MS Man Charged In Ricin Letters Case - WSPA.com

Attorney: Scant Evidence In Mississippi Ricin Case

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President Barack Obama President Barack Obama
Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi
WASHINGTON -

Attorney: Scant evidence in Mississippi ricin case

The attorney for a man accused of mailing ricin-laced letters to the president and a senator says federal authorities have scant evidence linking her client to the crime.

Christi McCoy said after a court hearing Friday that the government has offered no evidence to prove her client, Paul Kevin Curtis, had possession of any ricin.

FBI Agent Brandon M. Grant testified during the hearing that he could not say if investigators had found ricin at Curtis' home. McCoy says the evidence linking Curtis to the crime so far has hinged on his writings posted online.

So far, Curtis is the primary focus for investigators and the only person arrested in connection with sending those letters and a third threatening letter mailed to a judge.

FBI: Tests show ricin in letters to Obama, senator

The FBI says laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of ricin in letters mailed to a U.S. senator and to President Barack Obama.

The FBI said Thursday that further tests are still being done, but that lab results show the toxin was used in the mailings.

There are no known illnesses from the exposure.

Paul Kevin Curtis, of Corinth, Miss., is suspected of sending the letters to Obama and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker. He appeared in federal court Thursday on charges of threatening Obama and others, but he did not enter a plea.

His attorney said that the arrest was surprising and that Curtis maintains that he's innocent.

Hospital: Miss. suspect was fired in 2000

A Mississippi hospital says the man charged with mailing letters with suspected ricin was fired from the facility more than a decade ago.

North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo issued a statement Thursday saying Paul Kevin Curtis began working there in 1998 and was terminated in 2000. It did not give a reason for his firing but says it was not because of allegations he made against the hospital.

Curtis has written in online postings that he uncovered a conspiracy to sell human body parts on the black market while working there.

However, the hospital says it works with an agency that specializes in harvesting organs and tissue from donors, and then immediately transports those organs for donation. The hospital says it does not receive payment for the donated organs.

US man charged with threatening Obama, others

A man accused of mailing letters with suspected ricin to national leaders believed he had uncovered a conspiracy to sell human body parts on the black market and claimed "various parties within the government" were trying to ruin his reputation.

Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, is charged with threatening President Barack Obama and others, according to a Thursday news release from the U.S. Department of Justice. He is scheduled to appear in federal court on the two charges later Thursday, and if convicted could face up to 15 years in prison

An affidavit says the letters sent to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and a judge in Mississippi told the recipients: "Maybe I have your attention now even if that means someone must die."

Curtis was arrested Wednesday at his home in Corinth, Mississipi.

Curtis had been living in Corinth, a city of about 14,000 in extreme northeastern Mississippi, since December, but local police had not had any contact with him prior to his arrest, Corinth Police Department Capt. Ralph Dance told The Associated Press on Thursday. Dance said the department aided the FBI during the arrest and that Curtis did not resist being taken into custody. Since Curtis arrived in the town, he had been living in "government housing," Dance said. He did not elaborate.

Police maintained a perimeter Thursday around Curtis' home, and federal investigators were expected to search the house later in the morning, said local officers on the scene who declined to be identified. Four men who appeared to be investigators were in the neighborhood to speak to neighbors. There didn't appear to be any hazardous-material crews, and no neighbors were evacuated.

The material discovered in a letter to Wicker has been confirmed through field testing and laboratory testing to contain ricin, said Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer. The FBI has not yet reported the results of its own testing of materials sent to Wicker and to President Barack Obama.

"Our field tests indicate it was ricin. Our lab tests confirm it was ricin. So I don't get why others are continuing to use equivocal words about this," Gainer said.

Preliminary field tests can often show false positives for ricin. Ricin is derived from the castor plant that makes castor oil. There is no antidote, and it's deadliest when inhaled. The material sent to Wicker was not weaponized, Gainer said.

An FBI intelligence bulletin obtained by The Associated Press said the two letters were postmarked Memphis, Tennessee.

Both letters said: "To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance." Both were signed, "I am KC and I approve this message."

