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Ricin investigation uncovers little physical evidence, testifies FBI (+video)

Authorities acknowledge that they have found no traces of ricin or ricin-making materials in their search of the home and vehicle of Kevin Curtis, the Mississippi man charged with sending letters laced with the poison to President Obama and two other officials.

By Correspondent / April 23, 2013

This undated photo obtained from the Facebook page of Paul Kevin Curtis shows, according to neighbors, Paul Kevin Curtis. Curtis was arrested last Wednesday at his home in Corinth, Miss., near the Tennessee state line. He is accused of mailing letters with ricin to President Obama, a US senator, and a county judge.

AP

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Federal authorities acknowledged that they have found little physical evidence to support their case against a Mississippi man who has been charged with sending poison-laced letters to President Obama and two other public officials.  

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Allison Terry works on the web team at the Christian Science Monitor, coordinating online infographics. She contributes to the culture section and Global News blog, and previously reported and edited for the national news and cover page desks.

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Last week, letters addressed to Mr. Obama; US Sen. Roger Wicker (R) of Mississippi; and Lee County, Miss., Judge Sadie Holland tested positive for ricin, a potent toxin derived from castor beans. 

Paul Kevin Curtis, a resident of Corinth, Miss., remains in custody after his April 17 arrest on federal charges of using the mail to threaten the life of the president and to injure others. A pretrial hearing to assess the evidence against Mr. Curtis enters its third day Tuesday, as prosecutors are expected to introduce evidence about the suspect’s mental state.

But defense attorney Christi McCoy said she hopes the charges will be dropped because investigators have not produced hard evidence linking Curtis to the attempted poisoning.

"The searches are concluded, not one single shred of evidence was found to indicate Kevin could have done this," Ms. McCoy told reporters after Monday's hearing.

An FBI agent testified Monday that investigators have found no traces of ricin or devices used to make it in Curtis’s home or vehicle. The FBI also did not find ricin-related searches on the suspect’s computer, the Associated Press reported.

"There was no apparent ricin, castor beans or any material there that could be used for the manufacturing, like a blender or something," FBI Agent Brandon Grant testified at the hearing.

Mr. Grant said that Curtis could have thrown away equipment used to make ricin, and that the agency is doing a deeper analysis of his computer. And despite the lack of physical evidence against Curtis, Grant said he is still the primary suspect.

“Given the right mindset and the Internet and the acquisition of material, other people could be involved. However, given information right now, we believe we have the right individual," he said.

The strongest evidence against Curtis is previous antigovernment writings and that he shares the same initials, K.C., that were used in the sign-off phrase in the letters: "I am KC and I approve this message."

Senator Wicker's staff identified Curtis’s name from among a list of the senator’s constituents who had written the office before who also had the initials K.C. The FBI is still trying to figure out exactly where the letters originated from based on postal service processing codes, but the letters each had a Memphis, Tenn., postmark. There is no DNA evidence from the envelopes or stamps because they were all self-adhesive, Grant said in court Monday. The envelopes also lack fingerprints.

But the letters do refer to a book that Curtis self-published. The book, titled “Missing Pieces,” accuses the federal government of secretly selling human organs.

The Los Angeles Times reported that, on the day he was arrested, Curtis posted an unusual comment to his Facebook profile: "I'm on the hidden front lines of a secret war. A war that is making billions of dollars for corrupt mafia related organizations and people. (bone, tissue, organ, body parts harvesting black market) when we lay our loved ones to rest.”

Defense attorney McCoy said evidence based on online writings is not enough to convict her client, and because his writings are available online, it’s possible he is being framed.

"He is the perfect scapegoat, the perfect patsy, and it’s really sad because at first everybody’s like, you know, he’s kind of crazy, maybe he did it,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “But as the searches continued, there’s just nothing on this guy. Nothing on his computers, in his car, in his house.”

– Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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