Skip to main content
Press Release

Woman Pleads Guilty to Possessing Ricin

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

NORFOLK, Va. – A South Carolina woman pleaded guilty today to the unregistered possession of ricin, a highly dangerous toxin. 

According to court documents, Virginia Beach police officers executing a search warrant in March 2016 found a number of chemicals, packages of castor beans, and multiple firearms, one with an obliterated serial number, in a storage unit rented by Debbie Siers-Hill, 63, of Summerville, who was then living in Virginia Beach. Tests of the chemicals showed that a syringe and a double-wrapped container found in the storage unit held ricin, a toxin derived from castor beans with no known antidote.

Siers-Hill pleaded guilty to possessing ricin, a listed “select agent” subject to Department of Health and Human Services registration requirements with which she did not comply. She faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison when sentenced on Jan. 14, 2019. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Martin Culbreth, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office, and James A. Cervera, Chief of Virginia Beach Police, made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alan M. Salsbury and Andrew C. Bosse are prosecuting the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:18-cr-62.


Joshua Stueve
Director of Communications

Updated September 20, 2018