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Ricin scare: Utah-Arizona stretch of I-15 reopened after suspect's suicide

Published January 11, 2012 10:47 am

Crime • But substance found in car was determined harmless.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A section of Interstate 15 along the Utah-Arizona border was reopened early Wednesday, the day after the Arizona Department of Public Safety ordered both northbound and southbound lanes closed in the wake of a bank robbery, the suspect's suicide and a ricin scare.

According to the Utah Highway Patrol, the closure of the interstate in the Virgin River Gorge — from Exit 2 on southbound I-15 in Utah to Exit 8 on I-15 in northwestern Arizona — lasted until 4:30 a.m. Wednesday while hazmat-suited emergency crews carefully examined the vehicle for the deadly toxin and explosives suspected to be in the suspect's car.

Carrick Cook, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, said Wednesday that Troy Eugene Williams, 43, of Florida, had been pulled over about 1 p.m. Tuesday in connection with a bomb threat during the robbery of a bank and subsequent carjacking in Mesquite, Nev. When police stopped the car in Arizona and approached the vehicle, the driver shot himself in the head.

What brought about the freeway closure was discovery of at least two suspicious boxes in the back of the suspect vehicle. After the car and the packages were thoroughly examined by hazmat teams brought in from Phoenix, the vehicle was towed away and the interstate reopened.

Cook confirmed Wednesday that public safety officials acted with such deliberate care because Williams' family had warned police that the suspect had boasted of having a quantity of ricin and hand grenades. Cook said the substance found in the car was determined harmless, though he did not further identify it. No explosives were found, either, he said.

The incident was being further investigated by the Mohave County (Ariz.) Sheriff's Office.

remims@sltrib.com