U.S. settles with anthrax widow

The U.S. government has agreed to pay the widow and family of the first victim of the 2001 anthrax attacks $2.5 million to settle their lawsuit.

Robert Stevens, a tabloid photo editor, died on October 5, 2001, when he opened a letter containing deadly anthrax spores at the office of American Media, Inc., the publishers of the Globe, the National Enquirer and the Sun. Four others died in the attacks and 17 beaome ill, according to CBS News.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation concluded that the attacks were carried out by a lone scientist, Bruce Ivins, at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

Maureen Stevens, Robert Stevens’ widow, sued the U.S. government in 2003, claiming that its negligence in safeguarding the facilities at Fort Detrick led to her husband’s death. The FBI probe concluded that the anthrax used in the attacks originated at USAMRIID’s labs.

The case languished for years until the FBI announced in 2008 that Ivins was responsible for the attacks. Although some of Ivins’ colleagues and outside experts have raised doubts about his ability to weaponize the spores, the FBI formally closed its investigation in 2010.

Ivins killed himself with an overdose of Tylenol and valium as investigators closed in on him as a suspect.

The government attorneys who handled the Stevens settlement said that the United States was not admitting fault, but that the intent of the settlement was to avoid the expenses and risks of further litigation, CBS News reports.