WASHINGTON (AP) - An envelope addressed to Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi tested positive Tuesday for ricin, a potentially fatal poison, congressional officials said, heightening concerns about terrorism a day after a bombing killed three and left more than 170 injured at the Boston Marathon.
One senator, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, said authorities have a suspect in the fast-moving ricin case, but she did not say if an arrest had been made. She added the letter was from an individual who frequently writes lawmakers.
The FBI and U.S. Capitol Police are both investigating.
Terrance W. Gainer, the Senate sergeant-at-arms, said in an emailed message to Senate offices that the envelope to Wicker, a Republican, had no obviously suspicious outside markings, bore a postmark of Memphis, Tenn., and lacked a return address.
He added there was "no indication that there are other suspect mailings." Yet he urged caution, and also said the Senate off-site mail facility where the initial tests were performed on the letter will be closed for a few days while the investigation continues.
The letter was discovered at a mail processing plant in Prince George's County in suburban Maryland, according to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
Wicker's office issued a statement saying "any inquiries regarding member security must be directed to the United States Capitol Police."
Capitol Police had no immediate comment.
But Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters of the letter, and other lawmakers said they had been provided information by the office of the Senate sergeant-at-arms.
Milt Leitenberg, a University of Maryland bioterrorism expert, said ricin is a poison derived from the same bean that makes castor oil. According to a Homeland Security Department handbook, ricin is deadliest when inhaled. It is not contagious, but there is no antidote.
"Luckily, this was discovered at the processing center off premises," Durbin said. He said all mail to senators is "roasted, toasted, sliced and opened" before it ever gets to them.
One law enforcement official said evidence of ricin appeared on preliminary field tests of the letter, although such results are not deemed conclusive without further testing. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation remains active.
The discovery evoked memories of the days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when mail laced with anthrax began appearing in post offices, newsrooms and congressional offices.
That included letters sent to Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., who was Senate majority leader, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Two Senate office buildings were closed during that investigation.
Overall, five people died and 17 others became ill. The FBI attributed the attack to a government scientist who committed suicide in 2008.
More immediately, though, the discovery came as lawmakers were demanding answers to the attacks in Boston a day earlier.
There was no evidence of a connection between the bombings and the letter addressed to Wicker.
Sunday, December 8 2013 11:13 PM EST2013-12-09 04:13:01 GMT
As the temperatures plummet, search vans from a local homeless shelter are hitting the streets of Toledo to make sure no one is left out in the cold. Cherry Street Mission has multiple vans that spendMore >>
As the temperatures plummet, search vans from a local homeless shelter are hitting the streets of Toledo to make sure no one is left out in the cold.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 11:18 PM EST2013-12-09 04:18:04 GMT
Santa arrived at the National Museum of the Great Lakes on Sunday, but instead of reindeer pulling his sleigh, he arrived by barge. Kris Kringle also offered Christmas trees for free with the purchaseMore >>
Santa arrived at the National Museum of the Great Lakes on Sunday, but instead of reindeer pulling his sleigh, he arrived by barge.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 9:21 PM EST2013-12-09 02:21:08 GMT
The Sandusky Highway Patrol post is investigating a Sunday afternoon crash that left a man seriously injured.Officers say Gary L. McKisic, 47, of South Amherst was westbound on Kneisel Road around 12:30More >>
The Sandusky Highway Patrol post is investigating a Sunday afternoon crash that left a man seriously injured.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 7:40 PM EST2013-12-09 00:40:13 GMT
The Toledo Rockets won't be getting a bowl bid this season Five teams in the Mac are headed to bowl games, but despite being having the fifth best record in the conference, Toledo won't be one of them.More >>
The Toledo Rockets won't be getting a bowl bid this season. Five teams in the MAC are headed to bowl games, but despite being having the fifth best record in the conference, Toledo won't be one of them.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 7:05 PM EST2013-12-09 00:05:01 GMT
HAMTRAMCK, Mich. (AP) - Authorities are looking for two men they say tried to steal an ATM from the lobby of a state motor vehicle office in the Detroit enclave of Hamtramck. Police say the men crashedMore >>
Authorities are looking for two men they say tried to steal an ATM from the lobby of a state motor vehicle office in the Detroit enclave of Hamtramck.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 6:27 PM EST2013-12-08 23:27:12 GMT
Laura and Bill Baldwin have their hands full. They are parents to four 3-month-old babies as well as a three-year-old daughter. The proud parents say Ryan, Reghan, Madalyn and Logan were a surprise, butMore >>
The parents of 3-month-old quads got a great surprise at fundraiser to help them raise money towards the purchase of a new van. A local church gave them a van.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 5:22 PM EST2013-12-08 22:22:40 GMT
A mother and her four sons lost everything but their lives in a devastating house fire Saturday night.The fire broke out in the attic of a home in the 2000 block of county Road 32 in Helena.The familyMore >>
A mother and her four sons lost everything but their lives in a devastating house fire Saturday night.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 11:22 PM EST2013-12-09 04:22:15 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) - The "Piano Man" who became one of the world's best-selling artists of all time with such hits as "Just the Way You Are," ''Uptown Girl" and "Allentown" was awarded the nation's highestMore >>
Billy Joel joined Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, opera star Martina Arroyo and actress Shirley MacLaine in receiving the Kennedy Center Honors on Sunday. More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 11:16 PM EST2013-12-09 04:16:16 GMT
The Collingwood Presbyterian Church held a fundraising dinner on Sunday for the victims of the recent typhoon in the Philippines.Last month, the storm killed more than 5,00 people. Many survivors wereMore >>
The Collingwood Presbyterian Church held a fundraising dinner on Sunday for the victims of the recent typhoon in the Philippines.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 10:33 PM EST2013-12-09 03:33:37 GMT
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indianapolis police say a 3-year-old boy has died after being fatally shot in the head. The shooting occurred Saturday evening on the city's northeast side. Officer Christopher WilburnMore >>
Indianapolis police say a 3-year-old boy has died after being fatally shot in the head.More >>