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FBI briefly loses track of man sought in ricin investigation

The FBI temporarily lost track Thursday of a former martial arts instructor whose Mississippi home and business were searched this week as part of an investigation of ricin-laced letters sent this month to President Barack Obama and other elected officials.

The FBI and local police looked for James Everett Dutschke, 41, for at least five hours, obtaining a search warrant for a friend's family vacation home in Marietta, Miss., where they thought he was hiding, according to his attorney.

A friend of Dutschke's told the Associated Press that both he and Dutschke stayed at the home for a while Wednesday before slipping out through the woods to rendezvous with someone who drove Dutschke elsewhere. He said Dutschke was just trying to escape the news media.

"I just helped him get out of the spotlight," Kirk Kitchens told the AP on Thursday.

Dutschke's attorney, Lori Nail Basham, confirmed that FBI agents were looking for her client for much of the day and that they said they were "satisfied" when she told the agency where he was staying Thursday afternoon. She would not disclose his location and said he left his home in Tupelo, Miss., because of the heavy media presence and because after the FBI search, "it was in disarray."

Dutschke has denied any involvement with the mailing of the ricin letters.

Attention shifted to Dutschke on Tuesday after the U.S. Attorney's Office dropped charges against Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, who was arrested April 17. Curtis told the FBI he thought Dutschke may have sent the letters and attempted to frame him.