Federal authorities today arrested Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, at his home in Corinth, Mississippi, as a suspect connected to the recent ricin-laced letters sent to a Mississippi senator and President Obama.
Ricin is a potent poison, derived from the castor oil plant, that is 1,000 times more powerful than cyanide and has no antidote.
Before the news of Curtis' arrest, there was talk that investigators instantly had a suspect in mind, someone already on their radar screen. New information suggests the letters were intended to reveal their author.
Here's what you should know about the scare, the arrest, and the name Paul Kevin Curtis — which is shared by a scorned man whose sob story starts with a refrigerator full of body parts.
1. Laced Letters to Wicker and Obama Bore a Telltale Signature Phrase
Letters sent to a Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker and to President Obama, as well as a third letter sent to a Mississippi justice official, tested positive for ricin. At least two of the letters, those sent to Obama and Wicker, were nearly identical.
NBC reports the FBI says both letters were postmarked April 8, from Memphis, Tennessee, and had this phrase:
To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance
They concluded like this:
I am KC and I approve this message.
2. A Man With the Same Name, Using a Similar Signoff, Had a Beef with Roger Wicker
Another Paul Kevin Curtis, also hailing from Mississippi, posted this complaint on RipoffReport.com — a bizarre tale that includes his discovery of a body parts scam and having a gun put to his head by an assistant DA.
He ends it with:
This is Kevin Curtis and I approve this report.
It also includes this reference to Wicker:
I sent letters to State Representative Roger Wicker, Senator Trent Lott and Thad Cochran. 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 leading up to my case against NMMC.
Read the whole thing here or below:
3. That Man Also Had a Beef with the FBI
A web page apparently authored by a Paul Kevin Curtis also references the aforementioned refrigerator of body parts that led to his bad stretch of luck. Again, this page features a variation on the familiar sign-off:
This is Kevin Curtis & I approve this message.
The same page puts him at odds with government agencies, including the FBI, in his quest for justice:
Let the record show that on this date, March 05, 2008, I, Paul Kevin Curtis, being of sound mind, am attempting once again to expose various parties within the government, FBI, police departments, legal & healthcare systems, etc. that 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, began on the day I accidentally discovered a refrigerator full of dismembered body parts & organs wrapped in plastic in the morgue ...
But the page shares various documents pertaining to his legal saga, including this supposed incident report that shows a supposed date of birth:
The D.O.B. looks to be 1970, which would make this person a couple years shy of 45 — whereas numerous reports have the FBI listing the age of the Paul Kevin Curtis arrested today as 45. So if this "document" were considered reliable and the FBI's age is correct, this would a different Paul Kevin Curtis.
4. The Letters May Not Even Have Been Deadly
In sufficient concentration ricin can kill a man in a day and a half. But the ricin detected in the letters received this week may not have been significant enough to even harm someone. The letters tested positive, but experts say ground castor beans could test positive without signaling the presence of properly refined poison. Further tests will determine the true level of danger. The potency of the poison will determine the severity of the charges.
Neither the letter to Obama nor the one to Wicker reached its intended target; they were intercepted long before landing on the lawmakers' desks.
5. Feds Say There's No Link to the Boston Bombing
Coming just after the Boston Marathon bombings, this mail scare has conjured memories of the anthrax hysteria that rocked America after 9/11.
The FBI has dismissed talk that there is a connection between the ricin scare and this week's Boston Marathon bombing. Nevertheless, the poison-letter campaign conjures memories of the anthrax scare that plagued the country in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.