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Former LITH resident gets prison in toxin plot

ROCKFORD – A former Lake in the Hills man was sentenced Monday to about seven and a half years in prison after federal authorities said he plotted to kill his wife with puffer fish toxin to collect on a $20 million life insurance policy.

Edward F. Bachner IV, 39, pleaded guilty in August 2011 to charges of possession of a lethal toxin for use as a weapon, wire fraud and filing false tax claims.

His wife, Rebecca Bachner, was in court and supportive of her husband, with U.S. District Judge Frederick Kapala at one point noting, “I think she’d be happy if he went home today.”

When he addressed the court, Edward Bachner cited a Bible verse before saying he wholeheartedly took responsibility for his actions. His personal demons, which he called his “dragon,” prevented him from seeing outside himself, he said.

It was when the handcuffs were placed on him that the “chains that had bound his soul” began to come off, Bachner said.

“Becca, my parents, my family and friends, my country, they all deserve the best from me and I failed,” he said, promising to to be the husband that his wife – and “God willing” any children they may have – deserves.

He and his wife are excited to reconnect, Bachner said.

“Whatever you choose today, your honor, please don’t keep me from my wife for too long,” he said.

Bachner has been in custody since he was arrested June 30, 2008, after picking up a package from an Algonquin UPS store that prosecutors say he believed contained tetrodotoxin. He had previously acquired at least 64 milligrams of the toxin, prosecutors said.

Also known as TTX, the toxin is found naturally in puffer fish and can be deadly when ingested even in small amounts.

Bachner’s attorney, Jeff Steinback, said his client never once actually attempted to have his wife, or anyone else, ingest the toxin.

Steinback said Bachner had mental and emotional health problems “akin to bipolar disorder,” although Bachner had never received a diagnosis of that illness.

Bachner retreated into an fantasy world in contrast with reality, Steinback said.

For example, his parents had forbidden him from joining the military, so he imagined himself as a crime fighter. He also told FBI agents that he was using the toxin to find “a cure,” but he had no medical background to do so.

It is an extremely bizarre case, Steinback said, but it explains why FBI agents found items at Bachner’s house such as books on poison and fake CIA credentials.

In addition, it would have been practically impossible for Bachner to cash in on the insurance policy because any sort of investigation would have revealed that he had made “misrepresentations” in order to get the policy, Steinback said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Karner said that Bachner had not been entirely cooperative in that he did not tell investigators what he did with toxin that is still missing.

Bachner also had been interviewed by the FBI in 2005 after soliciting his wife’s murder over the Internet, Karner said.

Rebecca Bachner doesn’t have a realistic concept of who she is married to, Karner said.

“There is so much of Ed Bachner that his wife doesn’t know that it’s mind-boggling,” he said.

Additional charges, including solicitation of murder and use of an interstate commerce with intent to commit murder for hire, were dropped in exchange for the plea.

In addition to the prison sentence, Bachner also was ordered to pay more than $500,000 to the IRS in restitution.

After handing down the sentence, Kapala wished Bachner the best.

“Ed, I have a great feeling that your life is going to get better from here,” he said.

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