California woman accused of planting poisoned juice at Starbucks

SAN FRANCISCO Tue Apr 30, 2013 11:40pm BST

A barista holds a cup of coffee at Starbucks' Vigo Street branch in Mayfair, central London January 11, 2013. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

A barista holds a cup of coffee at Starbucks' Vigo Street branch in Mayfair, central London January 11, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A northern California woman has been arrested on suspicion of spiking orange juice bottles with a deadly dose of rubbing alcohol and stocking the bottles at a Starbucks coffee shop, law enforcement officials said on Tuesday.

Ramineh Behbehanian, 50, was arrested at her San Jose home on Monday night and booked into the Santa Clara County Jail on charges of attempted murder and poisoning, San Jose Police Sergeant Jason Dwyer said.

Behbehanian is accused of carrying two bottles of tainted juice into a Starbucks outlet in San Jose on Monday, pulling them from her bag and placing them in the display case of a cooler stocked with various beverages.

A customer saw the woman and what appeared to be her suspicious behaviour and alerted the store's employees, but police say Behbehanian fled the shop when she overheard the conversation between the customer and employees. Another Starbucks patron followed Behbehanian outside and recorded the woman's license plate as she drove away, Dwyer said.

San Jose police and fire-fighters were called to the coffee shop, which was quickly evacuated. Hazardous materials inspectors tested the contents of the two bottles in question and found they contained a mixture of orange juice and isopropyl alcohol, or rubbing alcohol.

"According to the fire department, both of the bottles contained a lethal dose of alcohol," Dwyer said.

The store closed early to aid in the investigation, and all of the bottled drinks in the display case were destroyed, Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson said. All nearby Starbucks stores also were directed to check the seals on beverage bottles in their inventory as a precaution, but no evidence of additional tampering was found, he added.

"We're immensely grateful to the vigilant customer who did the right thing by immediately alerting our store partners after witnessing the suspicious behaviour," Hutson said.

Dwyer said a motive for the alleged tampering was under investigation. He said he could not release additional details about the case.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Bob Burgdorfer)

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