A terminated U.S. Army facility worker faces charges for holding what was thought to be a deadly form of uranium, the Newark Star-Ledger reports.
Police detained 44-year-old Joseph Gibeau on Saturday after allegedly finding radioactive substances inside several lead-shielded containers at his home while responding to a domestic call, the newspaper reported on Tuesday. Two containers reportedly held a substance tentatively identified by authorities as uranium sulfate, a potentially lethal chemical.
"If you inhale a single particle, it's fatal," Sussex County First Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Mueller said. Authorities allegedly also seized a quantity of americium 241, a radioactive isotope placed in fire alarms.
The prosecutor said Gibeau may have taken the suspected uranium sulfate from Picatinny Arsenal, an Army facility in New Jersey where he was employed as a contractor until December.
"How [Gibeau] came to get this material and what he planned to do with it is still under investigation," Mueller said.
The suspect currently faces two counts of child endangerment because the substance was "easily accessible" to his two children, ages 6 and 9, the prosecutor said during an initial court proceeding.
Martin Morrison, Gibeau's lawyer, suggested the defendant obtained the substances to test a personal collection of radiation-measuring devices.
"Some people have a hobby of fixing cars; his hobby is Geiger counters," Morrison said.
Terry Crummett, Gibeau's former manager at the contract firm Chugach Industries, said "performance and behavioral issues" cost the defendant his information technical services position at Picatinny Arsenal.
The Army facility was once involved in nuclear-arms production, according to its website. However, uranium sulfate has no applications in producing atomic energy or weapons, the Star-Ledger reported.