Bizarre twist in ricin letter case
In a surprise move, authorities released Elvis impersonator Paul Curtis from custody, dropping all charges against him in the case connected with the ricin letters sent to President Obama and members of congress.
Mr. Curtis was apparently a victim of a set up.
Back in Tupelo, MS, FBI agents were searching a house belonging to a man that Curtis was fueding with. The man, James Everette Dutschke, was arrested in January on charges of child molestation. The two men have apparently been quarreling for years.
The case bears some resemblance to the FBI's pursuit of scientist Steven J. Hatfill, who was investigated for nearly five years in connection with deadly anthrax mailings in 2001. The former bioweapons researcher was not formally cleared by prosecutors until 2008, after the death of another man, bacteriologist Bruce E. Ivins, who had become the leading suspect before he succumbed to a drug overdose.
Curtis is known for detailed Internet diatribes, his long-held conspiracy theory about underground trafficking in human body parts -- which he has turned into a novel-in-progress called "Missing Pieces" -- and his work as an Elvis impersonator. The Corinth, Miss., man has been arrested four times since 2000 on charges that include cyber-harassment.
Dutschke, 41, a martial arts instructor, was charged in January with two counts of child molestation, according to the Lee County Courier, and later released on bail. He was previously convicted of indecent exposure, according to numerous media accounts. He could not be reached at his home or martial arts studio on Tuesday.
At the news conference, Curtis said he and Dutschke had a falling-out and described e-mail exchanges between them that culminated in his challenge to meet Dutschke for a fight that never occurred. "Where his anger and hate started from, I don't know," Curtis said of Dutschke.
Dutschke acknowledged his conflict with Curtis and told the Associated Press that their last contact was in 2010, when Dutschke threatened to sue Curtis for saying that he was a member of Mensa, a group for people with high IQs. Dutschke ran unsuccessfully for the Mississippi House of Representatives in 2007.
Neither man is bringing a full deck to the table.
The key to the arrest of Curtis was the ricin letters mentioning his pet conspiracy theory about a "black market" for body parts. No doubt Dutschke would have been well aware of Curtis' beliefs. But since his views were spread all over the internet, it makes you wonder if authorities are really focusing on the right suspect after all. Neither of these two men appear capable of turning castor beans into ricin, which is a multi-step process that would take some skill to complete. Might someone else - another believer in the "body parts" conspiracy - be the guilty one?
This case may get even more bizarre as it unfolds.