This Facebook picture is thought to be of Paul Kevin Curtis, who has been arrested in connection with the ricin-tainted letters sent to politicians
The Mississippi man accused of mailing letters with suspected ricin to President Obama has been charged with threatening the Commander-in-Chief, it was revealed today.
Paul Kevin Curtis, who believed he had uncovered a conspiracy to sell human body parts on the black market and sometimes performed as an Elvis Presley impersonator, will appear in federal court Thursday.
The 45-year-old was arrested yesterday at his apartment in Corinth, Mississippi near the Tennessee state line about 100 miles east of Memphis, FBI officials announced yesterday.
The Justice Department said today that Curtis faces two federal charges of threatening the president and others.
He is accused of sending ricin-laced letters this week to the President and to Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, that arrived just one day after the deadly bombings in Boston.
Curtis had previously sent letters to Sen. Wicker and officials from his office alerted authorities about the frequency of his correspondence when the suspicious letter was found.
The suspect was originally identified by federal sources as Kenneth Curtis of Tupelo, Miss, according to local media reports. It is not known if Curtis has used Kenneth as an alias.
An affidavit shows the letters sent to Obama and Wicker both warned their intended recipients: ‘Maybe I have your attention now, even if that means that someone must die.’
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Swivel the pelvis: Kevin Curtis is pictured many times over impersonating the King
Surrounded: City of Corinth police cars prevent access to a house in the West Hills Subdivision in Corinth, Mississippi, Thursday morning
Curtis is ‘believed to be responsible for the mailings of the three letters which contained a granular substance that preliminarily tested positive for ricin,’ the FBI said in a statement.
Investigators with the Secret Service and the FBI are using the Lee County Sheriff’s Department, in Tupelo, as a staging area for their investigation, according to The Clarion-Ledger.
It is not clear where the suspect is being held.
Last night 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.
Suspect: The FBI has arrested a suspect accused of sending letters laced with ricin to President Obama, pictured on Wednesday, and a Mississippi senator
Hound dog: Curtis posted hordes of pictures on his Myspace page showing him from the 1980s and 90s
A Facebook account entitled Kevin Curtis Live (KC), which is believed to be that of the suspect, contains rants about a body parts conspiracy.
‘My mother wants me to SHUT UP. My brothers fear me. My sister hates me. My cousins have hostility towards me (they work in healthcare) I have lost most of my friends. I have spent more than $130,000.00 on legal fees in 13.5 yrs.
‘They burned down my home, killed my dogs, my cat, my rabbit, blew up my 1966 Plymouth Valent. They destroyed my marriage, they distracted my career, they stalked, they trolled, they came in to my home, took my computers, had me arrested 22 times and guess what? I am still a thorn in their corrupt a****!’
Connection: Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. at a Capitol Hill hearing on Wednesday, is from Tupelo, Mississippi
On the same day he posted a photograph of a revolver, with the comment ‘say hello to my little friend’.
The page’s author 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.’
Ricky Curtis said his cousin, a martial arts fan, ran a cleaning business, believed to be called The Cleaning Crew.
He added: ‘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.’
On Tuesday photographs of a pistol were uploaded onto the Kevin Curtis Live (KC) Facebook page, with the caption ‘say hello to my little friend’
Online posts refer to a conspiracy Curtis alleges he uncovered when working at a local hospital between 1998-2000, when he says he stumbled upon: ‘a refrigerator full of dismembered body parts & organs wrapped in plastic in the morgue of the largest non-metropolitan healthcare organization in the United States of America.’
On Tuesday there was a Facebook post linking to an article about a charity initiative, with the comment: ‘This is KC & I approve this concept!’
The two letters mailed to Washington, DC were both intercepted at a mail screening facility in Maryland on Tuesday and initial tests found the pieces of mail contained the toxic component that can be fatal when ingested.
Both letters sent to the politicians contained the same message, ‘To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance.’
They also had the same signature that read: ‘I am KC and I approve this message.’
Alert: Emergency personnel stand outside a government mail screening facility on Wednesday in Hyattsville, Maryland
The letters contained a Memphis postmark and had no return address.
