California woman accused of tainting orange juice at Starbucks

SAN FRANCISCO — A California woman faces attempted murder charges after police say she tried to sneak orange juice bottles spiked with a lethal amount of rubbing alcohol inside a Starbucks.

San Jose Police arrested Ramineh Behbehanian, 50, late Monday. A customer reported seeing the woman take two bottles of orange juice from her bag and place them in an open-air refrigerated display case at a Starbucks in San Jose around 3:45 p.m., Sgt. Jason Dwyer said Tuesday.

When the customer told a store manager what he saw, Behbehanian fled. A store employee followed Behbehanian to the parking lot and jotted down her license plate number as she drove off. Other employees called 911 after noticing the bottles had a toxic smell, Dwyer said.

Firefighters on the scene tested the contents and determined that the bottles contained a “lethal quantity” of isopropyl rubbing alcohol mixed with the juice, Dwyer said.

No one drank from the bottles, said Dwyer, who praised the customer’s quick actions.

“This person was heads-up enough and reported suspicious activity,” Dwyer said. “I think that person saved lives by doing that.”

Officers tracked down Behbehanian Monday night at her San Jose home located about five miles away from the store. She was placed into custody on suspicion of attempted murder and felony poisoning, Dwyer said.

Police are still looking for a motive.

“We don’t know if she has done this before or if she had plans to do this again,” Dwyer said. “We have no reason to believe that there are other coffee shops with similar dangers.”

Dwyer declined to say how much rubbing alcohol was actually in the bottles, but he said it was sufficient for police to charge Behbehanian with attempted murder.

The Starbucks store in San Jose was closed after Monday’s incident but reopened the next morning, Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson said Tuesday.

“We’re immensely grateful to the vigilant customer who immediately did the right thing by notifying our store partners who immediately pulled the juice from the shelves and quickly notified the authorities,” Hutson said.

As a precaution, Hutson said that the Starbucks store in San Jose pulled all of its remaining juices from the open-air refrigerator and destroyed them. Other Starbucks nearby were also alerted and told to check all their juice bottles to make sure none of its seals were broken.

Behbehanian could make her first appearance in court as soon as Thursday, authorities said.

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