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Anthrax victim's widow says government may know who killed husband

Eliot Kleinberg / Palm Beach Post | September 18 2006

Maureen Stevens says the federal government probably knows who killed her husband.

She believes they're not telling because that might reveal things the government doesn't want revealed.

Nearly five years after Bob Stevens' death, the first in the anthrax attacks that terrified a nation, "I want to know what happened," his widow, who's sued the government, said Wednesday from her lawyer's office. "I want to go into court and find out what happened. What information's obviously there. The truth is there."

Bob Stevens of Lantana, a photo editor for Boca Raton-based tabloid The Sun, died in October 2001, after he apparently opened mail laced with the deadly substance.

The government said in February of 2002 that it had a "short list" of 18 to 20 people who had the knowledge, equipment, access, and motive to obtain and "weaponize" anthrax. Richard Schuler, Stevens' attorney, said Wednesday it might be fewer than a dozen.

Stevens filed suit in December 2003, alleging security lapses at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Md., led to her husband's death. A federal judge refused to dismiss the case and it has been in front of a federal appeals court for nearly a year. The government has argued proceeding with the suit would jeopardize the ongoing search for the killer.

In Washington, Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said he could not comment because the suit is still active.

Stevens said she's had only two contacts with the FBI since shortly after her husband's death. Agents talked with her in West Palm Beach in July 2003.

And she and families of the other four people confirmed killed by anthrax met with the agency in Washington in November of last year.

Stevens said the agents told the families they were getting close to solving the case and that she felt positive after that meeting. But, she said Wednesday, "it was just lip service. I don't want to say things like this, but I do feel that."

And Schuler said, "To only get with families once in five years, and to give what's only window dressing, I believe is a disgrace."

Stevens said she still believes the case will be solved.

"I have to be patient," Stevens said.

But, she said of her suit, "What else do I have?" she said. "Do I stand on a street corner and ask everybody to ask the government for answers? It's not going to happen."


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