Law enforcement officials told CBS News that the ricin found in the letters was ‘low grade’ and ‘less than one percent toxin.’
The FBI has said there is no obvious link between the letters, postmarked on April 8, and the deadly bombings in Boston on Monday.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri said on Wednesday spoke to the press about the investigation into the letter writer and said the person in question ‘writes a lot of letters to (Congress) members.’
A suspicious letter was also reportedly sent to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, at his office in Saginaw, Michigan but there was no information if the letter tested positive for the toxic substance.
Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, has also reported a suspicious letter.
AN ONGOING INVESTIGATION: FBI’S FULL RELEASE ON RICIN TESTING
A second letter containing a granular substance that preliminarily tested positive for ricin was received at an offsite mail screening facility.
The envelope, addressed to the President, was immediately quarantined by U.S. Secret Service personnel, and a coordinated investigation with the FBI was initiated. It is important to note that operations at the White House have not been affected as a result of the investigation.
Additionally, filters at a second government mail screening facility preliminarily tested positive for ricin this morning. Mail from that facility is being tested.
Any time suspicious powder is located in a mail facility, field tests are conducted. The field and other preliminary tests can produce inconsistent results. Any time field tests indicate the possibility of a biological agent, the material is sent to an accredited laboratory for further analysis.
Only a full analysis performed at an accredited laboratory can determine the presence of a biological agent such as ricin. Those tests are currently being conducted and generally take 24 to 48 hours.
The investigation into these letters remains ongoing, and more letters may still be received. There is no indication of a connection to the attack in Boston.
Response: A Capitol Police Hazardous Materials Response Team truck is parked at the Russell Senate Office building Wednesday, after reports of suspicious packages discovered on Capitol Hill
Patrolling: A U.S. Capitol Police officer walks past Sen. Roger Wicker’s office in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on Tuesday
Police in Phoenix had also investigated two suspicious letters sent to the Arizona office of Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican who previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives and was elected to the Senate in 2012.
RICIN: THE POTENT (BUT CLUMSY) POISON MADE FROM BEANS
Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans. The beans can be safely made in to castor oil, but ricin is a part of the waste ‘mash’ from the oil production. It can be made into a powder, a mist or a pellet and is poisonous if inhaled, injected, or ingested.
Chewing the beans can also release the harmful substance.
For ricin to poison people, it would have to be a deliberate act, according to the CDC. The only accidental injuries could come through ingesting castor beans.
Ricin gets inside the cells of a person’s body and prevents the cells from making proteins they need. Without the proteins, cells die.
It can cause respiratory, gastrointestinal and circulatory symptoms and can lead to death 36 to 72 hours after exposure.
The speed of its effect depends on the means of exposure. There is no antidote.
The drug was popularly referenced in AMC’s cult show, ‘Breaking Bad.’ Protagonist Walter White poisons a small child with the substance, placing the blame on another character.
In 1978, Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian writer and journalist living in London, died after he was attacked by a man with an umbrella which had been rigged to inject a poison ricin pellet under Markov’s skin.
But Dr. Eric Toner of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center told NBC News that he doubted a sophisticated ricin had been used – and that a homemade batch would be unlikely to make anyone ill.
‘It is not actually clear you can get anybody sick from ricin-containing letters,’ he said, adding it needed to be ingested or injected.
‘It is easy to make some ricin. You get some castor beans, make it in your kitchen, you can produce a batch of stuff that has some ricin in it. It is not very pure. It is not very potent. As near as we can tell it has never actually made anyone sick.’
The letters were stained with an oily substance, believed to have caused irritation to the eyes and noses of two Flake staffers and a Phoenix police officer who responded to the scene, authorities said.
After an investigation, police determined the substance was harmless.
Simply touching ricin will not cause death but if the substance is inhaled it can cause difficulty breathing and can be fatal.
There is no antidote once a person is exposed.
In response to the ricin letter, the House and Senate temporarily closed their post offices.