The letters had Washington on edge in the days after the Boston Marathon bombing. As authorities scurried to investigate three questionable packages discovered in Senate office buildings Wednesday, reports of suspicious items also came in from at least three senators' offices in their home states. The items were found to be harmless.

In addition, a Mississippi state lawmaker, Democratic Rep. Steve Holland, said Wednesday night that his 80-year-old mother, Judge Sadie Holland, received a threatening letter last week with a substance that has been sent to a lab for testing. He said this letter was also signed "K.C."

"She opened it herself" on April 11 and told Holland about it three days later, Holland said.

He said she had not been to the doctor, but he planned to take her Thursday.

"She's fine," Holland said. "She's had no symptoms."

Curtis' neighbors, who said he did not seem violent, were concerned about their safety Thursday and worried by the idea that someone was making poison in a house that sits so close to their bedrooms and front yards. The one-story, single-family home is similar to the others in the neighborhood - red brick with white trim.

A church, and a community center with an outdoor children's play area, are just steps from Curtis' house. The home also is near an area with several mailboxes for the community. But neighbors said they rarely saw him retrieve mail and didn't speak with him much.

"He was quiet. He pretty much stayed to himself," said neighbor Lacey Ross, 29.

Ricky Curtis, who said he was Kevin Curtis' cousin, said the family was shocked by the news of the arrest. He described his cousin as a "super entertainer" who impersonated Elvis and numerous other singers.

"We're all in shock. I don't think anybody had a clue that this kind of stuff was weighing on his mind," Ricky Curtis said in a telephone interview.

Ricky Curtis said his cousin had written about problems he had with a cleaning business and that he felt the government had not treated him well, but he said nobody in the family would have expected this. He said the writings were titled, "Missing Pieces."

A MySpace page for a cleaning company called The Cleaning Crew confirms that they "do windows" and has profile photo of "Kevin Curtis, Master of Impressions." A YouTube channel under the name of Kevin Curtis has dozens of videos of him performing as different famous musicians, including Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and Kid Rock.

"As far as him being anti-government, I'm not going to say that, but he had some issues with some stuff that happened with his cleaning business," the cousin said.

Multiple online posts on various websites under the name Kevin Curtis refer to the conspiracy he claimed to uncover when working at a local hospital from 1998 to 2000.

The author wrote the conspiracy that began when he "discovered a refrigerator full of dismembered body parts & organs wrapped in plastic in the morgue of the largest non-metropolitan health care organization in the United States of America."

Curtis wrote that he was trying to "expose various parties within the government, FBI, police departments" for what he believed was "a conspiracy to ruin my reputation in the community as well as an ongoing effort to break down the foundation I worked more than 20 years to build in the country music scene."

In one post, Curtis said he sent letters to Wicker and other politicians.

"I never heard a word from anyone. I even ran into Roger Wicker several different times while performing at special banquets and fundraisers in northeast, Mississippi but he seemed very nervous while speaking with me and would make a fast exit to the door when I engaged in conversation..."

He signed off: "This is Kevin Curtis & I approve this message."

The FBI said there was no indication of a connection between the letters and the Monday bombing in Boston that killed three people and injured more than 170. The letters to Obama and Wicker were postmarked April 8, before the marathon.

Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, said mail sent to the White House is screened at a remote site for the safety of the recipients and the general public. He declined to comment on the significance of the preliminary ricin result, referring questions to the FBI.

At a House hearing, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe noted there had been ricin alerts since the notorious 2001 anthrax mailings and procedures are in place to protect postal employees and help track down culprits.

"Over the course of years we've had some situations where there have been ricin scares," Donahoe said. "Until this date, there's never been any actually proved that have gone through the system."

FBI: Man Arrested In Mississippi, Accused Of Sending Letters With Ricin

The FBI has identified a Mississippi man suspected of mailing letters containing poisonous ricin as 45 year old Paul Kevin Curtis.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen said Curtis was arrested Wednesday afternoon at his apartment in Corinth, near the Tennessee state line about 100 miles east of Memphis.

Authorities still waited for definitive tests on the letters sent to President barack Obama and Senator Roger Wicker - R -Mississippi.

