Former UWO student sentenced in ricin case

Katie Knox

Kyle Smith Photograph

Former University of Wisconsin Oshkosh student Kyle Smith was sentenced in late June to 40 months in prison for possessing ricin. The twenty-one-year-old pleaded guilty in March after two UWO professors came forward, concerned about questions he was asking regarding the deadly poison. In November 2014, the streets surrounding 803 Frederick St. were blocked off as police, the FBI and the National Guard Civil Support Team responded to the ricin threats. The piercing lights shone on the two-story house on the corner of the street as forces entered the home in hazmat suits in search of any ricin particles on the nights of October 31 and November 1. Court documents stated that there were no plants at the residence, but a “white powder substance” and a lab log notebook were found. Ricin is extracted from castor beans and can be in the form of a pellet, mist or powder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is also highly dangerous and can cause death within hours of inhalation. According to court documents, Smith contacted UWO professors Terri Gohmann and Stephan Bentivenga about extracting “ribosomal-inhibiting proteins.” It was then that Smith told Gohmann, “[biology professors] are all interested in life, and I am interested in, like, ending it.” Now that Smith has been sentenced, University Spokesperson Jamie Ceman stated safety is on campus and the surrounding community is still a top priority of UWO. “As a University that deeply values cooperation and partnership, we are proud of the unified response from local, state and federal authorities,” Ceman said. “We are also deeply grateful for the UW Oshkosh faculty and staff, whose actions allowed the risk to be quickly identified and contained.”