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updated: 3/3/2011 5:11 PM

Court upholds FBI searches in McHenry Co. puffer fish toxin case

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  • Edward Bachner

      Edward Bachner

 
 

A federal judge Friday refused to throw out key evidence against a Lake in the Hills man accused of illegally obtaining the deadly poison of the puffer fish as part of a conspiracy to kill his wife and claim millions in insurance proceeds.

In a ruling that deals a blow to the defense of Edward Bachner, U.S. District Court Judge Frederick J. Kapala rejected claims the FBI unlawfully searched the accused's home, mailbox and car, then violated his rights by interrogating him without a lawyer.

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Kampala, in his 12-page decision, said agents had authority to seize items from Bachner's home, even those not specifically mentioned in a search warrant, and had probable cause to search his car with no warrant at all after finding evidence of the poison, known as tetrodotoxin or TTX, inside the residence.

"In this case, the court has little difficulty concluding that law enforcement agents had probable cause to search defendant's vehicle because it was indeed fairly probable that it contained TTX or evidence of defendant's recent possession of TTX," the court ruled.

The decision is a legal setback to Bachner, 37, who faces a 16-count federal indictment that includes allegations he posed as a research doctor in order to obtain the toxin. Federal authorities claim Bachner acquired TTX intending to kill his wife and collect more than $20 million in life insurance payouts.

Bachner, who has been held without bond since the accusations surfaced more than two years ago, has pleaded not guilty to the charges that are punishable by a maximum life sentence in prison.

The FBI arrested Bachner June 30, 2008, after he arrived at a UPS Store to pick up vials of TTX he had ordered from a company in New Jersey. Authorities said a search of his home on the 5700 block of McKenzie Drive later uncovered 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, a federal prosecutor said. Bachner also faces charges he tried over the Internet to hire someone to kill his wife in 2005. Authorities questioned Bachner about that incident in 2006, but did not press charges at the time.

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