2nd Miss. man investigated in ricin-laced letters; charges dropped against Elvis impersonator

  • Article by: JEFF AMY and EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS , Associated Press
  • Updated: April 24, 2013 - 5:42 AM
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Paul Kevin Curtis, who had been in custody under suspicion of sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and others, left, hugs his attorney Christi McCoy following his release Tuesday, April 23, 2013 in Oxford, Miss.

Photo: Bruce Newman, Oxford Eagle via AP

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TUPELO, Miss. - Law enforcement officials searched the home of a second Mississippi man implicated in the mailing of ricin-laced letters to the president and a U.S. senator after charges were dropped without explanation against the man arrested in the case last week.

Everett Dutschke, whose Tupelo, Miss., home was searched Tuesday by dozens of officials, some in hazmat suits, had feuded with Paul Kevin Curtis, a 45-year-old celebrity impersonator who had maintained his innocence since his arrest.

The search began early Tuesday afternoon and ended about 11 p.m. CDT, with officials declining to comment on what they had found or on the next phase of the investigation.

At one point, two FBI agents and two members of the state's chemical response team left Dutschke's property and began combing through ditches, culverts and woods about a block away from his house in the neighborhood of single-family detached homes.

Dutschke, who spoke with The Associated Press by telephone during the search, said his house was also searched last week.

"I don't know how much more of this I can take," he said.

No charges have been filed against Dutschke and he hasn't been arrested. Both he and Curtis, who had faced charges in the case, say they have no idea how to make the poisonous ricin and had nothing to do with sending the letters to President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and a state judge.

Referring to investigators' questions for him about the case, Curtis said after he was released from custody Tuesday afternoon, "I thought they said rice and I said, `I don't even eat rice.' ... I respect President Obama. I love my country and would never do anything to pose a threat to him or any other U.S. official."

A one-sentence document filed by federal prosecutors said charges against Curtis were dropped, but left open the possibility they could be reinstated if authorities found more to prove their case. Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.

Since Curtis' arrest at his Corinth, Miss., home on April 17, his attorneys have said their client didn't do it and suggested he was framed. An FBI agent testified in court this week that no evidence of ricin was found in searches of Curtis' home.

The dismissal is the latest twist in a case that has been strange from the beginning and rattled the country during the same week as the Boston Marathon bombing and a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.

Dutschke (DUHST'-kee) and Curtis are no strangers to each other. Dutschke said the two had a disagreement and the last contact they had was in 2010. Dutschke said he threatened to sue Curtis for saying he was a member of Mensa, a group for people with high IQs.

Hal Neilson, an attorney for Curtis, said the defense gave authorities a list of people who may have had a reason to hurt Curtis.

"Dutschke came up," he said. "They (prosecutors) took it and ran with it. I could not tell you if he's the man or he's not the man, but there was something there they wanted to look into."

An FBI intelligence bulletin obtained by the AP said the two ricin-laced letters addressed to Obama and Wicker said: "To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance." Both were signed, "I am KC and I approve this message."

Curtis was already well known to Wicker because he had written to the Republican senator and other officials. Curtis also wrote a novel called "Missing Pieces," about black-market body parts he claimed to have found while working at a hospital — a claim the hospital says is untrue. Curtis posted similar language on his Facebook page and elsewhere. The documents indicate Curtis had been distrustful of the government for years. He told the AP on Tuesday that he realizes his writings made him an easy target.

Multiple online posts under the name Kevin Curtis on various websites that could be seen by anyone refer to the conspiracy he claimed to uncover when working at a local hospital from 1998 to 2000. In one post, Curtis said he sent letters to Wicker and other politicians. He signed off: "This is Kevin Curtis & I approve this message."

Christi McCoy, another attorney for Curtis, said she doesn't know what new information prosecutors have, but said the plot to frame her client was "very, very diabolical."

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