Dutschke arrested in ricin letter case - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Dutschke arrested in ricin letter case

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TUPELO, Miss. (FOX13) -

FOX13 News has learned that James Everett Dutschke of Tupelo, Miss., was arrested by the FBI early Saturday morning and is being held in connection to the ricin-laced letters case.

He was then turned over the U.S. Marshals.

Dutschke was charged with "knowingly developing, producing, stockpiling, transferring, acquiring, retaining and possessing a biological agent, toxin and delivery system, for use as a weapon, to wit: ricin." U.S. attorney Felicia Adams and Daniel McMullen, the FBI agent in charge in Mississippi, made the announcement in a news release Saturday.

Dutschke is expected to appear in federal court in Oxford on Monday. He is being held in Lafayette County.

Three poisoned letters were mailed earlier in April to President Barack Obama, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Lee County, Miss., Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland.

In a statement Saturday morning FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden told the Associated Press, the 41-year-old was arrested without incident at his Tupelo home at around 12:50 a.m. by special agents of the FBI.

Charges in the case were initially filed against Elvis impersonator Paul Kevin Curtis of Corinth, Miss., but then dropped. Attention then turned to Dutschke, who has ties to the former suspect and the judge and senator.

MORE: FBI loses contact with Dutschke in Tupelo
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MORE: FBI searches Tupelo Taekwondo studio
MORE: Government drops charges against Paul Kevin Curtis
MORE: FBI searching Tupelo man's home in connection with ricin case

Dutschke's attorney, Lori Nail Basham, said she had no comment. Earlier this week she said that Dutschke was cooperating fully with investigators and Dutschke has insisted he had nothing to do with the letters. He was arrested about 12:50 a.m. at his house in Tupelo and is expected in court Monday. He faces up to life in prison, if convicted.

He already had legal problems. Earlier this month, he pleaded not guilty in state court to two child molestation charges involving three girls younger than 16. He also was appealing a conviction on a different charge of indecent exposure. He told AP earlier this week that his lawyer told him not to comment on those cases.

Basham said earlier this week that Dutschke was "cooperating fully" with investigators. Dutschke has insisted he had nothing to do with the letters.

Ryan Taylor, a spokesman for Wicker, said Saturday that "because the investigation is still ongoing, we're not able to comment."

Federal agents searched Dutschke's home in Tupelo as well as a former Taekwondo studio he owned. While agents were searching for clues in the ricin letters case Dutschke, who had been friendly to the media, slipped away for several hours Thursday to escape both the media and federal agents. He was later located and returned to his home.

Curtis' lawyers said he had been framed by Dutschke.

Curtis' attorney, Christi McCoy, said Saturday: "We are relieved but also saddened. This crime is nothing short of diabolical. I have seen a lot of meanness in the past two decades, but this stops me in my tracks. "

Dutschke and Curtis were acquainted. Curtis said they had talked about possibly publishing a book on an alleged conspiracy to sell body parts on a black market. But he said they later had a feud.

Dutschke was last seen Wednesday with his friend Kirk Kitchens. Around 12:30 Thursday afternoon, the Itawamba County Sheriff's Office searched for Dutschke in the Kitchens' house and nearby sheds.

"At this point we know that he is not in the residence," Sheriff Chris Dickinson said. "No one is in the residence. We do not know the whereabouts of these two people. At one point Wednesday night around 9:15 p.m., they were at the house but somehow they were able to abandon the house and how they did it. I don't know, and where they went I don't know."

Law enforcement officers say Kitchens was pulled over on Highway 371 Wednesday evening. The only problem is, they saw Kitchens in the car but did not see Dutschke.

"Our deputies made a traffic stop on Mr. Kitchens," Sheriff Dickinson said. "We believe that Mr. Dutschke was in the vehicle with him, but at that point the deputy did not have any reason to hold him. The deputy did not see Mr. Dutschke that I can confirm."

Late Thursday afternoon law enforcement officers located Kitchens. He told them he helped Dutschke get out of town to avoid the media. Kitchens did not know not Dutschke's whereabouts.

Kitchens said he doesn't believe Dutschke had anything to do with the ricin-laced letters. He told FOX13 News he  helped his friend get out of town Wednesday night. They drove to a rural area and went through the woods without flashlights trying to get away from the media.

The three letters, which were postmarked in Memphis and addressed to President Obama, Sen. Wicker, and the 80-year-old Lee County judge, were filled with white powder. Two of the letters were sent to Washington, D.C., but were quarantined at federal mail sorting facilities in Maryland.

The letters were signed, "I am KC and I approve this message."

Some of the language in the letters was similar to posts on Curtis' Facebook page and they were signed, "I am KC and I approve this message." Curtis' signoff online was often similar.

The first ricin-laced letter was sent to Judge Holland. She admitted she opened the letter that was mailed to her. Her son, Mississippi State House Rep. Steve Holland told FOX13 News her mother is fine after opening the letter.

"She's healthy and she's ready to move on with her life," he said. "She is sort of tired of the whole story, if you want to know the truth."

Judge Holland was the presiding judge in a case in which Curtis was accused of assaulting a Tupelo attorney in 2004. Holland sentenced him to six months in the county jail. He served only part of the sentence, according to his brother.

Rep. Holland said he knew Dutschke from the 2007 campaign that Dutschke had run against him.

"He ran a very belligerent, personally violent campaign toward me," Rep. Holland said. "He called me 'Boss Holland,' he had Photoshopped me in white suits and had some pretty wild rancor against me and a lot of it total untruths. It was like he was angry the whole time, so much so the Republicans even said to me we have the wrong horse."

On Saturday, Steve Holland said he can't say for certain that Dutschke is the person who sent the letter to his mother but added, "I feel confident the FBI knows what they are doing."

"We're ready for this long nightmare to be over," Holland told The Associated Press.

He said he's not sure why someone would target his mother. Holland said he believes Dutschke would have more reason to target him than his mother.

"Maybe he thinks the best way to get to me is to get to the love of my life, which is my mother," Holland said Saturday.


FOX13 News reporters Tom Dees and Kristin Tallent and  Associated Press writers Holbrook Mohr and Jack Elliott Jr. in Jackson, Miss., contributed to this report.

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