Experts: Ricin like that in letters easy to make

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 19, 2013 at 10:28 pm •  Published: April 19, 2013

Meanwhile, Curtis appeared in federal court Friday afternoon for a hearing in Oxford, Miss. He was ushered into the courtroom in an orange jail jumpsuit and shackles. He turned to face his adult daughter in the audience before the hearing and whispered, "I didn't do it."

In court documents, Curtis' attorney, Christi McCoy, gave some details of Curtis' arrest. Curtis had gone to get his mail outside his home and was planning to go to his ex-wife's home to cook dinner for her and their children when he was approached by officers in SWAT gear, she wrote. He was then interrogated at an FBI office for several hours, handcuffed and chained to a chair.

Curtis cooperated to the best of his ability, but when he suggested he might need a lawyer, an agent discouraged that, McCoy wrote.

Under questioning by Curtis' attorney, FBI Agent Brandon M. Grant testified Friday that he could not say whether ricin had been found in Curtis' home and stressed that he did not know what may have been found as the hearing approached two hours. He did say that investigators found a package they were interested in, but he did not know what was in it.

Prosecutors had wanted to delay the hearing because searches of Curtis home and car had not been completed and DNA and other tests are pending, the judge allowed it to go on.

Grant testified that there was one fingerprint on the letter sent to the judge, but that it didn't match Curtis. He said several people handled the letter, and DNA and other tests are pending.

Grant said authorities were still trying to determine whether there were any co-conspirators, but Curtis is the main focus.

McCoy said the only evidence linking her client to the mailings are postings online. She said after the hearing Friday that she has seen no hard scientific evidence thus far. The federal government has offered no evidence he had ricin or castor beans in his possession, she said.

McCoy peppered the agent with questions in an attempt to show the government had little hard evidence, but Grant said lives were at risk and it wasn't like a fraud investigation in which authorities could gather more evidence before making an arrest.

Grant testified that Curtis' family had become increasingly concerned by his behavior.

Grant said Curtis' ex-wife told authorities that he fought with his daughter around Christmas and told her, "Maybe I should go ahead and kill you."

The daughter, 20-year-old Madison Curtis, said after the hearing that she loves her father and stands by him, without directly addressing the accusation.

Grant also testified that Curtis' ex-wife said Curtis once told her that he was in hostage situation in Chicago in 1991 after a breaking up with a former girlfriend. He threatened suicide and shot a gun in the air, the agent said.

However, the agent said they haven't been able to find a record of that.

Grant's testimony ended Friday evening, but the hearing is set to continue Monday morning.

Curtis' brother Jack Curtis and Madison Curtis said afterward they also were not convinced by the government's case.

"After hearing what I heard in this courtroom, it appears to me that the reason I haven't been provided any evidence is there appears to be none," Jack Curtis said.

Family and acquaintances have described Curtis as a caring father and enthusiastic musician who struggled for years with mental illness and who was consumed by trying to publicize his claims of a conspiracy to sell body parts on the black market.

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Gresko reported from Washington. Associated Press Photographer Rogelio Solis in Corinth and writers Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Jay Reeves in Oxford and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.