Story Summary

Ricin sent to White House, senator

Ricin, a poisonous powdery substance, was found in a letter sent to Republic Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and a letter sent to President Obama also contained a “suspicious substance.”

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SEATTLE — The FBI said Thursday that a ricin-laced letter sent to President Obama and intercepted on May 22 came from Spokane.

In a news release, the FBI said that a total of five threatening letters, three of which tested positive for the toxin ricin, were mailed from Spokane earlier this month. One was sent to a federal judge in Spokane, one was sent to a post office in Spokane, one was sent to the president, one was sent to Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane and one was sent to the CIA.

Four of the letters have been intercepted.  The fifth letter mailed to the CIA was sent to an address in McLean, Va., that does not receive mail deliveries and has not been found yet, the FBI said.

“Subsequent analysis … indicated the substance in the letters sent to the president of the United States, the federal District Court judge, and the Spokane post office contained active ricin toxin,” the FBI said. “The contents of the Fairchild letter continue to undergo testing.”

On May 22, the FBI arrested Matthew Ryan Buquet, 38, for allegedly sending the letter to the judge. A federal grand jury has indicted Buquet on one count of mailing threatening communications.

“The four envelopes in the possession of law enforcement officials were postmarked in Spokane on May 13, 2013,” the FBI said. “Each addressee was handwritten in red ink.”

The FBI advised the public that should it come into contact with a letter addressed to the CIA that it should not be opened or handled and that law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately.

Letters sent to Mayor Bloomberg test positive for ricin: police

ricin-letters-hazmatCNN – FBI agents on Wednesday searched the former martial arts studio of a Tupelo man in connection with the investigation into ricin-tainted letters sent to President Barack Obama and other officials, the man’s lawyer, Lori Basham, told CNN.

Agents in hazardous materials suits had searched James Everett Dutschke’s home on Tuesday, the same day prosecutors dropped charges against the man arrested last week on suspicion of sending the letters.

Authorities have not called Dutschke a suspect and no charges have been filed. It was unclear what, if anything, they found.

Read the CNN article HERE.

(CNN) — Charges were dismissed Tuesday against the man accused of sending ricin-laden letters to President Obama and others.

The attorney for Paul Kevin Curtis told reporters Tuesday that federal authorities are looking at another suspect in connection with the crime.

ricin suspectA U.S. attorney dismissed the charges, saying  “new information” has been uncovered.

Curtis, an Elvis impersonator from Corinth, Miss., was charged with sending a threat to the president last week after letters containing the poison triggered security scares around Washington. But a preliminary hearing that had been scheduled to continue on Tuesday was canceled and Curtis was released.

Jeff Woodfin, the chief deputy marshal in Oxford, where the case was being heard, said Curtis was no longer in federal custody but did not know the circumstances surrounding his release.

Curtis was accused of sending letters containing “a suspicious granular substance” to Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi; and Sadie Holland, a Justice Court judge in Lee County, Mississippi. The FBI said the substance tested positive for ricin, a toxin derived from castor beans that has no known antidote.

The FBI said no illnesses had been found as a result of exposure to the toxin.

Curtis’ attorney, Christi McCoy, told CNN last week that her client “vehemently denies the allegations against him.”

–Bill Mears, CNN

It was a wild week of news, from the Boston Marathon and Kaufam County to the ricin scare, the explosion in West, Texas Fertillizer and flood waters in Chicago.

WASHINGTON — The FBI said Thursday it confirmed the presence of the deadly poison ricin in letters sent to President Barack Obama, a U.S. senator and a judge.

Earlier, an Elvis impersonator charged in the case appeared in federal court in Oxford Mississippi.

During a four-minute hearing, Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander ordered Paul Kevin Curtis — who appeared in court with attorney Christi McCoy — to remain in custody until a grand jury issues an expected indictment and a preliminary and detention hearing on April 29.

In confirming the letters tested positive for ricin, the FBI said it was “not aware of any illness as a result of exposure to these letters.”

Further tests were being conducted, the FBI statement said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who was the intended recipient of a letter  laced with ricin, said he had hired the suspected sender, an Elvis impersonator, to play at a wedding a decade ago.

Wicker, a quiet two-term senator who was trailed by security in the Capitol on Thursday, said he had hired Curtis and “he was quite entertaining.”

“I have indeed met the gentleman in question,” Wicker told reporters.

“He’s an entertainer. He’s an Elvis impersonator. He entertained at a party that my wife and I held for a young couple that was getting married,” the senator said.

“My impression is that since that time he’s had mental issues. He’s not as stable as he was back then.”

elvis182wayWicker said he and his wife “kicked in our share” to partially cover the entertainment costs for the newlyweds.

The senator declined to discuss earlier reports that the suspect, who also allegedly sent a letter with ricin to President Obama, had corresponded frequently. But he added, “I wouldn’t say they’re inaccurate.”

