The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

April 24, 2013

Mississippi men's feud looms over ricin probe

— OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — The investigation into poisoned letters mailed to President Barack Obama and others has shifted from an Elvis impersonator to his longtime foe, and authorities must now figure out if an online feud between the two men might have escalated into something more sinister.

Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, was released from a north Mississippi jail on Tuesday and charges against him 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 an 80-year-old Lee County, Miss., Justice Court judge, Sadie Holland.

Before Curtis left jail, authorities had already descended on the home of 41-year-old Everett Dutschke in Tupelo, a northeast Mississippi town best known as the birthplace of the King himself. On Wednesday, they searched the site of a Tupelo martial arts studio once operated by Dutschke, who hasn't been arrested or charged.

Wednesday evening, hazmat teams packed up and left Dutschke's business. He was at the scene at times during the day. A woman drove off in a green Dodge Caravan parked on the street that had been searched. Daniel McMullen, FBI special agent in charge in Mississippi, declined to speak with reporters afterward.

Dutschke's attorney, Lori Nail Basham, said he is "cooperating fully" with investigators and that no arrest warrant had been issued.

After being released from jail Tuesday, Curtis, who performs as Elvis and other celebrities, described a bizarre, yearslong feud between the two, but Dutschke insisted he had nothing to do with the letters. They 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 against Curtis, and his lawyers say they're not sure what new evidence the FBI has found.

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