UPDATE (2 p.m.): Federal prosecutors have charged Paul Kevin Curtis with sending a threat to the president. He also faces charges of sending "communications addressed to other persons, and containing a threat to injure the person of others." Curtis is expected to appear in U.S. District Court in Oxford, Miss., later today.
This morning, investigators confirmed a lab test indicated the envelope sent to President Barack Obama tested positive for the deadly poison Ricin.
Through his attorney, Curtis claimed his innocence, saying his arrest came as a complete surprise.
EARLIER STORY: Police have arrested a man they believe is responsible for sending letters laced with poison to President Barack Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
Investigators say Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, of Corinth, Miss., believed he had uncovered a conspiracy to sell human body parts on the black market and that the government was trying to ruin his reputation. He was arrested without incident Wednesday at his home near the Tennessee border.
Police have not said what tipped them off to Curtis, but several websites registered in his name detail his complaints against the government. In one post, he 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. …”
He ended with the postscript: “This is Kevin Curtis & I approve this message.”
According to the FBI, the letters sent to Obama and Wicker were postmarked Memphis, Tenn. Both said, “To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance.” They were signed, “I am KC and I approve this message.”
In his online posts, Curtis claimed he uncovered the body parts conspiracy when he worked at a local hospital between 1998 and 2000. He claimed he discovered a refrigerator full of dismembered body parts and organs wrapped in plastic at a morgue.
Neighbors who learned of his arrest said they were surprised. Curtis kept to himself but did not seem violent. The family also expressed surprise. Ricky Curtis, who said he was the suspect’s cousin, described him as a “super entertainer” and Elvis impersonator. No one in the family expected him to be involved in something like this.
“We’re all in shock. I don’t think anybody had a clue that this kind of stuff was weighing on his mind,” Ricky Curtis told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.
The letters Curtis allegedly sent are still being tested to confirm the presence of ricin. Preliminary field tests can often show false positives for ricin, a derivative of castor beans. The poison has no antidote and is deadliest when inhaled.