On Wednesday evening, the FBI arrested a Mississippi man, Paul Kevin Curtis, on suspicion of sending letters filled with the poison ricin to Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), President Obama, and a local judge. If guilty, Curtis didn't cover his tracks very well. The arrest was based on information gathered "very early on," an official tells The New York Times. Presumably that information includes Curtis' use of his actual initials, KC, in the letter.
In fact, Curtis left enough breadcrumbs that a conservative website, Lady Liberty 1885, apparently fingered Curtis hours before the FBI announced his arrest, just through internet sleuthing. Curtis' Facebook posts include both the sign-off used in the ricin letters to Wicker and Obama — "This is KC and I approve this message" — and, according to Lady Liberty, the same quote: "To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance."
So, who is Kevin Curtis? To begin with, he "might be better known to some as a celebrity impersonator," says the Jackson, Miss., Clarion-Ledger. Curtis, 45 and a resident of Corinth, impersonates 70 celebrity singers, including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jon Bon Jovi, Prince, and Kenny Chesney — using the stage name KC. According to his profile on Reverb Nation, Curtis has been performing in Elvis competitions since age 10. And on the entertainment booking site GigSalad, Curtis says he has an impressive three-octave range and is a seven-time World Finalist at the Memphis-area Elvis impersonation contest "Images of the King."
Here's Curtis in action:
When actual Elvis impersonators are doing actual ricin attacks, satire is officially dead. #BeamMeUp— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) April 18, 2013
But Elvis impersonations aren't Curtis' only passion. According to several posts online, and a book he was shopping around, Curtis is convinced that he stumbled upon a massive, secret organ-harvesting network while performing janitorial services at a local Mississippi hospital. Many of the missives in which he details his grisly discovery in the hospital morgue, and the fallout when he tried to report it, end with a variant of the same sign-off, "This is Kevin Curtis and I approve...," says Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed. And less than 20 hours before he was arrested, he revisited the organ-harvesting allegation on Facebook:
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....we hope and pray their bodies are not violated but I am here to tell you, as long as the bone, tissue & organ harvesting indu$try is NOT REGULATED....on any level(s) whether it be local, state, federal or national...........your loved ones body parts are NOT $AFE. It's not fun for me to be the Me$$enger here. It was not fun in 1999 when I made accidental discovery and became a "Person of interest".
My mother wants me to SHUT UP. My brothers fear me. My sister hates me. My cousins have hostility towards me (they work in healthcare) I have lost most of my friends. I have spent more than $130,000.00 on legal fee's in 13.5 yrs. They burned down my home, killed my dogs, my cat, my rabbit, blew up my 1966 Plymouth Valent. They destroyed my marriage, they distracted my career, they stalked, they trolled, they came in to my home, took my computers, had me arrested 22 times and guess what? I am still a thorn in their corrupt anals! I will remain here until Jesus Christ decides its time for me to go. [Facebook, via BuzzFeed]
Curtis' Facebook page also has several mentions of Wicker and Obama. One of his postings, to a site called Ripoff Report, includes this detail:
I sent letters to State Representative Roger Wicker, Senator Trent Lott and Thad Cochran. 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 leading up to my case. [Ripoff Report]
It concludes: "This is Kevin Curtis and I approve this report."
In terms of his ideology, he writes this under the "Political Views" section of Facebook: "Is facebook.com REALLY a place to advertise our political views? Really...throw me a frickin bone here someone!" But he also posted a picture of himself with his thumb up in front of a bumper sticker reading "Christian and a Democrat." In a Facebook post mourning the loss of the 8-year-old killed in the Boston Marathon bombing, he seems all over the map:
Heart breaking. I have an 8 year old son with the smile of an angel. This world is not what it used to be and the hopes of all are not what they 'USED' to be. We have let God down. We removed prayer from schools in 62....we have staged wars simply for profits in oil and drugs....we have lied our way from the capitol to the pulpit. We the people should be ashamed. I weep for the future of our children. [Facebook, via The Clarion-Ledger]
The easy trail to Curtis is a big shift from the 2001 anthrax letters. After seven years, the feds were about to finally charge somebody for the attacks, scientist Bruce Ivins, when the suspect killed himself. But Curtis, if guilty, is more the norm than the exception, says Michael Crowley at TIME. His Facebook page features a certificate from Mensa, the club for "geniuses" with high IQs, but his writings suggest Curtis "may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer."
[His arrest] spotlights the strange past of a bioweapon that has attracted numerous bumbling would-be domestic terrorists, a rogues' gallery of antigovernment cranks who in some cases managed to scare people, but mostly just wound up in federal prison.... There have actually been several domestic ricin plots in recent years, none involving jihadists and most the work of antigovernment radicals. Not that any have come close to executing a successful attack: in late 2011, for example, federal agents arrested four Georgia men with militia ties whose plans included bombmaking and killing government officials with ricin.... This compilation of ricin-related cases reveals numerous other motley characters caught seeking or trying to use ricin. [TIME]
In fact, says Crowley, the only person who "has delivered ricin and gotten away with it" is a person who goes by the name Fallen Angel, who sent two ricin-laced letters to the Bush White House and the Transportation Department in 2003. Fallen Angel was angry about trucking regulations, not pilfered body parts, and his ricin was deemed pretty non-lethal. But "say this for Fallen Angel: He was smart enough not to reveal his initials. And in the hapless world of America's would-be ricin killers, that may pass for genius."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- In Ferguson, Michael Brown lost his life — and America's police lost the benefit of the doubt
- Republicans love this new health care plan. Too bad it's basically a tax cut for the rich.
- Is it now OK to have sex with animals?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- In defense of Gwyneth Paltrow
- 8 tricks to surviving the holidays without gaining weight or being grouchy
- 17 old proverbs we should use more often
- Adam Sandler's 'Thanksgiving Song': Explaining the 22-year-old tune's pop-culture references
- Don't blame Chuck Hagel: Obama's foreign policy has been a disaster from end to end
- 13 vegetarian dishes for Thanksgiving
Subscribe to the Week