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The American way of bioterror - an A-Z of ricin crackpots

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It takes a special kind of American to be fascinated by ricin, and last week the latest, Roger Von Bergendorff, was indicted in the District Court of Nevada. Bergendorff possibly qualifies for an award in failed Darwinism, being the only person in recent times to have seemingly accidentally poisoned himself with the protein toxin, but not quite effectively enough for the FBI to have nothing to do except attend his funeral.

The US government's complaint against Bergendorff, filed on April 15 paints a common picture: loser dude on the fringes of society, indigent but with still enough money to have two unregistered guns with silencers, castor seeds, a standard collection of anarchist poisons literature and castor powder - or "crude" ricin as the FBI puts it.

Bergendorff told the FBI his production of ricin was an "exotic idea." He'd been puttering away at powdering castor seeds as something of a hobby since 2005 while living in poverty in Utah and Nevada. He'd pounded them in the basement of a cousin (who has also been charged in connection with the case) and, most recently, possibly in an Extended Stay America hotel room in Las Vegas. He professed to love animals, but his beloved dog had to be euthanized due to irreversible neglect when Bergendorff apparently poisoned himself, was hospitalized, lapsed into a coma and his hotel room searched.

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