Feds, friends looking for answers to Curtis’ alleged actions
NATCHEZ — Friends who grew up alongside Paul Kevin Curtis describe the former Natchez resident as a quiet, but outgoing person, who was always quick to belt out an Elvis tune on request.
But those friends also noticed a change in Curtis’ personality after he began claiming that he uncovered an alleged hospital conspiracy to sell body parts on the black market.
Curtis, 45, was arrested Wednesday and charged Thursday with sending ricin-laced letters to President Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker and a judge in Mississippi.
Natchez resident Tammy Kelly said she attended Morgantown Junior High School and South Natchez High School with Curtis, where the two bonded over their love of music.
“We would go on choir trips together, and he was a great entertainer — always loved Elvis,” Kelly said. “Because he wasn’t a football player or real popular, people might have thought he was quiet or strange, but he wasn’t.
“He is a really good person, and he was always full of hugs and smiles.”
Kelly said the two friends lost touch after high school, but reconnected nearly a decade later on social networking sites.
The friends kept in touch through the sites and occasional phone calls, Kelly said, and Curtis even made a trip to Natchez to visit after they reconnected.
“He came down to visit me and my husband, and he was just so happy to see and hear from me,” Kelly said. “He would want to go to the casino and sing karaoke and that kind of stuff.”
Shortly after that trip, Kelly said Curtis began talking about his discovery of body parts and organs wrapped in plastic in a small refrigerator at a hospital where he worked as a janitor.
“What disturbed me the most was the stories he would tell about the body parts,” Kelly said. “I know he went through a lot because of the hospital stuff, but I had not spoken to him since 2007 when all that happened in this hospital.
“I don’t really know what happened during that time.”
Natchez resident Burnley Cook said it wasn’t until he saw Curtis’ photo in news coverage that he remembered him.
“Years ago when I was younger and played piano at the Rendezvous restaurant, Kevin came in a number of times and would sing,” Cook said. “He hung around with some of my friends, so I’d see him out like that, but other than that it was just on the music scene.”
On stage, Cook said Curtis was dedicated to the performance, but didn’t carry it with him when he walked off the stage.
Curtis lives in the Tupelo area and works as an Elvis impersonator. He performed last year at Vidalia’s Jim Bowie Festival.
“He wasn’t one of these pseudo performers that was on all the time — when he did his bit he was on, and when he was off he disappeared basically,” Cook said. “People really enjoyed his vocals and he had a wonderful voice, but outside of him singing he was just someone who would blend in with the crowd.
“You wouldn’t notice him because he never did anything to stand out.”
Natchez resident Travis Freeman graduated from South Natchez High School in 1986, one year before Curtis, and said the two had many mutual friends.
“We all kind of hung out together because it’s Natchez, and you’re not really going to go too far away to do something,” Freeman said. “He was a really nice guy, but he’s out there.
“If I had seen him on the street last month I’d probably walk up and talk to him, but I guess he just snapped.”
Freeman said Curtis would often attract attention to himself in high school by wearing a trench coat to resemble popular recording artist, Prince.
“He really thought he was Prince, and that kind of freaked me out,” Freeman said. “I couldn’t see him doing anything like sending those letters, but I guess he just got lost.”