[UPDATED Oct. 4, 5:29 p.m.]
Story and photo by Chelsea Hunter
NORTH LOGAN — A home in North Logan was evacuated late Wednesday night after ricin, a deadly toxin, was detected in the basement apartment where a 37-year-old woman had attempted to commit suicide.
According to North Park Police Sgt. John Seamons, the upstairs residents were allowed to reoccupy their home Thursday night after no trace of ricin was found upstairs. The tests for the basement have come back positive for traces of ricin, he said. The basement has been sealed off by the Bear River Health Department and will remain so until they decide how to decontaminate the area.
Dispatchers received a call at 10:30 p.m. Oct. 2 from an out-of-state individual who reported she had a cousin in the area she was worried about. Officers arrived at the home at 2200 N. 740 East to create a perimeter, but did not enter, said North Park Police Chief Kim Hawkes. A HAZMAT team was called and entered the house to make contact with the woman, and arranged for her to be transferred to a local medical facility. The team then did some initial tests in the home that resulted in a low positive test for ricin.
The woman lived in the basement apartment. There were also people living upstairs who had to be evacuated; they were provided medical treatment and then taken to a hospital as a matter of precaution since they had been exposed, Hawkes said. They were later released.
Ricin is a toxin derived from castor beans. It can be absorbed into the body through ingestion, eye contact, or inhalation. Investigators believe the woman ordered 60 castor beans online and used 30 of them after grinding them up in a hand grinder.
“All indications that we have is that the neighborhood is safe,” said Hawkes. “This is an isolated incident and the intent of the subject was not to create this toxin in a form that would be broadcast to large areas, or to be vaporized or airborne, so we feel very confident that it is contained just to that residence, and that there is no concern for the existing neighborhood surroundings.”
Police are doing everything they can to collect evidence, he said, even though it may be a slow process considering the original information came from out of state. They are trying to contact the caller in order to refine some points, but their main concern right now is for the victim, and making sure she is well cared for.
“We’ve made contact with the FBI, the state homeland security, and officials with the national guard,” said Hawkes. “They are going to be sending a team that will help collect evidence and test the site for a better understanding of exactly what the level of this toxin may be in the apartment. Once that is determined, then it will be a matter of deciding what type of decontamination process we will need to go through to be able to let the home be reoccupied.”
“We just all need to be aware of our neighbors,” said Nancy Jensen, who lives two houses away from the evacuated home. Jensen said the woman has lived there alone for three or four years, and has suffered with back problems since having gall bladder surgery last December.
The LDS ward in the area has been doing their best to help the woman since her health issues had surfaced, Jensen said. She brought over dinner a few times. “She said she only had one friend, but there really are a lot of people that do care about her,” Jensen said.
The woman remains hospitalized and there has been no update on her condition.