- Ada, Oklahoma

Local News

June 8, 2014

Suspect in ricin plot had Ada ties

Ada — An Oklahoma City man accused of plotting to poison his pregnant girlfriend and her unborn child with ricin is facing a preliminary hearing later this month.                                                                                                                                            Preston H. Rhoads, a graduate of Ada High School who attended East Central University, was charged in April with two counts of solicitation of murder and two counts of attempting to kill another person, according to Oklahoma County District Court documents. A preliminary hearing on the charges is set for 1:30 p.m. June 19 in front of District Judge D. Fred Doak.

Rhoads is accused of producing ricin — a deadly poison produced with castor beans, acetone and lye — and asking a former co-worker to help poison Rhoads’ girlfriend, Shanisty Whittington.

Rhoads, 30, allegedly met with the former co-worker the night of April 9 at Rhoads’ home in Oklahoma City, according to an affidavit for his his arrest. Rhoads asked the co-worker if he was familiar with the TV show “Breaking Bad,” then showed him a vial of white powder.

Ricin played a role in several episodes of “Breaking Bad,” in which a chemistry teacher turned meth cook produces the poison to kill another character in the series.

The former co-worker asked Rhoads if the vial contained cocaine, and Rhoads said the white powder was ricin, according to the affidavit. The affidavit noted that recipes for making ricin, which can be used as a weapon in liquid or powder form, are available on the Internet.

Rhoads allegedly told the other man that he had downloaded a manual with instructions on making ricin from the Internet. He allegedly said that he wanted to hire the other man to poison Rhoads’ pregnant girlfriend and kill her unborn child.

“Preston told the CHS (confidential human source) that if Shanisty was killed in the process, he was okay with that result,” Oklahoma City Detective Keith Medley said in the affidavit.

Medley said Rhoads suggested several possible ways to carry out the plot, such as putting the ricin in a soft drink and giving it to Whittington to drink. In another scenario, Rhoads proposed sprinkling the ricin on a pizza and having the other man deliver it to Whittington.

Rhoads offered to pay the other man to pose as a pizza delivery worker, then decided not to go through with the scheme because Whittington lived with her parents, who might eat the pizza.

Rhoads also suggested shooting Whittington with a .22-caliber rifle, but he gave up on that idea because he feared that authorities could trace the gun back to him. Another proposal, which was also abandoned, involved using a rental car to run Whittington off the road.

While the other man was inside the house, he noticed three plastic containers, two metal coffee filters and a turkey baster, according to the affidavit. He told Rhoads that he did not want to participate in the plot to poison Whittington and her unborn child, and Rhoads became angry and said he should never have revealed his plans.

Following the April 9 meeting, the other man contacted the FBI in Oklahoma City to report the conversation. An FBI agent familiar with weapons of mass destruction said the items taken from Rhoads’ house were consistent with tools used to make ricin. Tests later confirmed that ricin was present in the house.

The FBI and the Oklahoma City Police Department worked together on the case, and authorities arrested Rhoads on April 17.

The federal government does not anticipate filing charges against Rhoads, said Bob Troester, executive assistant for the U.S. attorney for the western district of Oklahoma.

Rhoads’ attorney, J.W. Coyle III of Oklahoma City, did not return a call seeking comment on Friday.

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