“No one had apparently been killed by Betty Miller’s activities at the bucolic Wake Robin retirement home in Shelburne, Vermont, which advertises a population of “vibrant, engaged people and a community in which you can be yourself.””
The article in the British media referred to the investigation and arrest of a 70-year-old woman in the U.S. for, well, concocting homemade poisons in her spare time, and testing them on fellow retirement home residents. Perhaps Betty was just trying to “be herself,” and she was certainly “engaged.” She says she’d always been fascinated in the chemicals in plants, and what they could be modified to do.
She harvested castor beans from the grounds at the home, and turned them into ricin, one of the deadliest poisons known. Experimentally, she began putting small amounts of the stuff in the food and drink around the home. There was some illness, thankfully no deaths, probably due to the slight quantities used in initial experiments.
What’s not clear from the play in the press this far–just how did the FBI come to investigate Ms. Miller, soon finding a bottle in her room labeled, simply, “Ricin”? (Not much criminal subtlety there.) Did some resident take a good look at Betty one night and say to themselves, “That’s the look of a poison-maker if ever I saw one. I’m alerting the authorities.”
A better question will focus on the mind of Ms. Miller. What makes a person act so destructively after seven decades of towing the line? Unless investigations reveal a hidden “black widow” history to this lady, the manufacture and use of poisons never defined her life before. Why now, at this age?
Retirement homes encourage lively hobbies for the residents…but not this one. Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall as all those seventy-something and eighty-something residents talk about the big excitement at the Wake Robin home?
They’ll have their theories.
Meanwhile, we’ll follow up if we learn more about the background of one Betty Miller.