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An Army veteran whose estranged wife has been charged by federal authorities with sending poison-laced letters to President Barack Obama and others in an attempt to frame him remains stunned over the entire ordeal.
“It was kind of like disbelief, or it was like a bad dream,’’ Nate Richardson told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Thursday.
Shannon Guess Richardson, 35, contacted federal authorities May 30 after threatening letters about gun control that tested positive for the deadly poison ricin were mailed to the president, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and a Washington lobbyist. Federal authorities claim that Shannon Richardson told them her husband was responsible, but investigators soon came to the conclusion that it was she, not her husband, who had sent the letters: a case of a domestic dispute turned to domestic terrorism, according to a federal affidavit.
FBI agents searched the couple’s home in New Boston, Texas, about 95 miles from Shreveport, La., where the letters were postmarked. Shannon, a pregnant mother of five and an actress who had a small role on AMC’s “The Walking Dead,’’ failed a polygraph test and was arrested and charged with sending the letters herself in an attempt to frame her husband, according to a federal affidavit.
Her attorneys say she will plead not guilty. She faces up to 10 years in a federal prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and three years of supervised release.
The fact that authorities allege she had the know-how to pull off the plot and work with a deadly chemical was not a complete shock to Nate Richardson. The two had been married less than two years when she made her accusation against him.
“She’s a very intelligent woman,’’ Richardson said. “That is definitely one of the qualities I did find attractive in her.’’
He was questioned for 11 hours by the FBI after the initial allegations by his wife.
“A lot of times the FBI kind of jumps to conclusions, but they were very thorough, very respectful and just not really moving too quickly,’’ Nate Richardson said. “They asked all kinds of questions. When you don’t know anything, it just seems really strange to hear some of them.”
In her initial accusation, Shannon Richardson described finding castor beans, a key ingredient in ricin, at the couple’s home, according to a federal affidavit. She also claimed to have found a sticky note on her husband’s desk with the addresses for Obama and Bloomberg on it.
“You don’t sit there and think about what people would do to you,’’ Nate said about ever suspecting his wife of such a plot.
Investigators later determined that Internet searches about ricin had been made on the couple’s laptop while Nate would have been at work. After Shannon admitted to sending the letters, she claimed Nate forced her into doing it, according to the affidavit.
Nate Richardson’s attorney, John Delk, told Guthrie that Nate was not quite “out of the woods" legally, but added, "I’d say we’re close to the edge of the woods.
“There are small areas that we still need to mop up with the FBI, but I think they’re pretty clear how they feel who did this," Delk said. "One person’s been arrested, one person hasn’t. One person’s cooperating and answering all their questions. One person is in jail this morning.’’
Shannon Richardson is carrying the couple’s child, which also raises the question of whether her alleged handling of a poisonous substance could have an effect on the unborn baby. “Basically I have to cross that bridge when I come to it,’’ Nate said.
At this point, he is more concerned with moving forward than what may potentially happen to his wife. “That’s not really for me to decide,’’ he said. “I’m more worried about getting back to my normal life.’’