The former Wellsville physician whose homes were searched in connection with the anthrax killings has visited Wellsville recently, and is living on unemployment in New Jersey, according to a friend.
"Who's going to hire him?" asked the friend, the Rev. Richard "Pastor Dick" Helms of Wellsville.
Dr. Kenneth M. Berry lost his job as an emergency room doctor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in McKeesport, Pa., last year after his name surfaced in the anthrax investigation.
His home on East Pearl Street in Wellsville and a home in New Jersey were searched by agents from the FBI and the U.S. Postal Service on Aug. 5. The searches were part of the investigation into a series of anthrax terrorism incidents that killed five people and caused serious illnesses to 17 others in September and October 2001.
Local officials said last summer that federal authorities told them they were searching the Wellsville house for trace evidence of anthrax.
Berry, who was never charged in the anthrax case, is "still plugging away," Helms said. He said he was in Wellsville several weeks ago for Family Court proceedings, Helms said. Berry is estranged from his wife and reportedly is seeking to see his 4-year-old son.
"It's not a good situation," Helms said.
Berry was sentenced to two years' probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine after he attacked his wife and stepdaughter in New Jersey on the day the homes were being searched. Helms said Berry, who was allowed to keep his medical license, has filed an appeal in that case.
Helms, who said he talks with Berry fairly regularly, said the FBI has all but acknowledged that Berry is "pretty much cleared" and is not a suspect in the anthrax case.
"They won't say it publicly," Helms said. "If they tell you, we'll be so happy."
But the FBI is not commenting on Berry.
"The anthrax is an ongoing investigation. The FBI is enjoined from commenting on it," said Joe Parris, supervising special agent.
Helms thinks that the FBI will not clear Berry because of the Richard Jewell case.
"As soon as they do, they're liable," Helms said.
Jewell was named by the FBI as a suspect in the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta in 1996 that killed a woman and wounded 111 people. The FBI later said he was not a suspect, and Eric R. Rudolph pleaded guilty last week to the Atlanta bombing.
Berry is the founder of an organization called PREEMPT, which has crusaded for more vaccinations against anthrax and better medical preparation for terrorist attacks on America.