(MCT) — A Mississippi martial arts teacher tried to throw away ricin-tainted materials and had a manual about the poison on his computer, according to a federal affidavit unsealed Tuesday.
James Everett Dutschke, 41, of Tupelo, Miss., was charged Saturday with having and/or making ricin and sending poison-laced letters to President Barack Obama; U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; and a local judge. Ricin is deadly in small doses, and there is no antidote. It can be inhaled, injected or ingested.
The charges came after one of Dutschke’s nemeses, a local Elvis impersonator named Paul Kevin Curtis, had been arrested days earlier. Officials dropped those charges after finding no trace of ricin in Curtis’ home, and no record of his searching the Internet about the poison.
Curtis’ attorneys gave authorities a list of people who might have grudges against him, and Dutschke was among them.
The threatening letters, which had been mailed from Tupelo, duplicated facets of Curtis’ publicly available writings. Dutschke, of Tupelo, and Curtis, of nearby Corinth, had feuded for years.
The government affidavit says Dutschke had the means and the know-how to make the poison, and once bragged to an unidentified acquaintance of having “a secret knowledge” of “getting rid of people in the office.”
The day before Curtis was freed from jail last week, the affidavit says, investigators followed Dutschke to his martial arts studio, Tupelo Taekwondo Plus, where he grabbed a few things and tossed them in a trash bin 100 yards away.
After Dutschke left, agents checked the trash bin and found a coffee grinder, a dust mask and latex gloves — with the mask testing positive for ricin, according to the affidavit. Dutschke had originally said he hadn’t been to the studio since April 15, but when agents said they’d watched him go there on April 22, he changed his story, the affidavit says.
“Dutschke told agents that he had returned to the dojo only to remove a mop bucket, two pails and a fire extinguisher; he emphatically stated that he never stopped after leaving the dojo on his way to a pawn shop,” the affidavit said. “When he was confronted with being observed throwing items in a trash can, Dutschke attempted to change the subject, and he ended the interview.”
Officials say Dutschke’s old computer — which had been seized by local authorities for his prosecution in an apparently unrelated child-molestation case filed in January — contained a manual for ricin that had been downloaded from the Internet in December.
Dutschke’s new computer also showed signs of having its data scrubbed on April 22, the day officials said they saw him throw away the poison-making materials from the dojo, the affidavit says. Investigators later found more traces of ricin at the dojo, according to the affidavit.
Records showed Dutschke bought enough red castor beans from eBay in November and December to make the poison, the affidavit said.
Printed documents at Dutschke’s home also bore similar “trashmarks” as the poison-laced letters, a reference to the small flaws that printers leave on papers, the affidavit said.
In a statement, the FBI said Tuesday that it knew of no illnesses related to the tainted letters.
The source of the Dutschke-Curtis feud was unclear. They met in 2005 and initially were friendly.
Curtis, who worked at the local hospital, developed a theory a few years ago that doctors were harvesting organs to sell on the black market. He wrote a book about it called “Missing Pieces,” and wanted Dutschke to publish his writings in a local newsletter that Dutschke published. After some negotiations, Dutschke apparently refused.
Their feud also seemed to revolve around who was smarter. Dutschke was a member of Mensa, the club for people with high IQs. A few years ago, Curtis posted a fake Mensa certificate on his Facebook page, which sent Dutschke into a rage.
“I threatened to sue him for fraud for posting a Mensa certificate that is a lie,” Dutschke told Tupelo’s newspaper, the Daily Journal. “That certificate is a lie.”
If convicted of the ricin-related charges, Dutschke could face life in prison. He was being held without bail.
Pearce reported from Los Angeles. Times staff writer Matthew Teague in Mississippi contributed to this report.
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