Southeastern PA

Man facing charges after allegedly stealing cyanide to kill lawn rodents

UPPER GWYNEDD TWP., P - A 60-year-old man has been taken into custody on charges related to the theft and disposal of over 219 grams of potassium cyanide stolen from the Merck & Co. lab in Upper Gwynedd Township. 

Officials say Richard O'Rourke of Warrington, Pennsylvania was employed as a senior analytical chemist at Merck & Co. during the time of the theft. 

An investigation revealed a coworker witnessed O'Rourke pouring potassium cyanide (taken from the poison cabinet) into a beaker and then into a water bottle in December 2017. Officials say as part of O'Rourke's work responsibilities, he was not required to handle potassium cyanide. 

Further investigation revealed he was planning to use the cyanide to poison rodents on his property, but when he found out there was an investigation, he dumped it into a stormwater inlet. 

The PADEP then located the dumpsite to monitor water supply for any signs of the chemical and any toxicity. The water departments remained on high-alert for two weeks, but no toxic impact was found. 

O'Rourke is scheduled for a preliminary hearing March 6. He faces charges of causing or risking catastrophe, theft, receiving stolen property and recklessly endangering another person. 

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