Suspicious package found near apartment of Hatboro ricin suspect

Officials say a suspicious package believed to contain ricin was found near an apartment complex in Hatboro, Montgomery County.
March 20, 2014 8:42:08 PM PDT
Officials say a suspicious package believed to contain ricin was found near an apartment complex in Hatboro, Montgomery County.

The suspect, 19-year-old Nicholas Todd Helman is already behind bars for mailing the deadly poison to his ex-girlfriend's current boyfriend.

Hazmat teams descended on the corner of Byberry Road and New Street late Thursday afternoon after Helman informed police he dumped a package there.

Crews carefully removed what's believed to be a vial of ricin hidden in the murky water inside an in-ground gas shut-off valve unit.

"The package has been safely recovered and secured by Montgomery County hazmat officials and it's being turned over to Bucks County authorities so they can further their investigation," said Chief James Gardner, Hatboro Police.

Neighbors on the block had been told to stay in their homes as a precaution.

"I was a nervous wreck. I closed the blinds and I went back in the room where I couldn't see anything. It was shaky because I was here by myself," said Fay Margerum.

Action News has learned that Helman may have honed his skills of hiding items from the popular website

On a profile page he posted on the internet when he was 17 years old, Helman said that he spent part of his weekends walking around town finding geocaches. They are items that are hidden in areas around the world and can be found through GPS coordinates posted on the internet.

Jim Howieson says he met Helman just last summer at an Eagle Scout picnic at his sister's house.

"It is very mind blowing. It was only back in the summer time when we had the picnic. So was the girl he was dating, and his mother," said Howieson.

Police say back on March 7, Helman, who worked at a Target store in Warrington, had confided to a co-worker that he had placed a scratch-and-sniff birthday card in the mailbox of his ex-girlfriend's current boyfriend.

Helman allegedly told his co-worker that he rubbed ground castor beans inside the card. Police say he claimed that the substance would kill anyone who came in contact with it. That co-worker called police.

Investigators believe Helman manufactured his home-made ricin in his apartment he shared with his mother. There is now a danger sign on the door, warning people that the place is dangerous and needs to be de-contaminated.

Paul McGrath had befriended the shy, quiet Helman who he says was devastated over the loss of his girlfriend to another man.

"He went off the deep-end because he really loved her and she dumped him and went with another guy," said McGrath.

Authorities say Helman told them that his intent was to scare his ex-girlfriend in hopes of reconciling their relationship.

Helman is charged with attempted murder and related offenses. He is being held without bail pending a psychiatric evaluation.

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