The FBI said Thursday that lab tests have confirmed the presence of the deadly poison ricin in letters mailed to a President Barack Obama and a U.S. senator from Mississippi. The suspect, who appeared in federal court, maintains his innocence, his attorney said.
There were no known illnesses from exposure to the substance.
Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, of Corinth, Miss., wore shackles and a Johnny Cash T-shirt in a federal courtroom in Oxford, Miss. He said little and did not enter a plea at a brief hearing.
He faces two charges on accusations of threatening Obama and others. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison. Curtis wrote in online postings that he had uncovered a conspiracy to sell human body parts on the black market.
An FBI affidavit says Curtis sent three letters with ricin to Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and a Mississippi judge. The letters read in part: "No one wanted to listen to me before. There are still 'Missing Pieces.' Maybe I have your attention now even if that means someone must die."
Wicker said that he had met Curtis when the suspect was working as an Elvis impersonator at a party Wicker and his wife helped throw for an engaged couple.
Attorney Christi R. McCoy said Curtis "maintains 100 percent that he did not do this." McCoy said she has not yet decided whether to seek a hearing on whether Curtis is mentally competent to stand trial. Court documents indicate he had been distrustful of the government for years. In 2007, Curtis' ex-wife called police in Booneville, Miss., to report he was delusional and felt the government was spying on him with drones.