A Texas woman who intends to plead guilty to sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg agreed to a deal that caps any prison sentence at 18 years, her attorney said.
TUPELO, Mississippi - Law enforcement officials searched the home of a second Mississippi man implicated in the mailing of ricin poison-laced letters to the president and a U.S. senator after charges were dropped without explanation against the man arrested in the case last week.
Everett Dutschke, whose Tupelo home was searched Tuesday by dozens of officials, some in hazmat suits, had feuded with Paul Kevin Curtis, a 45-year-old celebrity impersonator who has said since his arrest that he had nothing to do with the case.
The search began early Tuesday afternoon. At about 8:30 p.m., two FBI agents and two members of the state's chemical response team left his property and began combing through ditches, culverts and woods about a block away from his house in the neighborhood of single-family detached homes.
The search ended at about 11 p.m., with officials declining to comment on what they had found or on the next phase of the investigation.
No charges have been filed against Dutschke and he hasn't been arrested. Both he and Curtis, who had faced charges in the case, say they have no idea how to make the poisonous ricin and had nothing to do with sending them to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and a state judge.
Referring to investigators' questions for him about the case, Curtis said after he was released from custody Tuesday afternoon, "I thought they said rice and I said, `I don't even eat rice."'
"I respect President Obama. I love my country and would never do anything to pose a threat to him or any other U.S. official," Curtis told reporters.
A one-sentence document filed by federal prosecutors said charges against Curtis were dropped, but left open the possibility they could be re-instated if prosecutors found more to prove their case. Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.
The dismissal is the latest twist in a case that has been strange from the beginning and rattled the country during the same week as the Boston Marathon bombing and the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.
Curtis was already well-known to Wicker because he had written to the Republican senator and other officials. Curtis also wrote a novel called "Missing Pieces," about black-market body parts he claimed to have found while working at a hospital -- a claim the hospital says is untrue. Curtis posted similar language on his Facebook page and elsewhere. The documents indicate Curtis had been distrustful of the government for years.
He told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he realizes his writings made him an easy target.
The two men investigated by the FBI are not strangers. Dutschke said the two had a disagreement and the last contact they had was in 2010. Dutschke said he threatened to sue Curtis for saying he was a member of Mensa, a group for people with high IQs.
Since Curtis' arrest at his Corinth, Mississippi, home on April 17, his attorneys have said their client didn't do it and suggested he was framed. An FBI agent testified in court this week that no evidence of ricin was found in searches of Curtis' home.
Dutschke said in a phone interview with the AP that the FBI was at his home for the search connected to the mailings. Dutschke said his house was also searched last week.
"I don't know how much more of this I can take," Dutschke said just before 7 p.m. as investigators continued to comb his house.
Hal Neilson, an attorney for Curtis, said the defense gave authorities a list of people who may have had a reason to hurt Curtis.
"Dutschke came up," he said. "They (prosecutors) took it and ran with it. I could not tell you if he's the man or he's not the man, but there was something there they wanted to look into."
An FBI intelligence bulletin obtained by the AP said the two letters to Obama and Wicker said: "To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance." Both were signed, "I am KC and I approve this message."
Multiple online posts under the name Kevin Curtis on various websites that could be seen by anyone refer to the conspiracy he claimed to uncover when working at a local hospital from 1998 to 2000. In one post, Curtis said he sent letters to Wicker and other politicians. He signed off: "This is Kevin Curtis & I approve this message."
Christi McCoy, another attorney for Curtis, said she doesn't know what new information prosecutors have and that the plot to frame her client was "very, very diabolical."
Curtis, dressed in a black suit, red shirt, necktie and sunglasses, said he met Dutschke in 2005 but that for some reason Dutschke "hated" and "stalked" him. "To this day I have no clue of why he hates me."
Dutschke has maintained his innocence and said he doesn't know anything about the ingredients for ricin. Ricin
is derived from the castor plant that makes castor oil. There is no antidote and it is at its deadliest when inhaled. It can be aerosolized, released into the air and inhaled. The Homeland Security handbook says the amount of ricin that fits on the head of a pin is enough to kill an adult if properly prepared.
Dutschke said agents asked him about Curtis, whether Dutschke would take a lie-detector test and if he had ever bought castor beans, which can be used to make the potent poison.
"I'm a patriotic American. I don't have any grudges against anybody. I did not send the letters," said Dutschke, who was a Republican candidate for the Mississippi House of Representatives in 2007 but lost.
After charges were dropped against Curtis, he said: "I'm a little shocked."
Dutschke said his attorney wasn't with him and he didn't know whether he was going to be arrested.
Tuesday's events began when the third day of a preliminary and detention hearing was cancelled without officials explaining the change. Within two hours, Curtis had been released, though it wasn't clear why at first.
FBI Agent Brandon Grant said in court Monday that searches last week of Curtis' vehicle and house in Corinth, found no ricin, ingredients for the poison, or devices used to make it. A search of Curtis' computers found no evidence he researched making ricin. Authorities produced no other physical evidence at the hearings tying Curtis to the letters.
All the envelopes and stamps were self-adhesive, Grant said Monday, meaning they won't yield DNA evidence. One fingerprint was found on the letter sent to a Lee County judge, but the FBI doesn't know who it belongs to, Grant said.
The experience, Curtis said, has been a nightmare for his family. He has four children -- ages, 8, 16, 18 and 20. It also has made him reflect deeply on his life.
"I've become closer to God through all this, closer with my children and I've even had some strained relationships with some family and cousins and this has brought us closer as a family," he said.
A Texas woman was indicted Friday on charges that she sent threatening, ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in an attempt to frame her estranged husband.
A pregnant Texas actress who told FBI agents her husband had sent ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was charged Friday with threatening the president.
A federal grand jury has indicted a Mississippi man suspected of sending poison-laced letters to President Barack Obama and other officials, according to an indictment made public Monday.
Two threatening letters containing traces of the deadly poison ricin were sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York and his gun-control group in Washington, police said Wednesday.
Authorities in hazardous materials suits searched a downtown Spokane apartment Saturday, investigating the recent discovery of a pair of letters containing the deadly poison ricin.
A court filing says charges have been dropped against a Mississippi man accused of sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and others.
The man charged with mailing letters with suspected ricin to the president and others was surprised by his arrest and maintains he is innocent, according to his attorney.
A Mississippi man accused of mailing letters to national leaders with suspected poisonous ricin believed he had uncovered a conspiracy to sell human body parts on the black market.
The U.S. Secret Service says it has intercepted a letter addressed to President Barack Obama that contained a "suspicious substance."