Feds: Actress arrested in ricin case

Actress Shannon Richardson poses for a photo, in

Actress Shannon Richardson poses for a photo, in Texarkana, Texas. Richardson was charged with mailing a threatening communication to the president. She could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted, U.S. attorney's office spokeswoman Davilyn Walston said. (Credit: AP)

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A Texas woman who told FBI agents her husband sent ricin-laced letters -- one to President Barack Obama, one to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and one to the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns -- was arrested Friday, a source said.

Actress Shannon Richardson, 35, of New Boston, Texas, first came to the attention of the FBI when she called them to report her belief that her husband may have sent the letters, the source said.

Richardson, also known as Shannon Guess and Shannon Rogers, is charged with mailing a threatening communication to the president of the United States, Eastern District of Texas U.S. Attorney John M. Bales and FBI Special Agent in Charge Diego Rodriguez said Friday.

She was arrested in Mount Pleasant, Texas, and appeared before Magistrate Judge Caroline Craven in Texarkana, Texas, authorities said. She faces up to 10 years in federal prison if convicted.

"According to the arrest affidavit, on May 20, 2013, Richardson is alleged to have actually mailed three letters containing the toxin ricin," according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office in the Eastern District of Texas.

The letters were sent to Obama and Mark Glaze in Washington, D.C., and to Bloomberg in New York City, authorities said.

Richardson initially told FBI agents her husband, Nathan Richardson, 33, an Army veteran whom she wed in 2011, may have been behind the mailings, the source said.

She claimed to have found castor beans -- from which ricin is derived -- and Internet searches on their home computer about ricin that made her think he was the culprit, the source said.

Investigators, through several rounds of questioning, polygraphs, and evidence analysis of the couple's home and vehicles, ultimately determined Shannon Richardson had mailed the ricin herself and attempted to set up her husband to take the fall, the source said.

The source said the Richardsons were having marital problems and planned to divorce.

Shannon Richardson has five children and is pregnant, the source said. She is a former beauty pageant winner in Texas who appeared in "The Walking Dead" and "The Vampire Diaries."

Investigators think marital strife may be the motive for her setting up her husband and sending the letters, the source said. "She was upset with him," the source said.

The source noted that a similar incident played out in April when James Everett Dutschke of Tupelo, Miss., allegedly tried to frame another man for sending ricin-laced letters. That man was arrested and released before Dutschke was arrested and charged with sending letters to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and a county court judge. Investigators think the copycat element could have played a role here, the source said.

FBI agents wearing hazardous material suits were seen Wednesday going in and out of the Richardsons' house in New Boston, about 150 miles northeast of Dallas near the Oklahoma and Arkansas borders, The Associated Press reported.

In a statement Friday afternoon, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly commended the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force for making an arrest in the case.

"Fortunately, neither Mayor Bloomberg, President Obama, the director of the Mayors Committee Against Illegal Guns, nor those who processed the ricin-laced mail incurred serious illness or injury, in part because of safety measures already in place," Kelly said in a statement.

If inhaled, ricin can cause respiratory failure, among other symptoms. If swallowed, it can shut down the liver and other organs, resulting in death. The amount of ricin that can fit on the head of a pin is said to be enough to kill an adult if properly prepared. No antidote is available, though researchers are trying to develop one.

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