FREDERICK, Md., Aug. 1 (UPI) -- A U.S. government scientist and suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks has died in Maryland of an apparent suicide, colleagues said.
Bruce Ivins, 62, died as the U.S. Justice Department was preparing to file criminal charges against him in the attacks, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Ivins, who worked at the government's biodefense research laboratories at Fort Detrick, Md., and helped the FBI analyze samples in the attacks, knew of the pending prosecution, people who knew of Ivins' death and the investigation told the Times.
Ivins died Tuesday after ingesting a large amount of prescription Tylenol with codeine, a friend of Ivins said.
The FBI didn't disclose publicly that Ivins was a suspect.
Paul Kemp, a lawyer representing Ivins, said Friday Ivins was innocent, the Times reported. Kemp said Ivins had cooperated with investigators for six years but "relentless pressure of accusation and innuendo … led to his death."
"We are saddened by his death, and disappointed that we will not have the opportunity to defend his good name and reputation in a court of law," Kemp said. "We assert his innocence in these killings, and would have established that at trial."
The Justice Department, the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service said in a statement Friday "there have been significant developments in the investigation into the 2001 anthrax mailings."
"In particular, we are able to confirm that substantial progress has been made in the investigation by bringing to bear new and sophisticated scientific tools," the agencies said.
The statement said U.S. officials have to fulfill "significant obligations" to anthrax attack victims and their families before releasing any further information on the investigation, and investigative documents are still under court seal.
The anthrax mailings killed five people and spread a fear of terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
In June, the government reached a settlement valued at $5.82 million to another former government scientist, Steven Hatfill, the FBI's chief suspect despite a lack of any evidence that he had ever possessed anthrax. Colleagues said soon after the settlement was announced, Ivins began to show signs of strain, the Times reported.