April 18, 2013

Man charged in poison letters case described as troubled

Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, faces two charges of sending ricin-laced letters to President Obama and a U.S. senator.

The Associated Press

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This undated photo obtained from the Facebook page of Paul Kevin Curtis, shows, according to neighbors, Paul Kevin Curtis, 45.

AP

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A Prince George's County, Md. firefighter, left, gets dressed in a protective suit before going into a government mail screening facility in Hyattsville, Md., Wednesday, April 17, 2013. Police swept across the U.S. Capitol complex to chase a flurry of reports of suspicious packages and envelopes Wednesday after preliminary tests indicated poisonous ricin in two letters sent to President Barack Obama and a Mississippi senator. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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But others say Curtis' behavior was often erratic.

Tupelo attorney David Daniels said Curtis was in a show he helped organize about 10 years ago.

Daniels said was sitting in his vehicle one night after rehearsal when Curtis walked up. "He started beating on the windows and screaming and hollering," Daniels said. "I thought he was kidding, but he was serious. He was throwing a fit like I've never seen a grown man throw before."

Daniels said Curtis was holding a beer bottle and threatening him with it. Daniels said he pointed the pistol he kept in his car: "I told him, 'If you try to hit me with that bottle, Kevin, I'm going to shoot you.'"

But he said Curtis stayed by the vehicle for as long as 15 minutes. "He was screaming and ranting and raving about body parts being sold," Daniels said.

Daniels eventually filed simple assault charges and he said the judge who handled the case was Sadie Holland — one of the three people who received a letter suspected of containing ricin, according to authorities. Records show she sentenced Daniels to six months in the county jail.

Daniels was an assistant district attorney at the time. "He launched a smear campaign against me, saying I attacked him and tried to shoot him," Daniels said Thursday.

"It made my life miserable for almost two years, having to deal with this guy," he said.

On Thursday, North Mississippi Medical Center confirmed Curtis' employment and said in a statement he was not terminated in response to allegations about the facility.

Under the name Kevin Curtis, multiple online posts describe the conspiracy Curtis claimed to uncover when working there. The posts say the conspiracy 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."

The hospital's statement 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.

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 ... "

Wicker said Thursday in Washington that he had met Curtis when he was working as Elvis at a party Wicker and his wife helped throw for an engaged couple about 10 years ago.

Wicker called him "quite entertaining" but said: "My impression is that since that time he's had mental issues and perhaps is not as stable as he was back then."

Early Thursday evening, the FBI said lab tests confirmed the presence of ricin in the letters mailed to Obama and Wicker.

At least a dozen armed officers wearing gas masks and hazardous-material suits went into Curtis' home Thursday evening in Corinth. There was no immediate word on what they found inside.

Police had blocked off the home with crime-scene tape since Wednesday's arrest. No neighbors have been evacuated.

Raymond Zilinskas, a chemical and biological weapons expert at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California, called the process to make ricin elaborate. He said it would not be difficult to create a low-concentration version using instructions from the Internet, but a finer and more concentrated version would require laboratory equipment and expertise.

Laura Curtis said she doesn't think her ex-husband has the knowledge required to make ricin. She said he collects a monthly disability check, and she did not know where he would get ricin.

She said she cried when she heard about the arrest.

"It's more sinking in today, because you see the longer picture," Curtis said. "It's just me and the kids."

 

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

A Prince George's County, Md. firefighter dressed in a protective suit walks out of a government mail screening facility in Hyattsville, Md., Wednesday, April 17, 2013. Police swept across the U.S. Capitol complex to chase a flurry of reports of suspicious packages and envelopes Wednesday after preliminary tests indicated poisonous ricin in two letters sent to President Barack Obama and a Mississippi senator. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

click image to enlarge

A city of Corinth police car prevents access to a house in Corinth, Miss., on Thursday morning after authorities arrested Paul Kevin Curtis under the suspicion of sending letters covered in ricin to President Barack Obama and others.

AP

 


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