Crews are cleaning the former suburban Philadelphia apartment of a teenager charged with sending a romantic rival a greeting card laced with the deadly poison ricin.
Nicholas Helman, 19, was charged in March with delivering a ricin-laced greeting card to the home of his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend. Two days later, investigators found a container of leftover ricin they allege Helman stashed near his Hatboro apartment.
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Eagle Industrial Hygiene Associates Inc. of Horsham and Certified Decontamination of West Jordan, Utah, began work Tuesday to decontaminate the apartment.
Back on March 7, Helman allegedly told his co-worker at a Target store in Warrington that he had sent a scratch-and-sniff birthday card laced with ricin to his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend.
Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans and can cause injury and even death if chewed, inhaled or swallowed. Helman allegedly told his co-worker that he rubbed ground castor beans onto the inside of the card before sending it to his intended victim's mailbox on Olive Street in Warminster.
Officials say Helman claimed the substance would kill anyone who came into contact with it within four days.
Helman's co-worker called police and Helman was taken into custody.
Two days later, investigators found a container of leftover ricin they allege Helman stashed beneath a gas-main access cap in a front yard near his home.
Helman allegedly told police he coated the card with sodium hydroxide in an attempt to scare his ex-girlfriend so that they could reconcile their relationship. Helman also allegedly sent threatening messages to his ex and her new boyfriend in November of last year, according to investigators.
During a court appearance earlier this year he told reporters that his ex was a "control freak" and that he wished the man who received the letter "would cheer up."
Helman is facing charges including attempted murder and risking a catastrophe. He's being held without bail.
The decontamination workers are testing materials found inside the apartment. The results are expected on Wednesday.