On Wednesday, FBI agents and members of the National Guard searched a martial arts studio in Tupelo, Miss., run by Everett Dutschke, the new focus of the investigation into the ricin letters, according to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. The newspaper also reported Tupelo police were on the lookout for a green 1998 Dodge Caravan, which records show is the model of car owned by Dutschke.
Investigators previously searched Dutschke’s home Tuesday afternoon and, according to Dutschke, last Thursday. Dutschke seems to be investigators’ main focus in the case after charges against an initial suspect, Paul Kevin Curtis, were dismissed “without prejudice” Tuesday. By dismissing without prejudice, the government reserved the right to refile charges later. Curtis and his attorneys have suggested Dutschke may have attempted to frame him for mailing the ricin-tainted letters that were sent to President Barack Obama and other officials.As of this writing, neither the FBI, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi, or the local Lee County Sheriff’s Department has responded to request for comment on this story. Dutschke, who has not been charged, has denied any involvement in the ricin mailings.
His name first surfaced in the case after Curtis’ attorney, Christi McCoy, suggested the two men had a longrunning feud. As of this writing, McCoy has not responded to a request for comment from TPM. At a colorful press conference Tuesday after he was released from jail, Curtis suggested Dutschke was jealous of his martial arts abilities and his successful career as an Elvis impersonator. Dutschke gave his own version of their history to the Daily Journal as the FBI searched his home yesterday.
In that interview, Dutschke theorized he came to the attention of the FBI after Curtis’ ex-wife, Laura, gave investigators names of people who might have sent the letters in an effort to frame her former husband. He also claimed he met Curtis on just three occasions.
“Way back in the past, I met him at Barnhill’s Restaurant in the middle of the public, he accosted me about trying to print a story of his,” Dutschke said. “I told him no and kind of made fun of him a little bit.”
Dutschke said Curtis came to him to discuss the story a second time in an office building where both men worked. The final straw was a disagreement about a mensa certificate Dutschke said Curtis posted online.
“On a third occasion he posted a Mensa certificate online, and that Mensa certificate is a lie,” Dutschke said. “I called him out on that in an email confrontation and I’ve had no contact with him since that, June 1, 2010.”
Along with President Obama, letters were also sent to Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Mississippi Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland. Wicker’s office declined to comment on the case Tuesday citing the “ongoing investigation.” Holland is the mother of Steve Holland, a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, who defeated Dutschke in a 2007 election. Steve Holland told TPM Dutschke “ran a very nasty, vicious, angry campaign against me.”
In addition to his unsuccessful political career, Dutschke worked as a martial arts teacher and fronted a blues band. He is currently facing child molestation charges for an incident Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said involved a seven-year-old girl at his studio.
TPM spoke to Dutschke minutes before the FBI searched his home yesterday. He expressed disbelief when informed Curtis had been released. Subsequent attempts to reach him have been unsuccessful. We attempted to reach Dutschke’s attorney, Lori Basham, on Wednesday. A woman who answered the phone at Basham’s office told us she is “not going to be in the rest of the week.”