Mississippi Man Charged in Poisoned Letters Case

BRANDON, Miss. (AP) -

The arrest of a 41-year-old Mississippi martial arts instructor in a case of poison-laced letters sent to President Barack Obama and others capped a week in which investigators initially zeroed in on a rival of James Everett Dutschke, then decided they had the wrong man.

Federal authorities arrested Dutschke early Saturday at his home in Tupelo. He was charged with “knowingly developing, producing, stockpiling, transferring, acquiring, retaining and possessing a biological agent, toxin and delivery system, for use as a weapon, to wit: ricin.”

U.S. attorney Felicia Adams and Daniel McMullen, the FBI agent in charge in Mississippi, made the announcement in a news release. Dutschke is expected to appear Monday in U.S. District Court in Oxford.

Dutschke’s house, business and vehicles in Tupelo were searched earlier in the week, often by crews in hazardous materials suits. He also had come under surveillance.

Dutschke’s attorney, Lori Nail Basham, said she had no comment. Earlier this week she said that Dutschke was cooperating fully with investigators, and Dutschke has insisted he had nothing to do with the letters. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.

The letters, which tests showed were tainted with ricin, were sent April 8 to Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and a Mississippi judge, Sadie Holland.

Wicker spokesman Ryan Taylor said since the investigation was ongoing, the senator couldn’t comment.

Charges in the case had initially been filed against 45-year-old Paul Kevin Curtis, and then dropped.

Curtis’s attorney, Christi McCoy, said Saturday: “We are relieved but also saddened. This crime is nothing short of diabolical. I have seen a lot of meanness in the past two decades, but this stops me in my tracks.”