Welcome to the new weird. The fresh batch of ricin letters has uncovered a bean-pounder, or bean-pounders, even stranger than Tupelo, Mississippi's accused ricin guru, guitarist and karate instructor J. Everett Dutschke. If you thought ricin mail was already bizarre, it just got a whole lot more so.
Castor powder blob letter to Bloomberg.
I consider it a given you're either wholly or somewhat insane to pound castor beans and mail the powder to the president and other officials. And inside the house at 111 Maple in New Boston, Texas, something is very insane.
Shannon Guess Richardson of New Boston, TX, a ricin babe?
The FBI detained Nathaniel D. Richardson of New Boston on Thursday after his wife , Shannon Guess Richardson, tipped authorities that she'd found a suspicious material in Tupperware in her refrigerator as well as searches for ricin on the home computer.
The FBI picked up Richardson for questioned and dispatched its mobile evidence and WMD units to the Richardson household, which was flipped.
While castor seeds were found in Nathaniel D. Richardson's car, under questioning he amazingly claimed they were not his and that it was the wife who had sent the poison letters to the President and Mayor Bloomberg. The FBI released Richardson yesterday, although he remains a suspect.
Richardson's wife has now come under suspicion.
Shannon Guess Richardson had been married three times prior to Mr. Richardson. And with five children from the priors, plus another on the way, the marriage is headed for divorce. (Coincidentally, accused ricin mailer J. Everett Dutschke has been married three times.)
Of course, the upshot is that as in the case of J. Everett Dutschke, this is more dual use ricin mail, poison letters to frame someone you wish to be rid of, and for officials. But who is the framer and who the framed? Or is it a husband-and-wife ricin-mailing team that has now fallen into scapegoating?
This is what the FBI is attempting to sort.
Did Shannon Guess Richardson not like the President?
Domestically, castor seeds have occasionally been used in plots in which one spouse tries to poison the other. Most famously, a woman named Debora Green tried to poison her husband with ricin in the early Nineties. Green was only successful in making the man deathly ill although she did later burn down the family home, killing two of her children.
However, copy cat use of ricin mail to the President and others in framing an acquaintance or your spouse would appear to be totally unique at this point in American history. Is the primary motivation for the ricin mail a frame job, or getting crazy words out to the President and others? Or do they share equal weight?
In less than sixty days, at least three different individuals, in three different states (Mississippi, Washington and Texas) have sent ricin mail to the President and others. One is most certainly a frame job. The third may also turn out to be so.
Everyone knows that the President, and important people in general, never open their mail. (A reader puckishly remarked that nobody earning over $30,000/year in America opens their own mail.)
Everyone also knows that thanks to the war on terror and anthrax mailer Bruce Ivins, mail to important people is rigorously checked for nasty things. This guarantees that ricin mail is quickly discovered, although the occasional letter may go awry from the collection, as one aimed at the CIA in the Matthew Buquet case seems to.
The discovery of ricin mail immediately triggers an FBI dragnet, with results as have been seen.
This makes the "why" of ricin-mailing unfathomable. Castor powder is obviously not good for framing others. And sending it to the President will inevitably result in embarkation on a long custodial trip.
Ricin mail is crazy and now, virtually always suicidal. Yet ricin mailers persist! They seem without mercy. Does it not occur to them that the only people who will handle their nasty-grams are those in exactly the same economic circumstances?
They are just cruel and irrational. In addition, it seems the detection and apprehension of them, while necessary, is one helluva a waste of taxpayer money.
Welcome to the empire in 2013, from land of the free to land of debris. There's certainly a book in it.
Can haz castor seeds?
In an abrupt change from the war on terror years, officials have apparently realized that more than a decade of telling everyone that ricin is easy to make and that castor bean mash is deadly has been counterproductive.
In fact, one can add that this particular received wisdom has some bearing on why America seems to have more bean pounders than anyone else.
Officials cautioned that there is "a significant difference" between a trained scientist weaponizing the ricin extracted from castor beans and an individual "taking some castor beans, running them through a coffee grinder, and soaking them in acetone" - a crude and ineffective homemade process that officials said would only be liable to induce, in a recipient foolish enough to go so far as to swallow the contents, symptoms as mild as diarrhea.
Related: A general running history of ricin cases during the war on terror. (Many pages long.)
Originally published at Dick Destiny blog. About the author. George Smith has consulted in domestic and foreign ricin cases.