Widow of first anthrax victim says she believes FBI account

The widow of the first person killed in 2001's rash of anthrax attacks says she is convinced the FBI was about to nail the man responsible for the mayhem when he killed himself.

Maureen Stevens — whose husband was Robert Stevens, a tabloid photo editor at American Media Inc.'s offices in Boca Raton — spoke the day after receiving a briefing from FBI officials in Washington.

''After meeting with the FBI yesterday and going through everything with them, I'm sure they had their man,'' Stevens said at a Thursday morning news conference at her lawyer's West Palm Beach office.

On Wednesday, the government declared the 2001 attacks solved, pointing the blame at former Army scientist Bruce Ivins, who committed suicide last week as prosecutors prepared to bring charges.

The Justice Department said it was confident it could have convicted the scientist, who spent his career developing anthrax vaccines and cures at the bioweapons lab at Fort Detrick, Md.

Authorities cited advanced DNA testing that showed Ivins, 62, had in his laboratory anthrax spores identical to those that killed five and shocked a nation still reeling from the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Prosecutors described Ivins' unexplained late nights in the laboratory just before the attacks. They released an e-mail excerpt that used language similar to that of one of the anthrax letters. They said he was angry about criticism of his anthrax vaccine and might have released the toxin to drum up support for his drug.

Stevens, who is suing the government over her husband's death, said she feels vindicated by what she learned.

''We have persisted in our belief from the beginning that this was a crime done by a U.S. government insider with the access and ability to get the substance out of the Fort Detrick lab, as a result of poor or nonexistent security,'' she said. "Our view has proven to be correct."

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