The feds are saying flatly that the Vegas ricin case is not related to terrorism but I’m not so sure.
The man who was staying at the Vegas hotel and is in the hospital in critical condition, who almost certainly manufactured the ricin from raw castor beans by following instructions in what authorities described as an “a book on anarchy,” is apparently obsessed with domestic animals:
Neighbors in Utah described Mr. Von Bergendorff as a peculiar loner commonly seen in brown slacks and a brown shirt. Pauline and Grant Dansie, who live three doors down from Mr. Tholen, said Mr. Von Bergendorff spent six weeks last summer searching their backyard daily for a missing cat that he eventually said he found.
â€œHeâ€™s just a little bit different,â€ Mrs. Dansie said. â€œHe was so obsessed with this cat; it was really strange. He didnâ€™t really act like he wanted to be a friend. I remember one time he put a cat trap out in our field, and he caught our neighborâ€™s cat. We told him he had to give it back.â€
Mr. Von Bergendorff, who is believed to be a computer graphic artist whose work has appeared on several science fiction novels, appears to have a lengthy history involving pets and animals. The police also found three cats and an emaciated dog in his hotel room; the local shelter took custody of the animals, but the dog was so starved and parched it had to be euthanized.
Public records show that Mr. Von Bergendorff lived for several years in the 1980s and 1990s with a relative, Fred Bergendorff, in La Mesa, Calif. Mr. Bergendorff, who died on Jan. 27, was the founder of the Pet Place, a charity focused on assisting homeless pets, and the host of the organizationâ€™s long-running TV and radio programs in Southern California.
The Pet Place appears to be on the up and up – an earnest and effective organization that saves thousands of discarded animals a year. The board members and officers are all upstanding citizens from what information I can gather on the web. There isn’t a hint of radicalism associated with this excellent and caring organization.
But Von Bergendorff may have taken it upon himself to avenge the helpless creatures he cares so deeply about. How is anyone’s guess. The amount of Ricin he made would seem to indicate several potential targets. And since a deadly dose of the toxin could fit on the head of the pin, I leave it to your imagination how many people he might have killed with a couple of vials of the stuff that were removed from his room.
The death of his pet-loving relative relative on January 27 may have tipped him over the edge of sanity. A little more than 2 weeks later, he checks into a Vegas hospital (February 15) with respiratory distress – one of the major symptoms of ricin poisoning:
Inhalation: Within a few hours of inhaling significant amounts of ricin, the likely symptoms would be respiratory distress (difficulty breathing), fever, cough, nausea, and tightness in the chest. Heavy sweating may follow as well as fluid building up in the lungs (pulmonary edema). This would make breathing even more difficult, and the skin might turn blue. Excess fluid in the lungs would be diagnosed by x-ray or by listening to the chest with a stethoscope. Finally, low blood pressure and respiratory failure may occur, leading to death.
CDC investigators are on the scene at the hospital trying to determine if, in fact Von Bergendorff inhaled the ricin.
Other neighbors had an even bleaker description of the life led by Von Bergendorff:
A down-on-his-luck Roger Von Bergendorff lived at his cousin’s home for more than a year before moving to Las Vegas about a year ago, said Tammy Ewell, who lives across the street from Thomas Tholen in Riverton, Utah, and described him and his wife, Ellen, as close friends.
“He was very much a loner. I would say more or less socially regressive. He just barely got by in life. He’d just barely make it,” Ewell said. “Tom was the last resort.”
No word on how Bergendorff made his living in Vegas. The rate at the Extended Stay Motel would run him at least $1200 a month.
The major media won’t speculate on this angle of the story for good reason – no proof. But we have some dots and they can easily be connected with a little intelligent speculation. A man who has exhibited unbalanced behavior in his devotion to animals to his neighbors loses a close relative, goes off the deep end, and envisions himself as perhaps some kind of avenging angel. He acquires a book on how to make ricin in order to exact revenge on those he sees as harming pets or animals. His ignorance in how to handle the deadly poison results in his exposure and subsequent hospitalization.
It is not impossible for such a scenario to have occurred. And it would be interesting to see if Von Bergendorff had made any connections to radical animal rights groups although that idea would be a huge stretch. More likely, he’s a sad, lonely, disturbed man who, if left to his own devices, might have brought tragedy to many people.