OXFORD, Miss. – Authorities investigating poisoned letters mailed to President Obama and others searched Wednesday at a martial arts studio once operated by the longtime foe of the original suspect.
The former co-workers traded allegations of online misdeeds, but each disavowed sending the letters – one of which went to a local judge they both had reason to dislike.
Everett Dutschke, 41, who hasn’t been arrested or charged, was at the scene at times Wednesday while hazmat teams searched the Tupelo business. The day before, authorities searched his home as Paul Kevin Curtis was getting ready to be released from jail
Charges against Curtis, 45, were dropped nearly a week after authorities charged him with sending ricin-laced letters to the president, Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and 80-year-old Sadie Holland, judge of the Lee County (Miss.) Justice Court.
The poisoned letters contained language identical to that found on Curtis’ Facebook page and other websites, making him an early suspect. Federal authorities have not said what led them to drop the charges.
After being released from jail Tuesday, Curtis, who performs as Elvis and other celebrities, described a bizarre, yearslong feud between the two.
He said he’s not sure exactly what led to the bad blood. It involves the men’s time working together, a broken promise to help with a book by Curtis and an acrimonious exchange of emails, according to Curtis.
The two worked together at Curtis’ brother’s insurance office years ago, Curtis said. He said Dutschke told him he owned a newspaper and showed interest in publishing his book called Missing Pieces, about what Curtis considers an underground market to sell body parts.
But Dutschke decided not to publish the material, Curtis alleged, and later began stalking Curtis on the Internet.
For his part, Dutschke said he didn’t even know Curtis that well.
Last time we had any contact with each other was at some point in 2010 when I threatened to sue him for fraud for posting a Mensa certificate that is a lie. He is not a Mensa member. That certificate is a lie.
Curtis acknowledges posting a fake Mensa certificate on Facebook but says it was an online trap set up for Dutschke because he believed Dutschke was stalking him online. He knew Dutschke also claimed to be a member of the organization for people with high IQs. Dutschke had a Mensa email address during a legislative campaign he mounted in 2007.
Dutschke started a campaign to prove him a liar, Curtis said, and allegedly harassed him through emails and social networking.
Both men say they have met Wicker, and they each have a connection to Holland. Authorities say the letters were mailed April 8, but the one sent to Holland was the only one to make it into the hands of an intended target.
Her son, Democratic state Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville, said his mother did a smell test of the envelope and a substance in it irritated her nose. The judge was not sickened by what authorities say was a crude form of the poison, which is derived from castor beans.
She was presiding judge in a case in which Curtis was accused of assaulting a Tupelo attorney in 2003. Holland sentenced Curtis to six months in the county jail. He served only part of the sentence, his brother said.
Running as a Republican, Dutschke lost a lopsided election to Steve Holland in 2007, and observers say the judge publicly chastised Dutschke at a political rally that year.