Ricin Mailer Suspect Paul Kevin Curtis Arrested In Mississippi

Ricin mailer suspect Paul Kevin Curtis, a Mississippi man alternately described as being from Tupelo or Corinth, has been arrested at home in Corinth by federal officers around 5:15 CDT on Wednesday night. He may appear in court later tonight. He is thought to be the person responsible for sending poison-laced letters to government officials.

The first letter was reported intercepted on Tuesday, when it was mailed to Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS). A second letter addressed to President Barack Obama was intercepted on Wednesday morning.

Both letters were found at an off-site sorting facilities, and neither man was ever at risk. Both the Senate and the White House have separate screening services for dangerous or threatening mail.

The preliminary results from a Maryland lab confirmed that both letters were contaminated, but authorities were waiting on full laboratory tests to determine if they held dangerous quantities of the chemical, which can be extracted from the castor bean plant.

The sender of the poison letters had signed them, “I am KC and I approve this message.” They were postmarked from Memphis, Tennessee on April 8.

An FBI statement said that Paul Kevin Curtis was suspected of sending a third letter, also possibly containing dangerous levels of the poison.

However, quick and dirty field tests can give false positives, so the third letter — or indeed all of them — wouldn’t necessarily contain ricin. More accurate tests may be completed on the first letter sent to Sen. Wicker as early as tonight. Right now, they reportedly don’t have enough information to know whether or not the letters were actually hazardous.

There also seems to be some discrepancies in the report of where the third letter was going. An ABC report said that it was caught by a Department of Justice mail-handling facility and was intended for an unnamed justice official.

However, NBC reported that the third letter was addressed to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI).

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said that the suspected ricin mailer often wrote to elected officials, which raises of the question of whether there are more than three letters.

The case is still breaking, and the FBI hasn’t yet explained how they found Paul Kevin Curtis so quickly or the motive behind the ricin mailers.

[castor bean plant, natural source of ricin, photo by CC-BY via Wikipedia Commons]