BALTIMORE – A microbiologist claims she was stalked for decades by Bruce Ivins, the suspect in the deadly anthrax mailings of 2001 who, according to court documents, was obsessed with the sorority she joined in college.
Nancy L. Haigwood and her former husband, Carl J. Scandella, also think Ivins may have wanted to get close to her when he moved in down the street from the couple in the suburbs of Washington in the early 1980s.
Ivins, an Army scientist, committed suicide last week as federal authorities prepared to charge him with killing five people by sending anthrax spores in the mail.
The letters were dropped in a mailbox near a Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority office in Princeton, N.J., and prosecutors have suggested Ivins chose that location because of its proximity to the office.
In another development, the Justice Department sent a letter to the lawyer for Steven Hatfill, another military scientist who was a colleague of Ivins, formally exonerating Hatfill after saying earlier this week that Ivins was the only suspect.
In 2002, law enforcement officials called Hatfill a "person of interest" in the investigation, a claim that brought a lawsuit from Hatfill the following year.
The federal government awarded Hatfill $5.8 million to settle his violation of privacy lawsuit against the Justice Department earlier this year. Hatfill claimed the Justice Department violated his privacy rights by speaking with reporters about the case.
In the case of Haigwood, now the director of the Oregon National Primate Research Center, she said she suspected Ivins in the anthrax mailings as early as November 2001, when he e-mailed her, his immediate family and other scientists a photo of himself working with what he called "the now infamous 'Ames' strain" of anthrax, which was used in the attacks.
She reported her suspicions to the FBI in 2002 and, at the behest of investigators, kept in touch with Ivins by e-mail and shared their correspondence with authorities.
Haigwood, 56, met Ivins in the late 1970s when he was doing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina, where she earned her doctorate. She was cordial to him, but she noticed that he took an unusual interest in her Kappa membership.
In the summer of 1982, Haigwood moved in with Scandella, then her fiancé, in a townhouse in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Montgomery Village. On Nov. 30 that year, Scandella awoke to find the Greek letters "KKG" spray-painted on the rear window of his car and on the sidewalk and fence in front of the home.
Although a police report filed by Scandella does not mention any possible suspects, Haigwood quickly concluded that Ivins was responsible.
"My address wasn't published, and I only lived there a short while before Carl and I got married and moved out of state," Haigwood said Friday. "No one knew my address or my phone number. You had to stalk me to figure this stuff out."
Records show that Ivins was living on the same street, about a block away, shortly after the incident. It was not clear when he moved in. Scandella did not know that Ivins had been their neighbor until he was told Friday by a reporter.
"I was blown away by that," Scandella said. "I had no idea he lived anywhere in the vicinity ... I wonder if it's possible that Ivins moved to that location to be close to Nancy."
Soon after the vandalism, Haigwood bumped into Ivins — she doesn't remember where — and accused him.
"I said, 'This happened and I'm sure you're the one who did it,' and he denied it," Haigwood said. "And I said, 'Well, I'm still sure you did.' What can you do at that point?"
Ivins kept in touch with Haigwood via phone calls, letters and e-mails, and while some of the correspondence made her uncomfortable, she never cut off contact with him, a decision she later regretted. She said she sent him polite but curt replies.
"He seemed to know a lot about myself, my children, things I never remembered telling him, which always disturbed me," she said. "I kept him at arm's length as best I could."
She also suspected Ivins of writing a letter in her name to The Frederick News-Post that defended hazing by Kappa members.
Haigwood passed on her suspicions about Ivins to the FBI after the American Society for Microbiology noted that a microbiologist was probably responsible for the anthrax mailings and asked its members to think of possible suspects.
Their e-mail correspondence from 2002 on was brief and cordial, although Ivins did reveal that he was under a lot of stress.
Investigators have said that between 2000 and 2006, Ivins was prescribed antidepressants, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs.
The Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., where Ivins worked, has offered no explanation for why he was allowed to work with some of the world's most dangerous toxins while suffering from serious mental health problems.
It wasn't until November 2007, after the FBI raided his Frederick home, that Fort Detrick revoked his laboratory access, effectively putting him on desk duty. In the meantime, Haigwood said she worried about what Ivins was up to in the lab.
"After a while, after I decided that he was probably the perpetrator, I was afraid of him," Haigwood said. "I thought that if he found out I had turned him in, he would go after me. And he knew how to do that. This is something his colleagues don't seem to recognize in him."
Haigwood said she was not aware of Ivins stalking any other Kappa sisters.
In an interview Friday, Kappa Kappa Gamma executive director Lauren Sullivan Paitson said the FBI asked in August 2007 for help documenting decades' worth of Ivins' contacts with the sorority, including breaking into the now-closed chapter house at the University of Maryland. The sorority disbanded at Maryland in 1992.
But before being contacted by the FBI, Paitson had been engaged in an editing war on Wikipedia.com with a writer by the name of "jimmyflathead" who threatened to post secret rituals and bad publicity about the sorority on the Web site.
Court affidavits listed "firstname.lastname@example.org" among Ivins personal e-mail addresses.
Only after the government asked for the sorority's help did Paitson realize that the online Kappa nemesis was the top suspect in the anthrax investigation.
"We already had firsthand experience with him, going back and forth," she said.
The sorority did not threaten Ivins with legal action as a result of the Wikipedia editing dispute, and Paitson said she was assured by the FBI that none of the Kappa chapters or members nationwide would be targeted with anthrax letters.
She declined to give more details, citing the privacy of the members of the sorority.