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Acquaintances and Counselor Recall the Scientist's Dark Side

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Army scientist Bruce Ivins 'was the only person responsible' for anthrax attacks in 2001 that killed five and rattled the nation, the Justice Department said Wednesday, backing up the claim with dozens of documents all pointing to his guilt. Video by AP

Ivins's e-mails released by the Justice Department -- and other writings discovered by The Washington Post -- also reveal a man intensely focused on his and his family's mental health. "The skeletons are all out," he wrote in one GreekChat posting from 2006. "I'm having a devil of a time rounding them back up. Let's see . . . how about mom who was an undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. . . . Is that bones enough?"

E-mails between Ivins and a friend, also released by the government, show that the bioweapons researcher sought help in February 2000 from a psychiatrist who immediately prescribed antidepressants. Early that April, he wrote that at times "it's like I'm not only sitting at my desk doing work, I'm also a few feet away watching me do it. There's nothing like living in both the first person singular AND the third person singular!"

By late June, he was writing that the medication was not working. "What is REALLY scary is the paranoia. . . . Ominously, a lot of the feelings of isolation -- and desolation -- that I went through before college are returning."

It was about this time that he became a client at Comprehensive Counseling Associates, about 1 1/2 miles from his home in Frederick. He began weekly individual sessions with a licensed clinical professional counselor there. The counselor said she remembers him as precise and unfailingly polite, yet sometimes "very cold, without emotion."

On his second or third visit, the counselor said, "he got bizarre." Ivins talked of a young woman living somewhere in the Northeast and said he planned to drive to watch her play in a soccer game. "I think he was infatuated or thinking about getting involved," recalled the counselor, who no longer lives in Maryland and does not have access to the detailed notes she took in her sessions with Ivins.

He did not mention that he was married and had two children, the counselor recalled. Even so, she told him it would be inappropriate for a man of his age, then in his mid-50s, to travel to watch the woman, she said.

When Ivins returned the following week, he told her he had attended the soccer game anyway. That day, she said, he told her about the poison he had made but said he had not used it because the woman's team had won. She recalled that he also said he had grudges against several people from his past who he said deserved to be punished and that he knew how to find out where anyone lived.

He told her these things with "flat affect [and] total indifference," she said. "He obviously thought about this a lot. He made the poison, took it along. It was not a crime of impulse. It was planned with cunning."

Their last session did not last the full hour. By then the counselor had alerted people that she believed Ivins was homicidal. Her client said he no longer trusted her. She said she would no longer work with him. "It's not going well with the counselor I'm going to," Ivins wrote in a late-July e-mail released yesterday.

The counselor had not heard from Ivins for years until he called out of the blue about two months ago. Politely, "he asked whether I remembered him," she said. And he asked whether she could give him his records for his attorney.

When FBI agents called her late last month -- near the day Ivins swallowed a lethal dose of Tylenol -- she replied, "In all my 25 years of counseling, there is only one client the FBI would call me about."

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.


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