On Wednesday morning, the Capitol Police confirmed that a suspicious package was found on the atrium level of the Hart Senate Office Building building, as well as a package that was found on the third floor of the Russell Senate Office Building.
The Hart Senate Office Building was shut down to investigate and the building was reopened a short time later.
Bioterror expert Dr Eric Toner, who works at the Center of Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told NBC News that while ricin is deadly, it is also a largely ineffective method of attack.
‘It’s not actually clear you can get anybody sick from ricin-containing letters,’ he told NBC News.
‘It is probably a crackpot. It is certainly unsophisticated.
He explained that the poison is often used by ‘domestic terrorists and lone wolves,’ citing ricin’s relative simplicity to make. But he added that home-made ricin ‘is not very pure. It is not very potent. As near as we can tell it has never actually made anyone sick.’
However, anthrax is a different story. Dr Toner told the news outlet that that particular poison creates spores in a victim’s lungs and pump out poison.
Ricin last caused a scare at the Capitol in 2004, when it was detected on a letter sent to then-Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Republican from Tennessee.
Authorities haven’t speculated as to why Wicker may have been targeted for the attack, though he is a fierce critic of tighter gun controls, which has been a lightning-rod issue in the Senate over the past couple weeks.
Wicker was among those in the Senate on Wednesday who rejected a bipartisan plan to expand background checks for gun buyers, a blow to President Obama’s effort to curb gun violence after the Newtown school massacre.
‘I have an A+ rating from the NRA and have consistently worked to protect Second Amendment rights,’ Wicker wrote on his Facebook page last week.
‘I have never voted for gun control and will not do so… I will filibuster passage of a final bill if it contains gun restrictions or a weapons ban.’
Wicker has served in the Senate since 2007. Before that, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 12 years.
How it’s made: Ricin is made from the castor bean seeds, and can be made from the waste material left over from processing castor beans
ECHOES OF 9/11? RICIN ENVELOPE A REMINDER OF DEADLY ANTHRAX LETTERS SENT AFTER 2001 TERRORIST ATTACKS
The ricin-laced envelopes spark memories of the deadly anthrax letters sent in the aftermath of 9/11.
In September and October 2001, anthrax was mailed to two Democratic U.S. senators and several media outlets, killing five people, infecting 17 and adding to the fears and grief following the terrorist attacks.
The letters came in two waves; five letters were sent from Trenton, New Jersey a week after 9/11 to media outlets. Two further letters, also bearing the Trenton postmark, were sent on October 9 to Senators Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
Five died, including a photo editor, two mail facility employees and two others, but it is not known how these came into contact with the anthrax.
Deadly letters: Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, letters containing anthrax were mailed to two Democratic senators and several media outlets, resulting in five deaths and wounding 17
The letters contained messages including: ‘Death to America, Death to Israel, Allah is Great.’ Authorities were unable to definitively say the letters were connected to the 9/11 attacks or al-Qaeda, although President Bush speculated on a link.
Investigations at first focused on bio-weapons expert Steven Hatfill, but he was later exonerated. Bruce Edwards Ivins, a scientist working in the government’s biodefence labs at Fort Detrick in Maryland, was also investigated in April 2005.
Bruce E. Ivins, a biodefence researcher, killed himself in 2008; he is widely believed to be behind the anthrax attacks
In 2008, he killed himself and it was widely reported that the FBI was about to lay charges on him.
After his death, prosecutors said Ivins was to blame for the letters, although they had no direct evidence to prove so.
Two days later, senators called for hearings into how the investigation was carried out, and in February 2010, the investigation was closed.
Commentator Charles Krauthammer noted that the Boston bombings and the ricin attack carry echoes of 9/11.
‘The attacks in Boston were the first successful bombing in the United States since 9/11,’ he told Special Report.
‘The scenes that we saw, a much smaller scale, of course, but it reminded us of 9/11. The people running in the streets of a great city, the smoke and the chaos, the screams and the injuries.
‘Now all of the sudden we have, as happened on 9/11, a chemical attack. It has that whole picture.
‘Again, we have to have a caveat. Is there any connection? Nobody knows, but it could be.’
Read more: Daily Mail UK
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