Ricin-filled tales: Criminals who sent poisoned envelopes to Presidents

Updated: Sep 20, 2020, 09:33 AM(IST)

The US Presidents and high-profile personalities have bee targetted at various points, and one of the most notorious ways has been poisoning. 

William Clyde Allen III

William Clyde Allen III was 39-years-old when he tried to "send a message" to the US President Donald Trump in 2018. He sent letters with envelopes laced with ricin addressed to the White House and wrote “Jack and the Missile Bean Stock Powder” on the top of the envelopes.

He was traced after his return address was found on two of such envelopes. On being caught, he admitted to the crime and also informed of sending similar envelopes to the FBI Director Christopher Wray, Defence Secretary James Mattis and the Navy’s top officer, Admiral John Richardson. All these envelopes found traces of ricin on it.

He also claimed of sending similar envelopes to the Queen Elizabeth, Russian President Vladimir Putin, the secretary of the Air Force. However, these were not found.


Shannon Guess Richardson

In July 2014, a 36-year-old actress, Shannon Guess Richardson, who also featured in the popular television series "The Walking Dead", was accused of mailing letters containing ricin to then President Barack Obama and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

These letters read, “You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone wants to come to my house will get shot in the face."

Richardson tried to blame it on her husband, but later took a plea deal of serving 18-year-long jail sentence claiming she did not want to hurt anyone.


James Everett Dutschke

In 2013, a Mississippi man, James Everett Dutschke, sent letters with the deadly substance to then-President Barack Obama, a US senator Roger Wicker and a state judge Sadie Holland.

Later, in May 2014, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty of the crime, and the next 20 years will be decided on the basis of his behaviour.

The 42-year-old man was a martial arts instructor in Tupelo. He is also registered as a sex offender


The recent case

The most recent case of poisoned envelopes has happened in the US on Saturday. The US Secret Service intercepted an envelope laced with the deadly substance and addressed to the White House.

This is being interpreted as an attack at the US President Donald Trump, weeks before the upcoming US elections. As of now, there is no suspect and the investigations are underway.



Ricin can be found naturally in castor beans, but has to be forcefully converted to poison. It can cause death within 36 to 72 hours from exposure, even if it is used in the smallest dose. As of now, no known antidote exists.


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