Details of the case emerged in an arrest affidavit for the suspect's identical twin brother, who is charged with stalking the lead detective in the mercury probe. That same document also outlines how the hidden mercury could have been deadly.
That arrest affidavit, obtained by the 9Wants to Know investigators, confirms that Philip Steel, of Deer Trail, is suspected of being behind an incident at his workplace, Dairy Engineering in Arvada on Jan. 8.
Steel's supervisor reported that liquid mercury dripped from the receiver of his phone onto his face. He was not seriously injured.
Steel's house was raided by authorities on Jan. 20. In the weeks following, Arvada detectives say Steel's twin, Justin Motzer, began stalking the lead investigator on the case.
Motzer, a 45-year-old from Boulder who works as an investigator for an attorney, appeared in court on Tuesday. He is set to be arraigned on a felony charge of stalking next month.
In the affidavit, police allege Motzer left a message for the detective in which he said "that his brother's name was being dragged through the mud" while the detective was "cozy" in his home. The message, according to authorities, made specific reference to the detective's neighborhood.
The detective told colleagues he feared for his safety and that of his family, so he moved them from the house and installed a security system.
9NEWS is not identifying the detective involved at the request of Arvada Police due to safety concerns.
Police said Motzer admitted driving past the detective's home and mentioned that his "psychiatrist told him it probably wasn't a good idea," according to court records.
Court documents indicate Motzer told investigators Steel was "the good twin, and that he was the bad one."
Attorney Randall Weiner, who employs Motzer as a contract worker for investigations and represented him until earlier this week, said Motzer's actions do not amount to stalking.
"Mr. Motzer is an investigator and does investigations but he didn't stalk," Weiner said.
Attorney Themia Sandven, who said she expects to represent Motzer going forward, said she was still reviewing the case and declined to comment.
Arvada Police spokeswoman Susan Medina said she could not speak specifically about the Motzer investigation, but issued a statement saying law enforcement officers need to be able to conduct their work without undue fear for their families' safety.
Police have also declined to discuss details of the mercury investigation, what specific charges are being investigated, or to publicly confirm what is outlined in court documents, that Steel is a suspect in the case.
The suspicion and resulting raid has been devastating, Steel said.
"It has absolutely ruined my life," Steel told 9Wants to Know Investigator Kyle Clark on Thursday. "If the police want to arrest me, just do it. Get it over with. Then, at least, I would have some rights."
Steel says he believed the mercury incident was a "hoax."
Steel's supervisor told police his phone had been tampered with and the receiver had been glued together. That would suggest perhaps the mercury was intended to be breathed in, rather than spill out as it did.
Dr. Andrew Ternay, a research professor at the University of Denver who has written on chemical warfare, says mercury vapor is more lethal than the liquid form.
"If I were going to try to assassinate somebody, murder somebody, with mercury, I would use the vapor or its compounds," Ternay said. "Mercury vapor is not readily detectable."
Ternay has not reviewed the Arvada case, but has written about, and consulted with federal agencies on, chemical and biological threats.
Ternay says someone who breathed in lethal concentrations of mercury vapor every day on a low level could die within 10 days.
The body cannot easily excrete mercury, Ternay said, meaning someone can be poisoned slowly over time.
An Arvada Police detective wrote in a sworn affidavit for Motzer's arrest that Steel had placed two ads in a Deer Trail-area newspaper soliciting used compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, for recycling.
"Compact fluorescent light bulbs are wonderful things. However, disposal is a problem due to mercury. If you bring them to me, I will dispose of them properly," the ads read, in part, according to court documents.
Ternay says there are far more efficient ways of harvesting mercury than collecting the small amount found in CFL bulbs.
Steel told 9Wants to Know he placed the ads, but said investigators were trying to pin him to the mercury incident through "unrelated facts."
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