WASHINGTON – No traces of anthrax (search) were found in tests of soil samples taken from a Maryland pond drained in June by the FBI, law enforcement officials said Friday.
Authorities found a gun, a bicycle, fishing lures and "a lot of junk, but nothing of an evidentiary nature in the anthrax case," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. Officials have not determined whether the gun might be linked to some other unsolved crime.
The 1.45 million-gallon pond in a Frederick, Md., forest was drained after a search by FBI divers last winter uncovered a plastic box with two holes cut into it that some investigators theorized could have been used to safely fill envelopes with deadly anthrax spores.
Anthrax-laced envelopes mailed to government and media offices killed five people and sickened 17 others in the fall of 2001. Some officials thought that the box could have been used to fill the envelopes and then dumped in the pond, or perhaps used while submerged to reduce the chances of exposure.
Debbie Weierman, spokeswoman for the FBI Washington field office that is running the investigation, declined to comment on the pond or the status of the probe.
The Frederick area has been a focus of the investigation because it is the site of the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (search) at Fort Detrick, one of the nation's main anthrax research centers.
It is also the former hometown of Dr. Steven J. Hatfill (search), a bioterrorism expert who once worked at the institute and who has been named a "person of interest" in the case by Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Hatfill denies any connection to the anthrax attacks and accuses the government of harassment.