MENTAL TEST ORDERED FOR POISON SUSPECT

Retired pharmacist, a former AMC patient, arrested after tip

CATHLEEN F. CROWLEY AND PAUL GRONDAHL
Section: Main,  Page: A1

Date: Saturday, March 31, 2012

ALBANY -- A retired pharmacist who is a former Albany Medical Center patient is in jail for a court-ordered mental exam after being charged with dropping mercury in cafeteria food at the hospital.


Martin Kimber, 59, of Ruby, Ulster County, was arrested Thursday and is being held without bail at Albany County jail. He has been ordered to undergo a mental health exam, according to court papers at Albany City Court.


The arrest was made in the March 2 incident after Albany Med released a photo this week of a gray-haired suspect with a moustache leaving the cafeteria.


An Ulster County resident recognized Kimber and called the Ulster County District Attorney's Office, Albany Police spokesman Steve Smith said.


Police went to Kimber's Lena Lane home near Kingston with a search warrant and found liquid mercury, according to court papers. Investigators also discovered Kimber has been a patient at Albany Med, Smith said.


Kimber was charged with first-degree tampering with a consumer product and arraigned Friday in Albany. He was sent to the Albany County jail.


Kimber has an active pharmacist license, according to the state Education Department's website. Public records show he was a staff pharmacist at Vassar Brothers Hospital in Poughkeepsie at some point.


In 1996, an Arizona court found him guilty of a false report of a fire, bomb or emergency, a misdemeanor, according to Arizona court records.


The month-long Albany Med investigation began on March 2 when a female hospital employee found a ball of mercury on her food tray around 5:30 p.m. in the hospital's Choices Cafe. The cafeteria was closed and an investigation found traces of liquid mercury in the salad bar, chicken wing bar and ice cream cooler, court documents said.


Experts said the mercury exposure did not pose a health risk and no follow-up treatment was required for anyone who may have come in contact with the poisonous heavy metallic element.


Albany Med released a statement Friday that said, "While, of course, all people are innocent until proven guilty, the arrest today in connection with the placement of mercury in our cafeteria is a relief. It is unconscionable that someone may have attempted to harm people at the very place that our community relies upon when in need of healing."


The statement went on to say Albany Med is working with law-enforcement agencies to determine if anyone is eligible to receive the $25,000 reward offered earlier this week for information leading directly to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the crime.


The hospital would not comment on Kimber being a former patient at the facility.


The case was investigated by Albany police, the FBI, Town of Ulster police, State Police, Albany Med and the state Department of Health.


Times Union Research Director Sarah Hinman-Ryan contributed. ccrowley@timesunion.com - 518-454-5348 - @cathleencrowley - http:/facebook.com/cathleenFcrowley