The Ricin Letter Suspect Is Finally Getting His Chance at Fame

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 18 2013 9:03 AM

Watch the Ricin Letter Suspect Sing a Prince Song to Terrified Children

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This image from 2005 shows castor beans, the basic ingredient for the deadly poison ricin.

Photo by Metropolitan Police via Getty Images

On Monday, Paul Kevin Curtis was destined for oddball obscurity. He was, as Peter Weber reports, a musician and online activist of sorts who left so many clues in the ricin letters he allegedly sent to Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and President Obama* that Inspector Clouseau could have nabbed him.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Curtis' Facebook posts includes 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."

Reporting in Weber's own Mississippi reveals a man who narrowly missed the cut for an Errol Morris documentary. He claimed a three-octave range and an ability to impersonate 70 famous musicians, which he demonstrated on music booking sites and a YouTube channel. "I have worked tirelessly to perfect an art form & unique show for all ages with ... authentic costumes songs, gimmicks & props," he wrote on Facebook. Here, he performs a cover of Prince's Little Red Corvette to a class of students who either aren't bothered by wavering pitch or are too polite to say so.

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If he did it, sending those letters was the best decision Curtis ever made. Wasn't it? He's like a real-life Rupert Pupkin—he's gone from a cringe-maker who couldn't get noticed by the local Patch.com reporter to an Interesting Person who'll surely be profiled by Esquire or the Awl someday in long form.

For now I'm more interested in Lady Liberty 1885, the blog that figured out Curtis' identity with some nice online sleuthing. They found a trail of comments and letters with the same sign-off, and inscrutable political opinions. (The photo of him giving a thumbs up to a bumper sticker that reads "Christian and a Democrat" muddles things about his proud insistence that he didn't vote for Obama.)

Correction, April 18, 2013: This post originally said the ricin letters were sent to multiple senators.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.