- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 8, 2003

BALTIMORE (AP) Potassium cyanide, the substance police say an Ellicott City, Md., teenager used to poison a friend, is widely available for purchase by anyone in small amounts, said the company that sold it to the teen.
A spokesman for Louisville-based chemical supplier Antec Inc., said potassium cyanide is commonly used to plate metal and is sold to hobbyists and students.
"We sold it to him it's legal to sell," said the spokesman who declined to give his name but described himself as a partner and a chemist at the company. "It's everywhere. It's in every high school and college laboratory in the country."
Ryan Thomas Furlough, 18, of Ellicott City was charged Sunday with attempted murder, assault and poisoning. Police said he spiked his friend's vanilla Coke with potassium cyanide he bought with his mother's credit card over the Internet. The charges could carry a life sentence.
Benjamin Vassiliev, 17, was in critical condition Monday at Johns Hopkins Children's Center. His family requested that the hospital release no additional information about his condition or his prospects for recovery, hospital spokeswoman Staci Vernick said.
Michael Veltri, clinical pharmacist for Johns Hopkins Children's Center, said the chemical is "a very lethal toxin, without a doubt," adding that survival will depend on how much was ingested.
A lethal dose of cyanide would be 200 milligrams to 300 milligrams, he said. It's not clear how much Benjamin ingested.
Mr. Furlough purchased about 5 grams of potassium cyanide, along with a small amount of copper nitrate in late November, the company spokesman said. Mr. Furlough told the company he planned to do metal plating, a common use for potassium cyanide and copper nitrate.
Potassium cyanide has the consistency of sugar and smells faintly of bitter almonds; it's also soluble in water and alcohol, the company said.
On Friday evening, when the two teens were playing video games in the basement of Mr. Furlough's family home, police said Mr. Furlough laced his friend's drink with the cyanide in an attempt to kill him.
Mr. Furlough told police he intended to kill his friend with the cyanide, and that he had been thinking about it since October, according to charging documents.
After going into respiratory arrest, Benjamin was taken to Howard County General Hospital, then transported to Johns Hopkins, where a pediatric intensive-care physician reported his cyanide level was two to three times higher than normal, the charging documents said.
Howard County Police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said police do not yet have a motive. But in charging documents, police reported finding a letter at Benjamin's residence indicating Mr. Furlough's love for Benjamin's girlfriend.
"There isn't a day that passes by where I don't think about her " Mr. Furlough wrote to Benjamin in a letter dated June 19, 2002, according to the charging documents. "I want to tell you this as I did with her, I will never give up until I have the key to her heart."

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