SJ woman accused of poisoning Starbucks drinks released

May 2, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The woman suspected of spiking orange juice at a local Starbucks with a potentially dangerous substance this week is about to walk out of jail. She's expected to be released from the Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas later this evening.

Ramineh Behbehanian is suspected of trying to leave bottles of orange juice spiked with rubbing alcohol at a San Jose Starbucks.

The Santa Clara County district attorney is still waiting for toxicology reports before deciding whether to charge the 50-year-old chemist.

She's been held without bail since her arrest Tuesday on suspicion of attempted murder and poisoning. But since prosecutors failed to file charges in time, they have to let her go.

On Monday, a customer says he saw her take two bottles of orange juice from her bag and then place them in one of the Starbucks refrigerated display cases. He told the manager what he saw.

A store employee then followed Behbehanian outside and took her license plate number. Police arrested her later at her home several miles away. The Starbucks employee only wanted her first name used in this interview with ABC7 News.

"It wasn't like she was putting it in there for somebody that she knew to grab," Starbucks barrista Jaclyn said. "She put them right in front so the next person could have grabbed it. That's why I grabbed them out of the case as soon as I noticed they were warm, different color and open, so nobody else could grab it."

Firefighters determined that there was a lethal quantity of rubbing alcohol mixed with orange juice in the bottles.

We spoke with Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Luis Ramos who told us that it's still an active investigation, but that they were not able to make a decision to charge her in time to satisfy what's called the 48 hour rule. In other words, a person has to be released after 48 hours in custody if there are no charges. Behbehanian was arrested Tuesday, the DA had to charge her by noon Thursday.

"It does not mean that charges will or will not be filed," Ramos said. "There was just not enough time under the penal code to charge her."

The DA's office says it's still an active case and the suspect could be re-arrested.

ABC7 News has learned that one of the big reasons why the DA failed to file charges in time is because the test results for the orange juice bottles are not in yet. The containers were just sent to the crime lab Wednesday. Normally it takes weeks, or even months, to get the results back.

We did speak with Behbehanian's lawyer who says she's distressed, doesn't know why she's in custody, and is grateful that no one was hurt.

Behbehanian told the media she had "no comment" as rushed inside her home. Her attorney told the media she was at the wrong place at the wrong time.


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