Chemist Richard O’Rourke, 60, had a plan to kill the rodents on his Warrington, Pennsylvania, property (about 40 miles north of Philadelphia), but he almost polluted the water supply in the process, according to prosecutors.
Upper Gwynedd Township Police had received a tip from another chemist at Merck & Co, a pharmaceutical company, that potassium cyanide had been stolen from a laboratory, according to Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele.
The witness saw O’Rourke, who’s not required to handle the toxic chemical for his job, take the cyanide from the poison cabinet, pour it into a beaker and then into a water bottle last December, prosecutors said.
An investigation revealed that O’Rourke was going to use the cyanide to poison the rodents near his home, Steele said.
But when O’Rourke somehow found out he was being investigated, he apparently nixed the plan, authorities said, and dumped the chemical into a public stormwater drain a day after allegedly stealing the chemical.
Potassium cyanide interferes with the body’s ability to use oxygen, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exposure to the chemical can be fatal.