A 37-year-old Calvert County woman accused of sending poisoned juice to several of her co-workers told investigators she was upset with mistreatment of clients at the Association for Retarded Citizens of Southern Maryland, according to court documents.
Lorraine B. Gray, of Lusby, a caseworker at the nonprofit organization, was charged Sunday with 11 counts of attempted poisoning, said Maryland State Police in Calvert County.
Gray's attorneys filed a motion yesterday in state District Court in Prince Frederick asserting that investigators obtained the statement from her unlawfully. They also disputed the legality of a search of Gray's 1998 Dodge van that turned up packaging material, a bottle labeled "Drano," rubber gloves and other "evidentiary items."
Larry D. Lamson, an attorney for Gray, said yesterday that the suspect and her mother may not have been properly informed of their rights before they consented to an interview with police. He said Gray would make no further comment.
In the disputed interview, Gray told investigators she put liquid Drano in juice bottles because she wanted to make her fellow caseworkers and supervisors sick "so they would have to quit their jobs at the facilities," according to court documents. This would benefit the clients, she said in statements to the police.
"When was the last time you tried Fruitopia?" read a typed note that accompanied the bottles of contaminated juice in envelopes lined with bubble wrap. The packages were addressed to seven employees at the Calvert Diversified Services office, which is the ARC of Southern Maryland headquarters, and to the Sandy Point group home it runs.
"Maybe you never tried it," the note continued. "Well, here's your chance. Try one on us."
The packages were disguised as samples of Fruitopia, a popular juice drink distributed by the Coca-Cola Co., said Maj. Stephen Moyer of the state police in Prince Frederick. The poisoned bottles were left at a central drop-off for interoffice and outgoing U.S. mail on two separate occasions, said Harriet Yaffe, executive director of ARC of Southern Maryland.
The nonprofit organization has 300 employees and a like number of clients who are mentally retarded or have developmental disorders. No employees drank any of the tainted liquid--an outcome Yaffe ascribed partly to staff training in workplace violence.
"It was totally out of the ordinary," Yaffe said. "If there's something out of the ordinary, it's wise to be cautious."
Yaffe said she did not know the substance of Gray's complaints about the agency. The executive director said teams of staff, volunteers and clients' parents visit group homes twice yearly and have uncovered no problems in the residence in question in Calvert County. She said she was not sure whether Gray continued working between Aug. 20, when the poisoned bottles were first found, and their most recent appearance on Saturday.
Two police officers who uncapped the bottles were treated at Calvert Memorial Hospital and released after complaining of headache and nausea. Gray was released on a $10,000 property bond.