If inhaled, ricin can cause respiratory failure, among other symptoms. If swallowed, it can shut down the liver and other organs, resulting in death. The amount of ricin that can fit on the head of a pin is said to be enough to kill an adult. No antidote is available for ricin.
Shannon Richardson, a small-time actress, had been married to her current husband less than two years when she went to authorities and told them her suspicions: He was the one who had mailed ricin-laced letters to Obama and Bloomberg threatening violence against gun-control advocates.
When investigators looked closer, they reached a different conclusion: It was the 35-year-old pregnant actress who had sent the letters, and she tried to frame her estranged husband in a bizarre case of marital conflict turning into a case of bioterrorism.
These allegations have been mentioned in court documents filed today as Richardson was arrested and charged with mailing a threatening communication to the president. The federal charge carries up to 10 years in prison, US attorney's office spokeswoman Davilyn Walston said.
Shannon, a mother of five, is accused of mailing the ricin-laced letters to the White House, to Bloomberg and to the mayor's Washington gun-control group last month.
According to an FBI affidavit, Richardson contacted authorities on May 30 and implicated her husband, Nathaniel Richardson.
But she later failed a polygraph and investigators looking into her story found numerous inconsistencies.
Finally, Shannon Richardson admitted that she had received syringes and lye - a caustic chemical used in making ricin - in the mail; that she had printed the labels for the letters; and that she mailed them. However, she insisted her husband typed them and "made her" print and send them, the affidavit says.
No charges have been filed against her husband Nathaniel Richardson, and he is pleased with his wife's arrest. His lawyer believes that the couple is going through a divorce and that the husband may have been "set up" by his wife.
Shannon Richardson's resume on the Internet movie database IMDb said she has had small television roles in "The Vampire Diaries" and "The Walking Dead." She had a minor role in the movie "The Blind Side" and appeared in an Avis commercial.
With agencies inputs