A 68-year-old Illinois man has been accused of stuffing meat products with needles inside of a grocery store in his hometown. When confronted by investigators as to why he inserted sewing needles into packages of ground beef and meat cuts, the St. Louis man said he did it “just for the hell of it.”
Reports the Huffington Post on Aug. 1: “Ronald Avers, who uses a scooter to get around and carries a portable oxygen tank, allegedly put needles into packaged meat at a Belleville Shop ‘n Save supermarket seven times between May 2013 and July 2014, but the store didn't reach out to authorities until July 9, according to reports citing court documents.”
The incident was reported to the police and turned over to the FBI after two customers recently discovered the needles inside of their meat products. A man who bought a boneless chuck roast bit into one of the needles after cooking the roast; a needle slipped into a steak also pricked another customer as she was handling it. Neither case resulted in serious injuries.
"With every customer that brought it to our attention, none reported needing medical attention as a result of the tampering," said Jeff Swanson, a SuperValu spokesman. "We have no reason to believe any tampering occurred outside of that one store."
Avery was tossed in jail without bail. He will spend the weekend there and face a detention hearing next week. He faces a fine of $250,000 and a potential decade behind bars for criminal tampering with intent to injure.
Avery’s meddling has been going on for months, the FBI said. Special Agent Daniel Cook said that the Shop 'n Save reported that customers found needles in their food dating back to last year. Avery is accused of sticking a total of seven needles into ground beef, steaks, pork chops and roasts – one every couple months or so starting in May of 2013.
The Associated Press picks up the story, and says that Avery told investigators that he only used the needles to mend his ripped pants.
Using its surveillance camera footage, Cook wrote, the Shop 'n Save's security crew identified a suspect seen manipulating meat items he never ended up buying and alerted Cook on Tuesday when that man again entered the store, riding a motorized scooter and using a portable oxygen tank.
After buying various items, Cook said, the man was approached by investigators outside the store and allowed them to search his truck, where an open package of sewing needles was found in a center console. Identifying himself as Ronald Avers, Cook wrote, the man insisted he kept the needles on hand to mend pants he tore while camping, then gradually acknowledged he used the needles more inappropriately.
“Every now and then I would stick one in a hamburger,” Avery said. “Mostly hamburger, a couple of times I did it with a roast, maybe a pork chop every now and then.”
Cook said that during his interrogation of Avery, the elderly man told him he “inserted sewing needles into packaged meat products, ‘just for the hell of it,’” adding that Avery offered no other rationale for his inane actions. Cook says Avery told him: “It was stupidity. I didn't want to hurt nobody.”
The Smoking Gun carried the complete criminal affidavit against Avery.