March 5th, 2010
05:34 PM ET

Inside the mind of the suspected anthrax killer

Joe Johns and Justine Redman

Jean Duley was an addiction counselor. She describes one of her clients as a slight, mousey, yet charming man, with a vodka and Valium habit. That wasn't his biggest problem though. By the time he started seeing Duley, Dr. Bruce Ivins was under suspicion by the FBI for launching America's age of bioterrorism by mailing letters laced with deadly anthrax to two senators and a number of news organizations in 2001, killing five people.

The investigation had been going on for seven years. Ivins was a microbiologist who worked with anthrax at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, at Fort Detrick in Maryland. At times during their hunt for the killer, the FBI had consulted Ivins for his scientific expertise, and he'd been a willing adviser. Ivins told Duley he didn't do it, and said he believed one of his colleagues was the anthrax killer, but, in July 2008, authorities were closing in on Ivins as their prime suspect. He walked into Duley's counseling office almost out of control.

"I'd never seen him that way before," Jean Duley recalled to CNN in an exclusive interview. She'd been seeing him twice a week for about six months, during which time he was hospitalized for what she called a suicide attempt. "He was extremely angry and nasty in his demeanor. The receptionist actually came back to me and said there's something wrong, you need to go deal with it. There's something wrong with him."

Duley started the group counseling session as scheduled, but the focus was entirely on Ivins. "Immediately, he started in on his tirade and started talking about how he was not going to be indicted. He wasn't going to allow them to indict him on five counts of capital murder," she said. "And he was not going to go out willingly and he was going to go out in a blaze of glory."

The other members of the group sat shocked and silent as Ivins detailed his plans. One left the room. As Duley remembers it, “He had said that the next day he was getting a Glock [hand gun] from his son. And he was going to take out his colleagues at Fort Detrick, the people that had wronged him at Fort Detrick, the FBI agents. And it wasn't a casual conversation. He was extremely angry and extremely rageful and he described it in detail: All the ammunition that he had. He had bought a bulletproof vest. He had made a bulletproof vest. He had written a detailed plan on how to do it."

With threats so specific, Duley said that despite normal privacy rules, she was obligated to alert authorities. She called the police and they took him to a hospital. Shortly afterward, Ivins transferred to a Baltimore psychiatric hospital, an inpatient for drugs and alcohol under psychiatric evaluation.

From the hospital, Ivins phoned Duley twice. While he acknowledged that he was a threat to himself and others, he accused her of betraying him. Duley felt threatened, and when Ivins checked himself out of care, she went to court to file for a temporary restraining order against him.

Ivins went home with his wife to their house in Frederick, Maryland. According to police documents, she wrote him a letter, telling her husband she was "hurt, confused and angry about your actions over the last few weeks. You tell me you love me but you have been rude and sarcastic and nasty many times when you talk to me. You tell me you aren't going to get any more guns then you fill out an online application for a gun license."

Just days after returning home, Ivins killed himself. He overdosed on Tylenol.

Two weeks ago, the Justice Department officially closed the anthrax case, concluding: "The late Dr. Bruce Ivins acted alone in planning and executing these attacks."

With that and the release of thousands of pages of documents from the case, Duley sat down with CNN to discuss her recollections. Many questions CNN asked, Duley said she could not answer because of confidentiality, and offered her insight only on what was made public in the case.

Duley maintains it was not his addiction to vodka or pills that was responsible for all of Ivin's behavior, but that the root of his problems goes back to his childhood. One place this can be seen, she said, was in his fixation with bondage, which he disclosed to investigators.

"He started that behavior when he was 5 years old," Duley told CNN. "A 5-year-old doesn't come up with that on their own. That's either something that was shown to them, taught them, something he had seen, done to someone else. A 5-year-old doesn't just start blindfolding their teddy bears and acting out towards their stuffed animals like he did."

He was also fascinated with codes and puzzles. "Just secrets, period. Anything to do with codes and, you know, tricking people and figuring it out and trying to baffle people and that kind of thing. You know, he really felt he was morally superior to everyone else. And he had a God complex. He did have a God complex."

But the biggest question still hasn’t been answered. If Ivins committed the anthrax attacks, why did he do it? What was his motive? How did he choose his targets? The letters were mailed to Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, then Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, NBC news, the New York Post, and the publisher of the National Enquirer. Duley says all she can do is speculate. "Without him telling us exactly what his motive was, you can speculate until the day we die what his actual motive was. However, he had no love lost towards Leahy and Daschle."

Nonetheless, she believes Ivins had specific reasons, and dismisses theories that the anthrax attacks were the work of some foreign terror group.

"Anyone who would do the anthrax attacks in the way that it was done was about control," she said. "It was about fear, intimidation and control, because, you know, it was done to very select people. If it was some foreign terrorist, why pick the National Enquirer? You know? I mean, it was very, very specific targets for very specific reasons to instill control and authority.

Jean Duley said what she knows from his behavior, from the things he said to her and his mental character, leaves her without a doubt that her client, Bruce Ivins, was the man who plotted and mailed the anthrax that threw a nation into panic. The FBI's case is closed; the suspect committed suicide before any charges could be filed. We will never know Ivins' whole story, because it died with him.

Filed under: Joe Johns • Justine Redman
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