The FBI is using an elite team of specially trained dogs and leads from agents deployed to Africa in its investigation of former government scientist Steven Hatfill and his possible role in the five anthrax deaths.
Authorities say they are building what is described as a "growing circumstantial evidence case." Their secret weapon has been a three-member team of bloodhounds from California: Tinkerbell from the South Pasadena Police Department, Knight from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office and Lucy from the Long Beach Police Department.
These bloodhounds — considered by the FBI to be the best in the country at what they do — were each given the scent extracted from anthrax letters posted last year and each, independently, then led handlers to the Maryland apartment of the same man — Steven Hatfill.
One of the bloodhounds, Lucy, then led handlers directly to Hatfill.
The dogs are regularly flown in for high-profile assignments, such as the serial sniper case terrorizing the Washington, D.C., area.
While he is not officially called a suspect, Hatfill is clearly the main focus of the FBI, even as he continues to deny any involvement.
"I have never, ever worked with anthrax in my life," Hatfill told reporters on Aug. 12.
Hatfill's apartment has been repeatedly searched, his blood samples tested and now the FBI is telling government officials, in a general way, it is making a great deal of progress.
"I think they're getting close," said Jerry Hauer, an expert on biological and chemical terrorism and director of public health preparedness at the Department of Health and Human Services. "I think at the end of the day, the FBI will find the person."
Hatfill continues to strongly deny any involvement in the anthrax murder and accuses the FBI of wrongly accusing him.
FBI Investigates Hatfill’s Background in Africa
The FBI reportedly has had success with two teams of agents sent to Africa to investigate whether Hatfill developed expertise with anthrax there in the late 1970s and 1980s, when he attended medical school in Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe. At the time Hatfill attended, the medical school was called the Godfrey Huggins school, but it is now called the University of Zimbabwe School of Medicine.
As ABCNEWS has previously reported, Hatfill lived near a Greendale primary school while he attended medical school in Rhodesia. Greendale School was the phony return address used in the anthrax-laced letters sent to lawmakers and the media last fall.
The FBI has also talked with former commanders of an elite Rhodesian army unit where Hatfill has said he served. It is the same unit accused of using anthrax and other biological weapons against opponents of white-minority rule.
"There was quite a lot of guerrillas, Zanla guerrillas killed with toxins, maybe a couple of thousands or so," said Peter Stiff, a former Rhodesian police officer and author of several books on the Rhodesian war.
But Hatfill denies any involvement in African chemical or biological warfare, calling all allegations against him "complete and utter defamation," through his spokesperson, Pat Clawson.
Capitol Attack Could Have Been Worse
Whoever was responsible, officials tell ABCNEWS, the anthrax attack on the U.S. Capitol one year ago this week could have been much worse.
An FBI evidence photo shows, for the first time, that the anthrax appears as a brownish material on the lower part of an anthrax-laced letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office on Oct. 9, 2001.
Government scientists say the water smear marks on the envelope indicate the letter and the anthrax also got wet, preventing much of the deadly anthrax from flying into the air when it was opened in Daschle's office.
"By having some water in there, it caked some of the anthrax and reduced the amount that could have been aerosolized," said Hauer.
Even the tiny amount that did get out caused the Capitol building to shut down and led authorities to spend billions of dollars to prepare for future anthrax attacks.
Authorities believe that's exactly what the person responsible wanted, and that he or she is unlikely to attack again.
Hatfill himself commissioned a report three years ago on how to deal with an anthrax attack by mail, in which it describes a hypothetical anthrax attack, specifying an amount and quality of anthrax that is remarkably similar to what was sent last October to the offices of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Daschle, D-S.D.
The report, obtained by ABCNEWS, was written in February 1999 by William Patrick III, a leading bioweapons expert, and submitted to a defense contractor, Science Applications International Corp., where Hatfill worked at the time. It says that a terrorist would use 2.5 grams of powder in a standard envelope — about the same amount sent to Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.