Woman Arrested for Trying to Poison Orange Juice at Calif. Starbucks

Ramineh Behbehanian is accused of putting two orange juice bottles with lethal quantities of rubbing alcohol on a refrigerator shelf in the coffee shop.

By Bob Redell and Kris Sanchez
|  Tuesday, Apr 30, 2013  |  Updated 9:06 PM EDT
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Ramineh Behbehahian was arrested Monday night after police say she removed two bottles of orange juice from a bag - which were filled with rubbing alcohol - and placed them on the shelf with other refrigerated items at a Starbucks in San Jose. Bob Redell reports.

Ramineh Behbehahian was arrested Monday night after police say she removed two bottles of orange juice from a bag - which were filled with rubbing alcohol - and placed them on the shelf with other refrigerated items at a Starbucks in San Jose. Bob Redell reports.

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A 50-year-old woman was arrested Monday night after police say she put two bottles of orange juice — which they say were filled with rubbing alcohol — on a refrigerator shelf at a Starbucks in California.

San Jose police took Ramineh Behbehanian into custody on an attempted murder charge, because the orange juice she had removed from her bag and put in the fridge contained what police said were lethal quantities of isopropyl alcohol. She is scheduled to appear in court Thursday.

Behbehanian has no criminal record in Santa Clara County, according to court records. Late Tuesday, sources confirmed for NBC Bay Area that Behbehanian is a pharmacist working for a company owned by Johnson and Johnson.

Authorities are still not sure why she would have allegedly mixed rubbing alcohol with some orange juice in the afternoon, left the bottles in the refrigerated section alongside some yogurt and milk and left the store about 3:30 p.m. local time.

"Why would she do such a thing?" Chris Africa said, standing outside the Starbucks on Tuesday morning. "Was she trying to poison us?"

An alert customer standing behind her in line spotted her taking out her own bottles of juice from a green Starbucks bag and putting them in the refrigerator section. He also noticed a toxic smell. The woman left, but a Starbucks employee got her license plate number.

"A lot of people out there may have seen something and probably dismissed it," San Jose Police Sgt. Jason Dwyer said. "But I believe that person saved lives by doing that."

The San Jose Fire Department responded to the scene, retrieved the bottles and tested the contents with hazardous materials equipment.

It turned out the bottles were filled with orange juice and rubbing alcohol.

On Tuesday morning, customer Brent Breyer said he was a little "apprehensive" about what had happened at his usual Starbucks. He said he often brings his young daughter, who routinely grabs for items in the refrigerated section.

Police were able to track Behbehanian down at her home. Why she may have committed the acts she is accused of is unclear.

A Starbucks spokesperson told the NBC Bay Area that the company destroyed all the other juices in the store out of an abundance of caution and had all other stores in Bay Area check their juice seals. 

All checked out OK.

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