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Second Man Arrested in Tainted Letter Case, Officials Report

SUNDAY, April 28 (HealthDay News) -- Just days after one Mississippi man was cleared of charges that he sent ricin-laced letters to President Obama, a Republican senator and a judge, federal agents have arrested a second Mississippi man in connection with the crime.

According to The New York Times, FBI agents arrested J. Everett Dutschke, 41, of Tupelo, without incident at 1 a.m. Saturday morning.

The first man arrested, Paul Kevin Curtis, also of Tupelo, appears to have been framed by Dutschke, the Times reported. The two men apparently had an ongoing feud over numerous matters. Curtis was released from jail on Tuesday.

Saturday's arrest is the latest twist in a strange tale that first unfolded during the week of the Boston Marathon bombings, when the deadly toxin ricin was discovered in letters sent to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, (R-Miss.) and Judge Sadie Holland, of Lee County Justice Court in Mississippi.

Ricin, which is found in the castor oil plant, can prove deadly if inhaled, one expert noted.

"Without a doubt, ricin is toxic," said Victoria Richards, a toxicologist and assistant professor of medical sciences at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.

"If castor beans are eaten [about 20 for an adult] death can occur in six to eight days," Richards said. "When concentrated, ricin powder may be lethal in a much shorter timeframe. There is a process called oral inhalation, in which powders or aerosolized agents [depending on the particle size] can be deposited in the mouth and eventually swallowed."

If swallowed, "ricin will cause nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and dehydration," Richards added. "Multiple organ damage also occurs, and eventually death."

More information

For more on ricin, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCES: Victoria Richards, Ph.D., assistant professor of medical sciences, Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Conn; USA Today

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