BC-Anthrax Probe, 2nd Ld-Writethru,0643

FBI agents search car belonging to bioterrorism expert whose homes were raided in anthrax probe

Eds: UPDATES with FBI comment, car still at airport. Picks up 5th graf, “On Thursday…’


Associated Press Writer

PITTSBURGH (AP) – FBI agents searched a car on Saturday belonging to the bioterrorism expert whose homes were raided earlier this week by federal agents investigating the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Agents examined the car Saturday at the Connellsville Airport, about 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, said Frank Cero, a lineman at the airport.

Cero said Dr. Kenneth M. Berry left the car at the airport when he was not visiting family members who live in the area. He said he was not sure what the agents were looking for or what they took from the airport, but the car was still there Saturday afternoon.

Special Agent Jeff Killeen at the FBI office in Pittsburgh said agents searched a vehicle at the airport in connection with the anthrax mailings, but he did not say who owned the vehicle. The search did not pose a threat to health or public safety, Killeen said.

On Thursday, agents descended on Berry’s home in Wellsville, N.Y., and his former apartment, as well as his parents’ summer home on the New Jersey shore. An FBI spokesman said the searches were part of the FBI’s investigation of the unsolved 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people.

Berry told police that he had nothing to do with anthrax, Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., Police Chief Daniel DePolo said in a news conference Friday.

The FBI said the public was not in immediate danger, but would not say what agents were seeking.

The searches came nearly three years after five people were killed and 17 fell ill when anthrax-laced envelopes were mailed to government offices and news media, triggering even more fear in a country already shaken by Sept. 11. The investigation has baffled the government and turned up few leads.

A University of Pittsburgh Medical Center-McKeesport spokeswoman said Berry worked at a Pittsburgh-area hospital, but would not elaborate.

While agents were combing through his home, Berry was arrested in Point Pleasant Beach on domestic charges unrelated to the anthrax investigation. Authorities said he had been fighting with four family members at a motel, and the family members required medical treatment. He was released on $10,000 bail.

Chatham Township, N.J., Police Chief Elizabeth Goeckel was on vacation when she said she spotted a man pushing and hitting a young woman at the motel.

“She was screaming, ‘Help.’ When I saw that, that was going to stop. I had no emotion. I thought, ‘How can he do that to her?”‘ Goeckel told The Star-Ledger of Newark in Saturday’s newspapers.

Goeckel said she pinned Berry to the floor with the help of a hotel worker until police arrived.

Attempts to reach Berry, 46, by telephone and e-mail have been unsuccessful.

In 1997, Berry founded an organization that trains medical professionals to respond to chemical and biological attacks and sought a patent for a system to identify chemical and biological strikes.

He filed a provisional patent for a system in October 2000 and filed the actual patent application Sept. 28, 2001, 10 days after the first anthrax letters were postmarked. He touted the system as an effective way to respond to bioterrorism attacks.

Berry’s father, William Berry, had said his son knew Steven Hatfill, a former government scientist and bioweapons expert the FBI has described as a “person of interest” in the case. But in a Star-Ledger story Saturday, William Berry said he had made a mistake and his son never met Hatfill, who has steadfastly denied any role in the attacks.

AP-ES-08-07-04 1843EDT

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