April 23, 2013

Charges dropped against man in poison letters case

The Associated Press

TUPELO, Miss. — Charges of sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and others were dropped Tuesday against an Elvis impersonator from Mississippi who has said since his arrest last week that he had nothing to do with the case.

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Paul Kevin Curtis

The Associated Press/Facebook

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Federal agents wearing hazardous material suits and breathing apparatus inspect the home and possessions in the West Hills Subdivision house of Paul Kevin Curtis in Corinth, Miss., Friday, April 19, 2013. The charges against Curtis were dropped Tuesday, April 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Meanwhile, in Tupelo, numerous law enforcement officers converged on the home of another Mississippi man, Everett Dutschke, including some in hazmat suits. No charges have been filed against him and he hasn't been arrested. Both men say they have no idea how to make the poisonous ricin and had nothing to do with sending them to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and a state judge.

Referring to officials' questions for him about the case, "I thought they said rice and I said I don't even eat rice," 45-year-old Paul Kevin Curtis said after he was released from custody Tuesday afternoon. "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 re-instated if authorities found more to prove their case. Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.

The dismissal is the latest twist in a case that rattled the country already on edge over the Boston Marathon bombing last week.

Curtis was well-known to Wicker because he had written to the Republican and other officials about black-market body parts he claimed to have found while working at a hospital — a claim the hospital says is untrue. Curtis also wrote a book called "Missing Pieces" about his claims and posted similar language on his Facebook page and elsewhere. The documents indicate Curtis had been distrustful of the government for years.

He told The Associated Press Tuesday that he realizes his writings made him an easy target.

"God will get the glory from here on out. It's nothing about me. It's nothing about my book. It's nothing about the hospital. After 13 years of losing everything I have turned it over to God. After all these years God was the missing piece," Curtis said.

The two men the FBI are investigating are not strangers. Dutschke said the two had a falling out and that 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.

Since his arrest at his Corinth home on April 17, attorneys for Curtis say 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 his home.

Dutschke (DUHST'-kee) said in a phone interview with the AP that the FBI was at his home for the search connected to the mailings. Dutschke said his house was also searched last week.

"I don't know how much more of this I can take," Dutschke said just before 7 p.m. CDT, as investigators continued to comb his house.

Curtis attorney Hal Neilson 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."

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