health issues, the FBI said, according to CBS Baltimore, and claimed she had manufactured the poison in the hope she would be able to harm herself.

According to a federal complaint, Miller harvested caster beans that were growing around the retirement home's property and used them to make the ricin, which occurs naturally in the beans.

She used around 30 to 40 castor beans to make the poison, the complaint said, adding that she had made two or three tablespoons of the substance twice in her kitchen and had gone on to try out the ricin on other people at the retirement home–exposing them to the poison on at least three occasions.

However, despite admitting to putting the ricin in people's food and drinks, Miller did not make anyone ill. None of the retirement home residents appeared to suffer ill effects after ingesting the ricin, which can cause breathing problems if inhaled and nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested, with some cases being potentially fatal.

Following Miller's arrest later year, the retirement facility said it had been assured that residents were not at risk.

"We have received assurances from the VT Department of Health and the FBI that no one's health is at risk," Wake Robin president and CEO Patrick McKee said in a statement. "The resident of the apartment in question is now involved with the criminal justice system and will not be returning to Wake Robin."

Having entered a guilty plea last week, Miller's plea agreement recommends three years of supervised release including a placement at a mental health facility, Boston.com reported.