An FBI intelligence bulletin obtained by The Associated Press said those two letters were postmarked Memphis, Tenn.

Authorities said that Curtis described uncovering a conspiracy to trade human body parts on the black market and often performed as an Elvis Presley impersonator. Police had Curtis' home in a subdivision surrounded by yellow crime scene tape, though neighbors weren't evacuated.

Capitol police say suspicious packages not harmful

Capitol police say it turns out the suspicious packages investigated in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday weren't hazardous.

But spokeswoman Makema Turner said a man was still being questioned late in the day after being stopped in connection with the packages.

The packages raised concern after the FBI said that letters mailed to President Barack Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi tested positive for poisonous ricin. Those letters were sent for more extensive testing, because field tests often yield false positives for ricin.

Authorities closed some parts of Senate office buildings while they investigated the packages. The Capitol was already on edge because of Monday's Boston Marathon bombings.

Police investigate suspicious letters in Arizona

Authorities are investigating two suspicious letters that were sent to the Phoenix office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.

Emergency crews in hazardous materials gear were seen outside the building.

U.S. Sen. John McCain has an office directly across the street, and a spokesman for him said authorities have told staff not to open any packages as authorities investigate.

The situation came a day after authorities said a letter containing ricin was mailed to the office of a Mississippi senator. The Secret Service also says it has intercepted a letter addressed to President Barack Obama that contained a suspicious substance.

Flake is a Republican who was elected to the Senate last year.

Senator says regional office got suspicious letter

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin says his regional office in Saginaw received a suspicious letter and that authorities have been alerted.

Levin says in a statement that an aide received the letter Wednesday, but did not open it. Authorities are now investigating.

The Democratic lawmaker says he and his staff do not know if the mail presented a threat.

Separately, the FBI says a substance in letters sent to President Barack Obama and Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker have preliminarily tested positive for ricin, a potentially fatal poison.

The FBI says those letters are related and are both postmarked out of Memphis, Tenn., dated April 8. Both letters were intercepted at off-site mail facilities.

FBI: Early test shows ricin in Obama letter

The FBI says the letters sent to President Barack Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker are related and are both postmarked out of Memphis, Tenn., dated April 8.

In an intelligence bulletin obtained by The Associated Press, the FBI says the letters both say: "To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance." Both letters are signed, "I am KC and I approve this message."

The FBI says the substance in both letters have preliminarily tested positive for ricin, a potentially fatal poison.

Both the letters to Wicker, R-Miss., and to Obama were intercepted at off-site mail facilities.

The FBI says it is pursuing investigative leads to determine who sent the letters.

Secret Service: Suspicious letter mailed to Obama

The U.S. Secret Service says it has intercepted a letter addressed to President Barack Obama that contained a "suspicious substance."

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan says the letter was intercepted at a facility away from the White House. He says the letter was received Tuesday.

The letter comes a day after lawmakers said a letter was mailed to Sen. Roger Wicker that tested positive for poisonous ricin. Another senator said police have a suspect in mind.

Tensions have been high in Washington and across the country since the deadly bombings on Monday at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured more than 170.

Officials: 2nd letter to Senate tested for ricin

Law enforcement officials say a second letter sent to the U.S. Senate has been intercepted and is being tested for poisonous ricin.

Two officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the letter was being treated in the same manner as a separate one sent to Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker and was undergoing field tests.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The letter to Wicker, a Republican, was intercepted at a Senate mail facility just outside Washington and has tested positive for ricin. Sen. Claire McCaskill has said authorities have a suspect in mind in that case, though no one has been charged.

It was not immediately clear which senator the second letter was addressed to.

Reid: Letter with Ricin or poison sent to senator

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says a letter containing ricin or another poison was sent to the office of Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

In brief remarks to reporters in the Capitol, Reid did not say when the letter was sent. It's customary for mail addressed to congressional offices to be screened at an off-site facility.

Sen. Mary Landrieu also confirmed a letter containing poison had been to a sent to a senator. She said lawmakers were informed of the fact at a closed-door briefing about the Boston Marathon bombings.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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