7.5-year sentence in puffer fish toxin murder scheme
A federal judge on Monday sentenced a 39-year-old Lake in the Hills man to 92 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to wire fraud and stockpiling a toxin derived from the puffer fish, which authorities contend was part of a plot to kill his wife.
Edward Bachner IV had been held in the Ogle County jail without bond since June 2008 after FBI anti-terrorism agents raided his home on the 5700 block of McKenzie Drive in the village's Meadowbrook subdivision.
With credit for good time and time served, he has about 32 more months left to serve on his sentence of just more than 7½ years. He also was ordered to pay $512,396 in restitution to the IRS after pleading guilty to filing a false tax return.
During a lengthy sentencing hearing at the federal courthouse in Rockford, prosecutors argued that Bachner lived a double life, hiding financial problems from his wife, Rebecca, while plotting against her.
Defense attorneys argued that Bachner's behavior was a byproduct of pressures in his young and adult life, leading him to intensify his role playing and escapism in which he believed he was a successful businessman, research doctor and special military agent.
"Ed, I have a great feeling that your life is going to get better from here. But you still have this hurdle to clear," said U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Kapala, who added that acquiring the toxin was not equivalent to attempted murder. "I've rarely seen such support in your case for a criminal defendant."
Bachner could have received anywhere from 10 to 12½ years under federal sentencing guidelines, but defense attorney Jeff Steinback argued there were numerous mitigating factors that allowed Kapala to issue a less severe term.
Steinback noted that Bachner's wife, Rebecca, stood by him and other friends and family members, who attended numerous court hearings, also supported him. Rebecca Bachner and Bachner's father declined to comment afterward.
Steinback stressed that no one was injured, and Bachner did not attempt to administer the toxin, known as tetrodotoxin, to Rebecca.
The toxin is derived from the puffer fish and can cause respiratory paralysis in six to 24 hours. It has no known cure or antidote.
He noted that the bogus $20 million life insurance policy Bachner took out against Rebecca expired before his arrest, so it was impossible for him to collect any money even if he'd followed through on the government's alleged murder plot.
Steinback said the scheme was "ambitious and ridiculous" and "one that could have not possibly succeeded under any circumstances."
Steinback said Bachner was a model prisoner in the jail, helping other inmates with their GED studies and creating an archiving system for books inmates could read. Bachner sought medical treatment for mood swings nearing bipolar depression, and jail forced him to confront his problems.
"In that way, this incarceration has been wonderful because (his parents) got their son back, in the most ironic of ways," Steinback argued
Bachner also apologized, reading an eloquent and emotional statement to Kapala about how he was deeply remorseful, has fought his "dragon," is appreciative of every day and looks forward to being reunited with his wife.
"There is no one, no one who I'd rather have watching my back and walking beside me," Bachner said. "I've learned to live a life that casts that dragon aside."
A June 2008 search of Bachner's home turned up 45 full or partially full vials of the poison, along with evidence he had obtained at least 19 more vials that were missing.
The search also turned up more than 50 knives, five garrotes, a phony CIA badge and books on how to poison people, make gun silencers and hand-to-hand combat.
Bachner was arrested after he went to a UPS store in Algonquin to pick up vials of tetrodotoxin, which authorities say he ordered from the East Coast under the guise of a research doctor.
"This man said he was going to figure out a cure — for what? The time and effort put into that shows what his true intent was," argued Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Karner. "There is so much of Ed Bachner that his wife doesn't know, it's mind-boggling."
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