March 2, 2008 in Nation/World

Man ‘holding his own’ after ricin find

Kathleen Hennessey Associated Press

LAS VEGAS – The motel patron hospitalized after the potent poison ricin was found in his room was was “holding his own” in the hospital, his cousin said Saturday.

Thomas Tholen, 53, wouldn’t say much more about Roger Von Bergendorff or the discovery Thursday of several vials of ricin – which is deadly in minuscule amounts – at the man’s extended-stay motel room on the Las Vegas Strip.

Officials on Saturday secured Tholen’s Riverton, Utah, home, where Von Bergendorff reportedly stayed, but they had not searched it because they were awaiting court approval for a warrant, FBI spokesman Juan Becerra said.

Tammy Ewell, a neighbor who knew Von Bergendorff when he lived at the Riverton home for more than a year before moving to Las Vegas about a year ago, said he “barely got by in life.”

Ewell lives across the street from Tholen in Riverton.

Von Bergendorff “was very much a loner. I would say more or less socially regressive. He just barely got by in life. He’d just barely make it,” Ewell said. “Tom was the last resort.”

Authorities have not said how much ricin was involved but expressed confidence they have it all.

Dr. Lawrence Sands, chief health officer of the Southern Nevada Health District in Las Vegas, said health officials were still trying to confirm whether Von Bergendorff’s respiratory ailment stemmed from ricin exposure.

Police and health officials have tried to assure Las Vegas residents there is no public health threat.

There was no apparent link to terrorist activity and no indication of any spread of the deadly substance, they said.

Police said late Friday that firearms, an “anarchist-type textbook” and castor beans, which are used to make ricin, were found in the room where the poison was discovered.

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