Federal Agents Target Mississippi Man in Ricin Probe

JACKSON, Mississippi (Reuters) -

Federal law enforcement agencies investigating ricin-laced letters sent to President Barack Obama and other officials broadened their search for clues on Wednesday by targeting the former business of a Mississippi martial arts instructor.

Members of an anti-terrorist response team from the Mississippi National Guard wearing hazmat suits had already searched the Tupelo home of Everett Dutschke on Tuesday, accompanied by agents from the FBI and the U.S. Capitol Police, according to law enforcement sources and Dutschke’s attorney, Lori Nail Basham.

Federal agents moved their search to the premises of a former martial arts studio Dutschke ran in Tupelo on Wednesday morning, Basham said.

U.S. prosecutors dropped charges on Tuesday against another Mississippi man, Paul Kevin Curtis, who was released from jail after a search of his home in nearby Corinth revealed no incriminating evidence.

Prosecutors said the “ongoing investigation has revealed new information,” but provided no additional details.

Dutschke was cooperating with federal officials, according to Basham.

Deborah Madden, an FBI spokeswoman in Jackson, Mississippi, declined to comment.

In 2007, Dutschke ran unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate against Stephen Holland, an incumbent Democratic state representative from the Tupelo area. Holland’s mother, Sadie, is the judge to whom one of the ricin-tainted letters was mailed this month.

The ricin letters were intercepted by authorities before they reached their destinations. The poison scare put Washington on edge during the same week the Boston Marathon bombing occurred.