Wednesday, April 16, 2008 | 10:50 a.m.
The mysterious ricin man, Roger Von Bergendorff, walked out of a hospital this morning and into a pair of handcuffs.
Von Bergendorff, 57, was living in a Las Vegas weekly motel when he reportedly got sick on Valentine’s Day and called himself an ambulance to the hospital, where he stayed in a coma for unknown reasons, and for an unknown amount of time. Thomas Tholen, a cousin from Utah, came to Vegas on Feb, 28 to clear Von Bergendorff’s stuff out of the apartment. Inside, Tholen found a dead dog and a strange white powder, eventually identified as ricin, a wildly deadly neurotoxin.
By 8 that night, the weekly motel was swarming with men in hazmat suits, Metro police, members of the Nevada National Guard and the press. Von Bergendorff’s room was declared a bio-hazard and there was chatter he was in the hospital because of ricin exposure. While we don’t yet know if that’s true, we do know he left Sunrise Hospital today, and is now facing charges for “Possession of Biological Toxin - Ricin, Possession of Unregistered Firearms, and Possession of Firearms Not Identified By Serial Number,” according to a press release sent out by the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The weapons charges stem from the firearms police found in Von Bergendorf’s room: two .25 caliber semi-automatic pistols, a .22 caliber Ruger rifle, and a .22 caliber Browning pistol with a silencer. They also found a copy of the “Anarchists Cookbook,” reportedly bookmarked on a page with a recipe for ricin, which is derived from castor beans. They also found some syringes and beakers in the apartment, though it’s not clear on what Von Bergendorff was planning on doing with the stuff.
While Von Bergendorff was in the hospital uncommunicative, FBI agents traced his path back to Utah and more specifically to a Salt Lake City storage shed he rented, which contained castor beans, various chemicals used in the production of ricin, a respirator, filters, painter’s mask, laboratory glassware, syringes, and a notebook on ricin production.
Von Bergendorff has been plagued with financial problems for several years and declared bankruptcy while living in California. While he was at Spring Valley Hospital, he was in critical condition, though his health has since improved enough for FBI agents to arrest him and bring him to court for the first time today at 3:00 p.m., for an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen.
Check out the AP story for additional information.