Man accused of putting mouse poison on food arraigned

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — A 29-year-old Ann Arbor man suspected of spraying food with a rodent poison mixture at Ann Arbor-area grocery stores was arraigned Thursday in district court.

Kyle Andrew Bessemer

On Thursday, authorities brought charges against 29-year-old Kyle Andrew Bessemer of Ann Arbor in 15th District Court. He faces four felony counts of poisoning food or water, carrying potential penalties of as much as $15,000 each and as much as 20 years in prison.

Bessemer’s charges stem from visits he allegedly made on April 24 to local groceries, including Whole Foods at 990 Eisenhower Parkway and Meijer at 3145 Ann Arbor Road.

Police also are investigating the possibility Bessemer may have committed similar crimes at several other locations.

Clad in an orange jail uniform and white T-shirt, Bessemer appeared without an attorney Thursday. A not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf by Judge Elizabeth Hines.

He provided Hines with short answers to questions about his financial situation. Bessemer indicated he is unemployed and that family members pay his rent and provide him as much as $3,000 a month in spending money.

Kyle Andrew Bessemer

Hines set a cash bond of $250,000 — an amount Bessemer indicated he would not likely be able to meet. He is scheduled to appear for a probably cause hearing at 8:30 a.m. on May 12.

“These are very serious charges,” said Assistant Washtenaw County Prosecutor John Reiser, in arguing for a cash bond.

Reiser noted the poison Bessemer allegedly purchased and sprayed on food “causes rats and rodents to internally bleed to death.”

Ann Arbor Detective Kevin Warner said Bessemer told investigators he suffered from mental illness. In addition, he told Warner he believed someone was trying to poison him.

Police and federal agents said Tuesday they arrested Bessemer after a tip from the public led to the suspect.

On April 24, an employee at Whole Foods noticed Bessemer standing in front of the hot food bar with a small bottle in his hand. According to Warner, the worker allegedly saw Bessemer “splash (a substance) from the bottle over the food station multiple times.”

After being confronted by the store’s manager, Bessemer left.

Investigators with the FBI released stills from the store’s video cameras to the media earlier on Sunday. Those images quickly produced leads that led them to Bessemer’s apartment in Ann Arbor.

David Gelios, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit Division, said Bessemer admitted to contaminating food with a potentially hazardous liquid at the Whole Foods Market on West Eisenhower Parkway, the Meijer store on Ann Arbor-Saline as well as Plum Market on North Maple.

“The suspect has admitted to using a potentially hazardous material to contaminate food in several Ann Arbor-area grocery stores,” Gelios said. “Our joint investigation leads us to believe that this individual sprayed a liquid mixture of hand sanitizer, water and Tomcat mice poison on produce.”

He also said Bessemer told investigators he sprayed the chemicals on produce in those stores within the last two weeks. A release by the state said based on the FBI investigation, as many as 14 other stores in the area may also have been targeted.

State officials said Tuesday the stores have been contacted and additional samples have been collected by law enforcement for further testing.

Police and federal agents said they’ve arrested a man suspected of spraying food with a mouse poison mixture at Ann Arbor-area grocery stores, officials said.

The chemicals found in this mixture are a form of anti-coagulant, similar to what is found in medicines that have an anti-clotting function. Officials with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said they do not anticipate any adverse health effects on individuals who may have ingested potentially contaminated products.

In the meantime, the department’s food inspectors are in stores conducting follow-up assessments to determine the concentration of the liquid, officials said.

Jamie Clover Adams, the department’s director, warns consumers who think they may have purchased contaminated food at these stores to throw it away.

“Out of an abundance of caution and to protect public health and food safety, I encourage consumers to dispose of any foods purchased from salad bars, olive bars and ready-to-eat hot and cold food areas from these stores between mid-March and the end of April,” he said in a statement. “Although most of these types of foods may have already been eaten or disposed of, some may still be in refrigerators or freezers.”

The Agriculture Department has urged people to contact their health care provider or call Michigan Poison Control at (800) 222-1222 if they have concerns or questions.

Potential targets

Based on FBI investigation, there is the potential that other stores in Michigan may also have been targeted. These stores include:

■Busch's, 40 S. Main St., Ann Arbor

■Cupcake Station, 116 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor

■Family Fare, 2026 North Saginaw, Midland

■Kroger, 3838 Richfield Road, Flint

■Meijer, 7300 Eastman Ave., Midland

■Meijer, 3145 Ann Arbor-Saline, Ann Arbor

■Meijer, 9515 Birch Run Rd, Birch Run

■Millers Mini Mart, 3001 Bay City Road, Midland

■Plum Market, 375 North Maple, Ann Arbor

■Target, 2000 Waters Road, Ann Arbor

■Tsai Grocery, 3115 Oak Valley Dr., Ann Arbor

■Walmart, 910 Joe Mann Blvd., Midland

■Walmart, 7000 E Michigan Ave., Saline

■Whole Foods, 990 W Eisenhower Pkwy., Ann Arbor

■Whole Foods, 3135 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor

Source: Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development