UT student from Pearland who found powdery substance in roll of coins test negative for ricin

Houston Chronicle:

A University of Texas at Austin student from Pearland was taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital Friday night and "tested negative for any toxin" after she discovered a white powder that tested positive for the deadly toxin ricin.


Kelly Heinbaugh, a freshman walk-on to the UT track team from Pearland, was taken for the additional tests as "an extra precaution," said FBI agent Shauna Dunlap, a spokeswoman for the Houston office of the federal agency.

Heinbaugh returned to Pearland to visit her parents Friday night, after she found "a chunky white powder" while doing laundry Thursday afternoon. The powder was in the last roll of quarters that her mother had given her to do laundry.


Mike Elliott, senior district commander for Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services, special operations, said late Saturday that he does not think the white powder was ricin.

"In my opinion, I believe it is not," Elliott said. "As of early this morning, there were four tests run. The first three were exactly the same tests. The first of the three came back mildly positive for ricin. Then, seeing that positive hit, they ran a second one, to confirm their findings. It came back inconclusive. So they ran a third one, to determine which was correct, and it came back inconclusive as well."

"The fourth test, which was a completely different test, came back negative," he said.

Elliott speculated that the powder could be "a granular material that is used to clean and dry coins prior to rolling. It is certainly possible that is what this material is."

Final tests results are likely to be made public either late today or early Monday, he said.



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