A senior U.S. government scientist has apparently committed suicide just as the Justice Department was about to charge him in connection with the 2001 anthrax mail attacks.
Sources say officials were to seek the death penalty against 62-year-old Bruce Ivins.
The Los Angeles Times newspaper says Ivins died Tuesday in a Frederick, Maryland, hospital after taking a massive dose of prescription painkillers.
The report says Ivins had been informed of impending charges against him in connection with the mail anthrax attacks that killed five people, shut down government buildings and terrorized the nation.
Anthrax-laced letters were mailed to politicians in Washington and media outlets in New York and Florida. The mailings began shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Ivins had worked for 18 years at an elite U.S. government biodefense research laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and had been involved in the investigation of the anthrax attacks.
In June, the Justice Department agreed to pay nearly $6 million to settle a law suit with another bioweapons expert who had worked at Fort Detrick, Steven Hatfill, who had been named as a person of interest in the attacks. Hatfill said his privacy was violated and his professional reputation ruined.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.