By Robbie Ward and Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Charged with sending ricin-laced letters to the president and other elected officials, an Elvis impersonator now waits in the Lafayette County Jail, leaving some people wondering about the man they thought they knew.
Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, who grew up in Natchez and has lived in places in north Mississippi including Tupelo, Booneville and Corinth, seems to have been convinced that he had insider information related to a scheme of North Mississippi Medical Center that involved selling body parts.
He posted online on a number of different websites that he discovered a refrigerator full of body parts while working there as a janitor from 1998 to 2000.
Through people he met in person and online, Curtis spread his beliefs about the hospital. At the same time, he continued his efforts in songwriting and as an Elvis impersonator, an interest he shared with his brother.
Curtis appears to have maintained up to eight different Facebook profiles, posting on them comments on many different topics ranging from his music interests to sympathy about deaths in the recent explosions in Boston to his anger related to people associated with the alleged body parts scheme.
A woman who asked not to be identified recalled Thursday having Curtis perform 12 years ago at her daughter’s first birthday. She received emails from him that started as harmless but then turned more conspiratorial, enough that she stopped reading them.
However, she still has a hard time believing the musical performer would send envelopes laced with poison to President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and Lee County Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland.
“If Kevin is found guilty I pray he receives help,” she said. “Clearly, he suffers from a mental or emotional breakdown.”
In a lawsuit filed in 2000 by Tupelo attorney Jim Waide, Curtis claimed he was fired from NMMC for complaining about poor work conditions. A hospital spokeswoman said Curtis was fired from the hospital, but not for reasons he stated.
The hospital spokeswoman also said NMMC has a contract with Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency that takes organs from the hospital for transplantation in other hospitals and does not receive payment for the organs.
Waide said he later withdrew from the case out of concerns for Curtis’ mental health.
Also on Thursday, Curtis’ family released a statement acknowledging awareness of his mental health struggles and medical diagnoses of bipolar disorder. The family said Curtis led a healthy, functional life when he took medication but didn’t always take it.
“When Kevin is taking is his medication as prescribed, he is a loving, compassionate person,” said his brother, Jack Curtis. “Our family is hopeful that the federal government will do something to provide some assistance for Kevin’s mental illness.”
Curtis’ online postings are similar to the endings of letters sent to elected officials. “This is Kevin Curtis and I approve this message,” he wrote online.
“I am KC and I approve this message,” the letters to the president and senator said.
Wicker said Thursday in Washington that he met Curtis, who was working as Elvis, at a party Wicker and his wife helped host for an engaged couple about a decade ago.
“My impression is that since that time he’s had mental issues and perhaps is not as stable as he was back then,” Wicker told The Associated Press.
A divorced father of three children, Curtis still maintained a close relationship with his ex-wife, Laura Curtis, who lives in Booneville.
However, the Associated Press reports that Curtis’ ex-wife called the police on him in 2007 to report that he was extremely delusional, anti-government and felt the government was spying on him with drones.
Curtis relayed regularly on social media, especially Facebook, conspiracy theories and his claim of government actions aimed at framing him in order to keep him quiet. He claims repeatedly in online statements that he became a “person of interest” after accidentally discovering “dismembered body parts and organs” at NMMC.
Curtis became increasingly convinced over the next decade that he was being targeted, arrested and monitored by law enforcement because he had knowledge of a secret bone, tissue and organ harvesting industry “that is making billions of dollars for corrupt mafia related organizations and people.”
Despite growing evidence in the case, some friends and fans of Curtis are standing firmly behind him and attest to his innocence. Rebecca Polston, an Indiana woman who met Curtis in 1994 at an Elvis tribute contest, said she believes the charges are part of yet another conspiracy.
“I just think that he is being framed because of all he knows from just other conspiracy stuff,” she said. “Somebody just said, ‘It’s time, sucker. I’m gonna get ya.’”
Polston is a enthusiastic fan of both Elvis and Curtis and said she believes Curtis is being framed by “somebody that knows how he signs his emails.” She said, “I said to him a few days ago, he is doing the right thing and some people in the government, they do not like that.”
Another Indiana woman with whom Curtis frequently interacted online, who identified herself as Nancy Lee Smith Hakes, supports Curtis and described their relationship as “very close” and “personal.”
Having known him for 13 years, Hakes said she does not believe Curtis could be guilty.
“In my personal opinion, I can’t see him doing anything that would cause personal harm to anyone even if he did disagree with what they were doing,” she said. “He just isn’t that kind of person.”
One of the last messages Curtis posted on Facebook around 2 a.m. the day of his arrest, is a photo and obituary of a Estelle Kohn. Kohn served as the deputy director of the National Whistleblowers legal Defense & Education Fund.
There is no evidence of a link between Curtis and Kohn though he posted a widely reported statement about being “on the hidden front lines of a secret war.”
A Tupelo woman who asked to not be named said she became friends with Curtis when she met him in 2003. She said Curtis likely wrote of his admiration for Kohn because he identified with her.
“He thinks he is a whistle blower,” she said, “because he has blown the whistle” on the alleged conspiracy.
Other Facebook posts from the days immediately prior to Curtis’ arrest include a picture of a certificate of membership from the MENSA society and photos of a small-caliber pistol.