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posted: 2/6/2010 12:01 AM

Fish toxin suspect asks court to dismiss charges, bar key evidence

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  • Edward Bachner

    Edward Bachner


The defense for a Lake in the Hills man accused of illegally obtaining a deadly fish toxin in a scheme to kill his wife filed a flurry of motions this week asking a federal judge to either dismiss most of the charges or bar key evidence from a potential trial.

Among them is one claiming suspect Edward F. Bachner handled and stored the poison Tetrodotoxin so improperly that it would have been useless as a weapon, even if he intended to harm someone.

Bachner, 36, faces a 16-count indictment that alleges he obtained substantial amounts of Tetrodotoxin - a poison obtained from the puffer fish - as part of a plot to kill his wife and collect more than $20 million in life insurance.

Bachner, 36, has formally denied the indictment, which also includes accusations of tax fraud, wire fraud and solicitation of murder. He could face life in prison if convicted on all charges.

The Lake in the Hills man appeared in U.S. District Court in Rockford on Friday, but the case was set over to April 16 to give attorneys more time to prepare and respond to the pretrial motions.

In a motion to dismiss 13 of the indictment's 16 counts, defense lawyer James Marcus argues that the poison, also known as TTX, is difficult to weaponize and Bachner was storing it in a manner that would have made it nonlethal.

A second motion to dismiss asks the court to toss out allegations Bachner fraudulently obtained millions of dollars of life insurance for his wife. The motion argues that because no life insurance was ever paid out, there was no fraud.

The defense is also asking a judge to bar several items of evidence obtained before and during an FBI raid of Bachner's home after his arrest June 30, 2008. The motions argue that agents searched Bachner's mail without a warrant and exceeded the bounds of the warrant for his home in the 5700 block of McKenzie Drive by confiscating more than just TTX found inside.

The FBI arrested Bachner when he picked up a shipment of the toxin he had obtained by posing as a doctor performing medical research, authorities said. A subsequent search of his home, authorities said, discovered 45 full or partially full vials of the poison along with evidence he had obtained at least 19 more vials that were missing.

Agents also found a handgun, more than 50 knives, five garrotes, a phony CIA badge, a precursor to the poison Ricin and books on how to poison people, make gun silencers and hand-to-hand combat, an assistant U.S. Attorney said.

Bachner has been held in federal custody without bond ever since. Family members, including his wife, have steadfastly stood behind him since the arrest.

If the defense motions succeed, only charges alleging Bachner tried to hire someone to kill his wife in 2005 will be left standing.