The suspect was arrested late Wednesday in Corinth, Miss.

“I should, probably ought to, just keep my trap shut,” Wicker said.

By Michael A. Memoli / Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON (CNN) — An arrest has been made in connection with possibly contaminated letters sent to President Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

Paul Kevin Curtis was arrested by the FBI at his home in Corinth, Miss., the department said in a statement.

Both letters carried an identical closing statement, according to an FBI bulletin.

According to the FBI bulletin, both letters, postmarked April 8, 2013, out of Memphis, Tenn., included an identical phrase, “to see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance.”

In addition, both letters are signed: “I am KC and I approve this message.”

white houseThe letters were discovered Tuesday. The letters were stopped at a government mail-screening facility after initial tests indicated the presence of the poison ricin.

Because initial tests can be “inconsistent,” the envelopes have been sent off for additional tests, an FBI statement said. The FBI does not expect to receive results from the tests until Thursday, federal law enforcement sources told CNN.

 Washington (CNN)[Breaking news update at 1:17 p.m. EST: The letters addressed to the president and Sen. Wicker both contain the same language, a law enforcement source told CNN: "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."]

Government laboratories are testing samples of a suspicious substance found in letters at off-site White House and Senate mailrooms after preliminary test results pointing to the deadly poison ricin rattled Washington, authorities said Wednesday.

White House mail handlers identified a “suspicious substance” Tuesday in a letter addressed to President Barack Obama that preliminarily tested positive for ricin, the FBI said. The same day, a similar letter addressed to Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, tested positive for ricin — a toxin with no known antidote, officials said.

white house

But the FBI said initial tests can be “inconsistent,” and the envelopes have been sent off for additional tests.

Meanwhile, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, says one of his home-state offices received a “suspicious-looking” letter and alerted authorities. “We do not know yet if the mail presented a threat,” said Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

KPTV reported that the Oregon Department of Revenue was evacuated about 7 a.m. Wednesday morning after a suspicious powder was found in the mailing room. Oregon State Police and the FBI were brought in to investigate the incident; officials gave an all clear a few hours later.

CNN also reported that officials are investigating a suspicious letter that arrived Wednesday at Sen. Jeff Flake’s office in Phoenix, his spokeswoman said.

“There was a suspicious letter intercepted by a member of Senator Flake’s staff at his Phoenix office. At this time, we do not yet know any more details as to the contents of the letter. Law enforcement officials are on the scene, and all staff members are safe,” Genevieve Rozansky said.

For the complete CNN story, go here.


Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — An envelope that tested positive for the deadly poison ricin was intercepted Tuesday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol’s off-site mail facility in Washington, congressional and law enforcement sources tell CNN.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was told the letter was addressed to the office of Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi. A laboratory in Maryland confirmed the presence of ricin after an initial field tests indicated the poison was present, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer said.

The letter had a Memphis, Tennessee, postmark and no return address, Gainer wrote in an e-mail to senators and aides.

Sen. Claire McCaskill told reporters after a briefing for lawmakers that a suspect has already been identified in the incident. Members will be warning their home-state offices to look out for similar letters, she said.

Wicker, the junior senator from Mississippi, has been assigned a protective detail, according to a law enforcement source.

A primer on ricin

Postal workers started handling mail at a site off Capitol Hill after the 2001 anthrax attacks that targeted then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, among others. Senators were told those offices would be temporarily shut down “to make sure they get everything squared away,” McCaskill, D-Missouri, said Tuesday afternoon.

“The bottom line is, the process we have in place worked,” she said.

A previous ricin scare hit the Capitol in 2004, when tests identified a letter in a Senate mailroom that served then-Majority Leader Bill Frist’s office. The discovery forced 16 employees to go through decontamination procedures, but no one reported any ill effects afterward, Frist said.

Ricin is a highly toxic substance derived from castor beans. As little as 500 micrograms — an amount the size of the head of a pin — can kill an adult. There is no specific test for exposure and no antidote once exposed.

It can be produced easily and cheaply, and authorities in several countries have investigated links between suspect extremists and ricin. But experts say it is more effective on individuals than as a weapon of mass destruction.

Ricin was used in the 1978 assassination of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov. The author, who had defected nine years earlier, was jabbed by the tip of an umbrella while waiting for a bus in London and died four days later.

Wicker, 61, was first appointed by former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour to the U.S. Senate in December 2007 after the resignation of then-Sen. Trent Lott. He was then elected to the seat in 2008 and won re-election in 2012 to a second term.

Before joining the Senate, he held elected office as a U.S. representative in the House from 1995 to 2007. Before that, he served in the Mississippi Senate.

–Mike Brooks, Dana Bash, Rachel Streitfeld and Matt Smith, CNN