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Container Found at Scene of Suspected Arsenic Poisoning

May 01, 2003|From Associated Press

NEW SWEDEN, Maine — A container that had held arsenic was found Wednesday in a church where the toxic metal is suspected of sickening a dozen people and of contributing to the death of a 78-year-old man.

State police investigators said they planned to interview every member of the Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church in this town of 650 in the northern part of the state.

Five of those who became sick after Sunday's services were still too ill to talk with detectives; at least three were in critical condition.

State Police Lt. Dennis Appleton would not describe the container. "We have not identified how the arsenic arrived in the building," he said. Appleton said that police were treating the death of Walter Morrill as suspicious, "but only because we don't have the answers. We have no evidence it's criminal."

A funeral was held Wednesday for Morrill. An autopsy on his body was inconclusive and toxicology tests were planned.

The victims all shared coffee, sweets and sandwiches Sunday that were left over from a church bake sale the day before. Several church members said people who drank the coffee complained that it tasted funny.

Seven of the parishioners who fell ill were released from hospitals but returned to be treated for arsenic poisoning.

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