Charges Dropped Against Mississippi Man In Ricin Letters Case

By: FBI: Early test shows ricin in Obama letter
By: FBI: Early test shows ricin in Obama letter

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) -- 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.

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."

An FBI intelligence bulletin obtained by The Associated Press said the two letters 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."

Multiple online posts on various websites that could be seen by anyone under the name Kevin Curtis 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."

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

Curtis, dressed in a black suit, red shirt, necktie and sunglasses, said he met Dutschke in 2005 but for some reason Dutschke "hated" and "stalked" him. "To this day I have no clue of why he hates me."

Dutschke has maintained his innocence and says he doesn't know anything about the ingredients for ricin. Ricin is derived from the castor plant that makes castor oil. There is no antidote and it is at its deadliest when inhaled. It can be aerosolized, released into the air and inhaled. The Homeland Security handbook says the amount of ricin that fits on the head of a pin is enough to kill an adult if properly prepared.

Dutschke said agents asked him about Curtis, whether Dutschke would take a lie detector test and if he had ever bought castor beans, which can be used to make the potent poison.

"I'm a patriotic American. I don't have any grudges against anybody. I did not send the letters," said Dutschke, who was a Republican candidate for the Mississippi House of Representatives in 2007 but lost.

After charges were dropped against Curtis, he said: "I'm a little shocked."

Dutschke said his attorney wasn't with him and he didn't know whether he was going to be arrested.

Tuesday's events began when the third day of a preliminary and detention hearing was cancelled without officials explaining the change. Within two hours, Curtis had been released, though it wasn't clear why at first.

FBI Agent Brandon Grant said in court on Monday that searches last week of Curtis' vehicle and house in Corinth, found no ricin, ingredients for the poison, or devices used to make it. A search of Curtis' computers found no evidence he researched making ricin. Authorities produced no other physical evidence at the hearings tying Curtis to the letters.

All the envelopes and stamps were self-adhesive, Grant said Monday, meaning they won't yield DNA evidence. One fingerprint was found on the letter sent to a Lee County judge, but the FBI doesn't know who it belongs to, Grant said.

The experience, Curtis said, has been a nightmare for his family. He has four children - ages, 8, 16, 18 and 20. It also has made him reflect deeply on his life.

"I've become closer to God through all this, closer with my children and I've even had some strained relationships with some family and cousins and this has brought us closer as a family," he said.


Previous Story

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) -- A Mississippi man is speaking out now that charges have been dropped against him in an investigation of ricin-laced letters.

Paul Kevin Curtis says he respects President Barack Obama, loves his country and that he "would never do anything to pose a threat."

Curtis says this week has been a nightmare.

Curtis was arrested last Wednesday after the detection of poisoned letters to Obama, a U.S. senator and a judge.

Charges were dropped late Tuesday after searches of Curtis' house failed to turn up ricin.


Previous Story

The man charged with mailing letters with suspected ricin to the president and others was surprised by his arrest and maintains he is innocent, according to his attorney.

Paul Kevin Curtis appeared in a federal courtroom Thursday in Oxford, Miss., wearing shackles and a Johnny Cash T-shirt. His handcuffs were taken off during the brief hearing, and he said little.

His attorney, Christi R. McCoy, says Curtis "maintains 100 percent that he did not do this." She says she knows him and his family and that it is hard for her to believe the charges against him.

McCoy says she has not yet decided whether to seek a hearing to determine if Curtis is mentally competent to stand trial.

Ricky Curtis, who said he was Kevin Curtis' cousin, said the family was shocked by the news of the arrest. He described his cousin as a "super entertainer" who impersonated Elvis and numerous other singers.

"We're all in shock. I don't think anybody had a clue that this kind of stuff was weighing on his mind," Ricky Curtis said in a telephone interview.

Ricky Curtis said his cousin had written about problems he had with a cleaning business and that he felt the government had not treated him well, but he said nobody in the family would have expected this. He said the writings were titled, "Missing Pieces."

A MySpace page for a cleaning company called The Cleaning Crew confirms that they "do windows" and has profile photo of "Kevin Curtis, Master of Impressions." A YouTube channel under the name of Kevin Curtis has dozens of videos of him performing as different famous musicians, including Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and Kid Rock.

Multiple online posts on various websites under the name Kevin Curtis refer to the conspiracy he claimed to uncover when working at a local hospital from 1998 to 2000.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


Previous Story

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — The FBI has identified a Mississippi man suspected of mailing letters containing poisonous ricin as 45-year-old Paul Kevin Curtis.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen said Curtis was arrested Wednesday afternoon at his apartment in Corinth, near the Tennessee state line about 100 miles east of Memphis.

