TUPELO, Miss. — Charges of sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and others were dropped Tuesday against an Elvis impersonator from Mississippi, and the FBI turned its attention to the man's longtime antagonist.
In Tupelo, numerous law enforcement officers converged on the home of Everett Dutschke. Some officers wore hazmat suits. No charges have been filed against Dutschke, and he hasn't been arrested. Both men say they have no idea how to make the poisonous ricin and say they had nothing to do with the tainted letters addressed 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," 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."
Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.
Curtis, 45, was well-known to Wicker because he had written to the senator 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. 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.
Dutschke said he and Curtis 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.
All along, Curtis' attorneys 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 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 8 p.m. EDT, as investigators continued to search.
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."
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 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."
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.
"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.
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.
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.