Affidavit: Dust mask tied to suspect tests positive for ricin
OXFORD, Mississippi (CNN) — From a dust mask that tested for ricin, to an enigmatic dump of a coffee grinder and more, to talk of making and mailing “poison,” an affidavit unsealed Tuesday shed light on the case against a Mississippi man accused of sending potentially deadly letters to President Barack Obama and others.
Just more than a week ago, James Everett Dutschke described Paul Kevin Curtis — the Elvis, Buddy Holly and Randy Travis impersonator then in custody in the case — as a “little nutty” and denied any role in the illicit mailings.
Now Paul Kevin Curtis is free, and the 41-year-old Dutschke is behind bars. The document unsealed Tuesday explains what led authorities to arrest Dutschke, but not why he allegedly concocted the poison and sent it to elected officials.
Lawyers for Dutschke did not respond immediately to CNN’s calls Tuesday for comment on the new details.
After his April 17 arrest, Curtis brought up Dutschke as someone who may be responsible for mailing letters with suspicious substances to Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, and Sadie Holland, a judge in Lee County, Mississippi, according to the affidavit in support of a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for northern Mississippi.
A witness told law enforcement agents on April 19 that Dutschke years ago said he could make a “poison,” the affidavit said.
“Dutschke stated that he could place the poison in envelopes and send them to elected officials,” the witness stated, according to the affidavit. “… According to the witness … Dutschke made reference to having ‘a secret knowledge’ for ‘getting rid of people in office.'”
On April 22, federal authorities searched a trash receptacle from Dutschke’s Tupelo home and found, among other items, different types of yellow paper, address labels and a dust mask. The letters to Obama, Wicker and Holland were all on yellow paper.
That same day, FBI agents spotted Dutschke leaving his former tae kwon do facility, or dojo, loading things into his car, then placing several items from his window into a public trash can. According to the affidavit, these items included a coffee grinder, a box with latex gloves, a dust mask and an empty bucket of floor adhesive.
Three subsequent tests of the mask by the National Bioforensic Analysis Center came back positive for ricin, the document states.
Authorities further searched Dutschke’s former tae kwon do dojo and tested six other samples, including liquid removed from a drain and swabs taken from inside the building.
At the time, Dutschke told CNN affiliate WMC-TV that he had agreed to the FBI search “to help clear my name.”
“I had absolutely nothing to do with those letters,” he said.
Yet the affidavit released Tuesday states that laboratory tests showed five of the six samples taken from his dojo tested positive for ricin.
The document alleges that Dutschke lied to authorities on other fronts as well.
For example, he insisted that he hadn’t been back to his tae kwon do dojo since April 15, before changing his story to say that he’d returned briefly one week later for a mop bucket, two pails and a fire extinguisher. He also claimed he had not stopped while leaving that building on his way to a pawn shop and was seemingly flummoxed when authorities told him they’d spotted him tossing items into a trash can.
Dutschke, the affidavit stated, also said he’d never researched anything about ricin, a toxin derived from castor beans that has no known antidote. But investigators said that a search of his computer — dating to an arrest on unrelated charges early this year — showed that he’d downloaded a publication, “Standard Operating Procedure for Ricin” about safely handling the toxin and another file, about two hours later, about a method for detecting ricin.
Twisted relationships and more
The letters arrived April 16, each with a suspicious substance inside, a Memphis, Tennessee, postmark and no return address. They also contained a letter that read, in part: “To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance.”
They were signed: “I am KC and I approve this message.”
The very next day, authorities arrested Curtis. He emphatically denied sending the letters, insisting he’d been framed and pointing the finger at Dutschke.
The two men knew each other because Dutschke used to work for Curtis’ brother at an insurance company, under the direction of Curtis’ ex-wife.
Curtis has said that while Dutschke worked for his brother, the two talked about collaborating on the publication of a book but later had a falling out.
He has accused Dutschke of stalking him online, a claim the latter has denied.
As for Dutschke, he told reporters last week that he didn’t have a relationship with Curtis.
“He’s just a little nutty,” he said. “I don’t have a relationship with him.”
So where do the lawmakers fit in?
The affidavit unsealed Tuesday — which states that marks on papers found in Dutschke’s home and trash match those in the letters sent to Obama, Wicker and Holland — doesn’t speak to the suspect’s motive.
Dutschke can be linked to Sadie Holland through her son, Democratic state representative Steve Holland, against whom he ran and lost. And Wicker? Dutschke said that he met the senator — once.
The affidavit also alludes to Dutschke’s or his family’s possible frame of mind earlier this month, as seen in text messages on his wife’s cell phone.
“We’re coming over to burn some things,” one such message from April 20 reads. Another from the same day states, “We are gonna clean house.”