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Mayo Clinic researcher under investigation

By Janice Gregorson

gregor@postbulletin.com

A police call about a domestic dispute has expanded into an FBI investigation of a Mayo Clinic researcher.

Sreekumar Raghavakaimal, 46, 311 19th St. S.W., is under investigation for his purchase of potassium cyanide, a toxic chemical.

Under federal law, it is illegal for a person to knowingly possess a chemical weapon. Potassium cyanide is generally considered a chemical weapon, according to an FBI affidavit.

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Agent William Dorsey applied for a search warrant for Raghavakaimal’s residence and garage, saying there is probable cause he contemplated using the cyanide to harm himself or others. The search was done Feb. 15.

Raghavakaimal is a research scientist in endocrinology and directs the Microarray Core Facility.

Clinic spokesman Adam Brase said he can’t comment on Raghavakaimal’s employment status, citing employee confidentiality. He did say that Mayo is cooperating with the investigation.

The FBI investigation stems from an incident reported to Rochester police on Feb. 4, when a 40-year-old woman came to the law enforcement center reporting a domestic assault. She said Raghavakaimal was her estranged husband and that she had gone to his residence to pick up their 11-year-old son.

She said they had an argument about a ring. She claimed he took a butcher knife and threatened her and their son.

Raghavakaimal has been charged in Olmsted District Court with making terroristic threats, a felony; false imprisonment, a felony; gross misdemeanor interfering with a 911 call; and misdemeanor domestic assault. Unconditional bail was set at $20,000 and conditional bail at $2,000. His next court hearing will be Thursday. Rochester attorney Bruce Piotrowski of the Restovich Law Firm asked for a continuance, saying Raghavakaimal was hospitalized at Saint Marys Hospital. The Restovich firm represented Raghavakaimal in his pending marriage dissolution, but its representation in the current case has not been formalized.

According to the criminal complaint, the woman said that after things calmed down, Raghavakaimal apologized and wanted to get back together. She said she refused, and he then said he would commit suicide. She turned over to police a pill bottle she said was Raghavakaimal’s.

Police contacted Raghavakaimal later that day at his home. He told police he bought a bottle of potassium cyanide in 2005 over the Internet. The bottle was turned over to police, and Raghavakaimal was taken into custody.

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Police Capt. Brian Winters said FBI agents were made aware of the incident because of the chemical.

The affidavit says Raghavakaimal is director of the Human Genomics and Proteomics Core at Mayo Clinic. He is a Ph.D. chemist with research fellowship training in physiology. He is listed as an associate professor of medicine on the Mayo Clinic Web site.

Dorsey said a research technologist in the Advanced Genomic Technology Center Microarray Resource Core at Mayo said that in December 2005, Raghavakaimal asked her to order six chemicals, including potassium cyanide. The FBI affidavit said the chemical was not used in the labs Raghavakaimal supervised.

Two boxes of chemicals were recently found in Raghavakaimal’s laboratory office. One box had been opened, and potassium cyanide was missing. The second box remained sealed.

Dorsey said there was probable cause to believe that Raghavakaimal obtained the potassium cyanide in order to harm his spouse or others. Dorsey said very small amounts of potassium cyanide are needed for a lethal human dosage.

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