Anthrax Widow Wants $50M From Feds

Fish in front of an artificial reef. (Cobiella piece) CBS

The widow of an anthrax victim filed a $50 million wrongful-death claim with the government, alleging that lax security at a Maryland Army base allowed the theft of the deadly strain - even though it hasn't been proved that the anthrax was stolen from there.

Robert Stevens, a photo editor in a building owned by American Media Inc., publisher of six supermarket tabloids, including The National Enquirer and Globe, died Oct. 5, 2001, after apparently inhaling anthrax from a tainted letter.

Stevens' death was the first known U.S. death from the inhaled form of the disease since 1976 - and the first of five nationwide in anthrax attacks in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. No one has been arrested.

Maureen Stevens wants to get more information about her husband's death - including a copy of his autopsy report - and is pursuing a financial settlement, her attorney, Richard Schuler, said Friday.

"There have been no arrests. There's been no information given to her, no indication that the investigation is progressing," Schuler said.

Schuler said he sent the claim to the Defense Department and the Army. If the government denies the claim, he has six months to file a lawsuit.

The claim outlines a theory that Stevens was killed by the anthrax that came from a security breech at Fort Detrick in Maryland, which houses the Army's Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. That facility is the primary custodian of the virulent Ames strain of anthrax that was found in the letters.

The lab develops vaccines and drugs to protect service members from biological warfare agents.

Army spokesman Chuck Dasey declined to comment on the claim.

Schuler did not return a phone message left with his office answering service late Friday.
  • Brian Dakss

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