Police: Woman caught on tape poisoning baby food

1:48 PM, Feb 19, 2009   |    comments
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Fort Lauderdale ? A Broward County woman is being held without bond accused of trying to poison baby food at a Tamarac Publix with the intent to kill or injure.

Shirley Ybarra was taken into custody at the Publix at 4121 West Commercial Boulevard Thursday night. Detectives with the Broward Sheriff's Office say they found all the evidence they needed in Ybarra's shopping cart.

They found baby food with black residue in it, a syringe with a black substance in it and latex gloves.

Detective Jeff Kogan told Judge John Hurley that Publix officials stopped Ybarra before she left the store.

"They did not want to let her leave the store," Det. Kogan said. "In her shopping cart was a load of food that was contaminated. They did not want to leave the store. They did not know where the food was gonna go."

Det. Kogan also told the judge a shopper witnessed Ybarra tampering with the baby food in the store.

The witness saw Ybarra "taking a black residue from a Victoria's Secret bottle, pouring it into the baby food mixing it." Store surveillance video shows Shirley Ybarra wheeling her shopping cart down the aisle, where she worked on the jars and bottles for about 15 minutes as shoppers and employees passed unaware. When she was finally confronted by store personnel, Ybarra said she was mixing food for her son.

Sheriff's Office spokesperson Dani Moschella said, "It was like she was doing a chemistry experiment right there in the store. There was no effort to conceal it."

Ybarra was committed to a hospital for observation under Florida's Baker Act Thursday night. The Baker Act allows police to involuntarily commit individuals for observation for up to 48 hours if it is perceived that that they have a mental illness or are a danger to themselves or others. On Saturday, Ybarra was formally charged with poisoning of food or water, a first-degree felony, and violation of probation. On Tuesday during her first appearance on the charges, Judge John Hurley ordered Ybarra held without bond.

"I'm looking at someone who has gone into Publix and allegedly poisoned baby food was leaving the store. I have no idea where it was going from there. I think you represent a danger to the community," Judge Hurley said.

In the Sunrise neighborhood where Shirley Ybarra's parents live there was shock and sadness at the news of the arrest.

Her father, Joseph Ybarra, said Shirley suffers from bipolar disorder and needs help. "She's been having this problem for a long time," her father said, "and we tried to help her. She was brought to a clinic, getting help from a clinic. But she stopped and I don't know for what reason she stopped."

Two friends of Shirley Ybarra's say Ybarra has suffered from mental health issues for years. They don't believe she would ever intentionally hurt anyone.

But court records show Ybarra does have a violent past. In 2006, Broward Sheriff's deputies arrested Ybarra for stabbing a friend with a kitchen knife. Ybarra was placed on supervised release for 5 years. Her term expires in 2012.

When Ybarra was arrested on Thursday, deputies also charged her with violating her probation on the 2006 case.

A spokesperson for Publix said once they learned what happened Thursday night, they removed all the baby food from the shelves at the Tamarac store. Deputies checked to see if Ybarra visited any other Publix locations but so far there is no evidence she did.

Kogan said he is not sure what type of substance Ybarra was using. The residue has been sent to the Food and Drug Administration labs in Cincinnati for testing. They say it will be 2-3 weeks before they complete the analysis.

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CBS 4 Miami

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