For most of his career, he was a casting agent's vision of a bench scientist: shy, eccentric, nerdy, soft-spoken. But sometime this spring, with the FBI closing in on him, Bruce E. Ivins's life took a dark turn that frightened his closest friends.
In March, police officers summoned to a quiet Frederick neighborhood found the 62-year-old microbiologist unconscious in his home. Four months later, he was admitted to a psychiatric clinic after making wild threats against co-workers at the Army research institute where he kept his lab. Then, a week ago, his therapist urgently petitioned a judge for protection from Ivins. She described a man spiraling out of control, making "homicidal threats, actions, plans."
His death Tuesday from a drug overdose was followed by a revelation even more jarring to those who knew him: a report that Ivins had been implicated in the 2001 anthrax attacks, one of the FBI's biggest unsolved mysteries and most baffling technical cases. Ivins, a leading expert on anthrax vaccines, was on the verge of being indicted in the case, according to officials familiar with the investigation, and took his life by swallowing a large quantity of acetaminophen.