Va. Beach woman charged with possessing toxin, firearm after boyfriend’s death faces judge

Posted at 10:22 AM, May 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-01 18:00:00-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The Virginia Beach woman charged with possessing a toxin and a firearm with an obliterated serial number after her boyfriend's 2016 death pleaded not guilty to both charges on Tuesday.

Debbie Siers-Hill and Fred Brooks

The toxin Debbie Siers-Hill is accused of having is ricin.

A federal grand jury indicted Debbie Siers-Hill on April 18.

The indictment indicates the toxin and the firearm were in her possession in March 2016 and Tuesday, prosecutors said the charges stem from the investigation that followed Fred Brooks' death.

In April 2016, Virginia Beach Police and the FBI searched the home of Fred Brooks after finding a suspicious substance inside his home where he was found unconscious in February that same year. Brooks died 24 hours after he was found.

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that around that time, investigators also searched a storage unit Siers-Hill had rented, but failed to disclose, on Dam Neck Road in Virginia Beach. The unit was also in the name of the father of Siers-Hill's daughter, prosecutors say, but he was unaware.

Inside, investigators found a container with the dangerous toxin, ricin, along with syringes containing traces of ricin. They also found other dangerous substances including caffeine powder and multiple firearms including the one with the obliterated serial number.

At Brooks' home and inside Siers-Hill's vehicle, prosecutors say investigators found castor beans and castor bean husks. Ricin is found naturally inside castor beans.

Prosecutors also revealed a search of Siers-Hill's phone found internet searches about caffeine powder poisoning.

Siers-Hill was living with Brooks at the time of the incident. According to a civil lawsuit filed in Virginia Beach Circuit Court, all of Brooks’ children believe he was being poisoned by Siers-Hill.

She denied the allegations and has not been charged in Brooks’ death.

In addition to pleading not guilty to the federal charges she does face, Siers-Hill also requested a jury trial.

Tuesday's hearing doubled as a detention hearing, but a federal judge ruled Siers-Hill had to stay in jail until her trial begins.

Siers-Hill's attorney argued she had no criminal history and wasn't a flight risk, but the judge disagreed after learning she had photographic copies of social security cards, licenses and credit cards of multiple people.

Siers-Hill's attorney had no comment following the hearing.