OXFORD, MISS — 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 Obama, a U.S. senator 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 were 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, where he grabbed a few things and tossed them in a trash bin 100 yards away.
After Dutschke left, agents checked the 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 a week later, 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 pawnshop,” the affidavit says.
“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, 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 April 22, the day officials said they saw him throw away the poison-making materials from the studio, the affidavit says. Investigators later found more traces of ricin at the studio, according to the affidavit.
Records also showed Dutschke bought enough red castor beans from EBay in November and December to make the poison, the affidavit says.
Printed documents at Dutschke’s home also bore “trashmarks” similar to those on the poison-laced letters, a reference to the small flaws that printers leave on papers, the affidavit says.
If convicted, Dutschke could face life in prison. He was being held without bail.
In a statement, the FBI said Tuesday that it knew of no illnesses related to the tainted letters.