Authorities still waited for definitive tests on the letters sent to President Barack Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

An FBI intelligence bulletin obtained by The Associated Press said those two letters were postmarked Memphis, Tenn.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A Mississippi man was arrested Wednesday, accused of sending letters to President Barack Obama and a senator that tested positive for the poisonous ricin and set the nation's capital on edge a day after the Boston Marathon bombings.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen said the man was arrested Wednesday. His name wasn't immediately released publicly.

Authorities still waited for definitive tests on the letters to Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. An FBI intelligence bulletin obtained by The Associated Press said those two letters were postmarked Memphis, Tenn.

Both letters 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."

The letters were intercepted before reaching the White House or Senate. The FBI said Wednesday that more testing was underway. Preliminary field tests can often show false positives for ricin.

As authorities scurried to investigate three questionable packages discovered in Senate office buildings, reports of suspicious items also came in from at least three senators' offices in their home states.

Sen. Carl Levin said a staff member at his Saginaw, Mich., office would spend the night in a hospital as a precaution after discovering a suspicious letter. The staff member had no symptoms, Levin said in a statement. He expected to learn preliminary results of tests on the letter by Thursday.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said suspicious letters at his Phoenix office had been cleared with nothing dangerous found. A package at Sen. John Cornyn's Dallas-area office also was declared harmless, a fire department spokesman said.

All three packages in the Capitol complex turned out to be safe, Capitol police spokeswoman Makema Turner said late Wednesday. But a man was still being questioned after being stopped in connection with the packages, she said.

All the activity came as tensions were high in Washington and across the country following Monday's bombings at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured more than 170. The FBI said there was no indication of a connection between the letters and the bombing. The letters to Obama and Wicker were postmarked April 8, before the marathon.

Capitol Police swiftly ramped up security, and lawmakers and staff were cautioned away from some parts of the Hill complex. After hours of jangled nerves, officials signaled it was safe to move throughout the area and people settled back to normal, if watchful, activity.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said that police had a suspect in mind in the Wicker mailing, someone who "writes a lot of letters to members." She made the comment Tuesday as she emerged from a briefing by law enforcement on the Boston bombing. Authorities declined to comment on a possible suspect.

Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, said mail sent to the White House is screened at a remote site for the safety of the recipients and the general public. He declined to comment on the significance of the preliminary ricin result, referring questions to the FBI.

At a House hearing, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe noted there had been ricin alerts since the notorious 2001 anthrax mailings and procedures are in place to protect postal employees and help track down culprits.

"Over the course of years we've had some situations where there have been ricin scares," Donahoe said. "Until this date, there's never been any actually proved that have gone through the system."

After the hearing, Donahoe said he didn't know whether the latest letters had been proven to contain ricin. He also told reporters that people sometimes mail substances that mimic the poison. No postal workers have reported illness connected to the incident, he said. Ricin, derived from the castor plant, is at its deadliest when inhaled.

Even during the flurry of concern, normal business continued across most of the Capitol and its office buildings, with tour groups passing through and visitors streaming in and out of Wicker's office.

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer said in an email that suspicious packages were dropped off at the offices of two senators. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said in a statement his office had received one of them. A third package was found in an atrium on the first floor of a Senate building.

As the discoveries spread concern, police sealed off a hearing room where Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were testifying. At one point, officers advised Sen. Joe Manchin and aides not to board an elevator because suspicious packages had been found on several floors of the Hart Office Building. "They just told me there's something suspicious and they're looking into it," Manchin said.

Amy Keough of Stow, Mass., and her family were searching for an open entrance to the Russell Senate Office building and walked by a U.S. Capitol Police hazardous materials vehicle. The Keoughs had been visiting Washington for several days, but Monday's marathon bombing was on their minds.

"We don't know really what it is that's going on," Keough said. "We're from Massachusetts, so right now anything is possible, with all the events in Boston."


Previous Story

The FBI says the letters sent to President Barack Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker are related and are both postmarked out of Memphis, Tenn., dated April 8.

In an intelligence bulletin obtained by The Associated Press, the FBI says the letters both say: "To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance." Both letters are signed, "I am KC and I approve this message."

The FBI says the substance in both letters have preliminarily tested positive for ricin, a potentially fatal poison.

Both the letters to Wicker, R-Miss., and to Obama were intercepted at off-site mail facilities.

The FBI says it is pursuing investigative leads to determine who sent the letters.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


Previous Story

The U.S. Secret Service says it has intercepted a letter addressed to President Barack Obama that contained a "suspicious substance."

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan says the letter was intercepted at a facility away from the White House. He says the letter was received Tuesday.

The letter comes a day after lawmakers said a letter was mailed to Sen. Roger Wicker that tested positive for poisonous ricin. Another senator said police have a suspect in mind.

Tensions have been high in Washington and across the country since the deadly bombings on Monday at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured more than 170.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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