Official: Ricin confirmed on Sen. Wicker letter - WNEM TV 5

Ricin letters suspect appears in court, claims innocence

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A hazmat truck sits outside a government mail facility in Washington, DC on Wednesday after a threatening letter was sent to the president and a senator. (Source: CNN) A hazmat truck sits outside a government mail facility in Washington, DC on Wednesday after a threatening letter was sent to the president and a senator. (Source: CNN)

(RNN) – Paul Kevin Curtis did not enter a plea for two federal charges of threatening the president and others, and his lawyer expressed surprise after he appeared in court on Thursday.

Curtis, 45, was arrested Wednesday at his home in Corinth, MS, and charged after a threatening letter sent to Sen. Roger Wicker, D-MS, tested positive for the deadly substance ricin. Similar letters were sent to President Barack Obama and a judge in Mississippi.

"I know Kevin, I know his family. This is a huge shock," said his attorney, Christi R. McCoy, after their court appearance in Oxford, MS.

McCoy said her client "maintains 100 percent" that he did not commit the crime.

The judge scheduled a preliminary hearing and detention hearing for Friday.

Curtis' family released a statement Wednesday saying "our family is distraught" to learn about the claims that he sent ricin to public officials and they say that Curtis is bipolar. 

"We know none of the details about these claims, and we have been furnished no evidence as to the allegations being made against Kevin. We are, however, far too familiar with Kevin's lengthy history of mental illness," the statement read.

They say they persuaded Curtis to begin taking medication three years ago, but after he stopped, there was no legal way for them to force him to take it.

"Unfortunately, because his mental problems cause Kevin to believe he does not require medical treatment, he refused to continue to take the medications."

The statement goes on to say "When Kevin is taking his medication as prescribed, he is a loving compassionate person ... Our family is hopeful that the federal government will do something to provide some assistance from Kevin's mental illness."

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer said earlier Thursday ricin was unequivocally the substance on the letter addressed to Wicker.

"Our field tests indicate it was ricin. Our lab tests confirm it was ricin," Garner said.

The FBI also confirmed Thursday afternoon ricin was present on the letters to Obama and Wicker.

"To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance," Curtis wrote in both the letters addressed to Wicker and Obama.

Mississippi state Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said Wednesday that his 80-year-old mother, Sadie Holland, received a threatening letter last week with a substance that has since been sent to a lab for testing. Sadie Holland is a judge in Lee County, MS.

Like the letters sent to Obama and Wicker, the letter sent to Holland was signed "KC."

Curtis' online profile paints a complex picture of a man with multiple interests who apparently was trying to bring to light actions he felt were wrong on behalf of the government.

Multiple news agencies cited a cousin named Ricky Curtis who said the suspect had written about problems he had with his business and his belief that the government had mistreated him. The cousin did not elaborate about what that mistreatment was.

Paul Kevin Curtis owned a cleaning business that held commercial contracts with several companies.

Posts on several sites using the identity Kevin Curtis revealed a belief he had uncovered a healthcare provider's conspiracy to sell human body parts on the black market.

One Myspace page titled "The Cleaning Crew" run by Kevin Curtis posted a link to a site that defends FDA whistle blowers.

Curtis was also a singer and musician who covered various artists, including Elvis, Roy Orbison, Bon Jovi and Prince.

One of the videos on his YouTube channel shows him performing a Prince cover song in what appears to be a classroom, and others show him singing at multiple other functions.

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