A year after government scientist Bruce Ivins killed himself while under investigation for the lethal 2001 anthrax mailings, the Justice Department is on the verge of closing the case.

Several law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that the department had tentatively planned last week to close the case, but government lawyers said they needed more time to review evidence and determine what information can be made public without compromising grand jury secrecy or privacy laws.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations about the case.

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Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd says the agency and the FBI continue working to conclude the investigation and anticipate closing the case in the near future.

The spores killed five people and sickened 17.

For years, authorities tried to build a case against biowarfare expert Steven Hatfill, but ultimately had to pay him a multimillion-dollar settlement.

As the FBI closed in on Ivins last summer, the 62-year-old Fort Detrick, Md. microbiologist took a fatal overdose of Tylenol. After Ivins' suicide, FBI Director Robert Mueller said investigators found Ivins was the culprit, and prosecutors said they were confident he acted alone.