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Prosecutors drop charges against ricin suspect, filing confirms

April 23, 2013|By Matt Pearce
  • Paul Kevin Curtis, left, had been in custody under suspicion of sending ricin-laced letters to President Obama. The charges were dismissed without prejudice.
Paul Kevin Curtis, left, had been in custody under suspicion of sending… (Bruce Newman / Associated…)

Officials have dropped charges against the Elvis impersonator accused of mailing ricin-laced letters to President Obama, a U.S. senator and a Mississippi judge, according to a court filing Tuesday.

Poisoning suspect Paul Kevin Curtis of Corinth, Miss., was suddenly released on bond Tuesday in the middle of a series of preliminary evidentiary hearings that was put on hold. By afternoon, federal prosecutors had filed to drop the charges against him without prejudice. The filing stated "the ongoing investigation has revealed new information."

"I am gleeful about it," Curtis' father, Jack Curtis of Cleveland, Miss., told the Los Angeles Times in a phone interview. "You can’t imagine how I feel. I knew he was innocent the whole time of those charges against him.... I knew they were false and forged from the get-go. He’s been released and rightly so. They couldn’t find one scintilla of evidence against him."

Officials had a news conference scheduled for early Tuesday evening, and Curtis' whereabouts were unknown.

"The FBI said they didn’t want anybody to know where he was," Jack Curtis said.

Officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation had suspected Curtis, a part-time Elvis impersonator, of mailing three letters filled with ricin to President Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Lee County, Miss., Judge Sadie Holland in the days after the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15.

But in a preliminary hearing after his arrest, FBI officials said they had not discovered evidence of ricin or ricin-making materials at Curtis' home, nor did they find evidence he'd searched for ricin over the Internet.

His attorney insisted he was innocent, telling the Los Angeles Times on Monday evening that investigators had failed to find any evidence against Curtis beyond writings in the letters that were similar to posts Curtis had made on publicly available social media. His family said he'd been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but was harmless.

On Tuesday morning, a preliminary hearing was suddenly and mysteriously canceled. The U.S. attorney's office in Mississippi did not return calls seeking comment.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported that FBI officials and other investigators had descended on the home of J. Everett Dutschke on Canal Street in Tupelo on Tuesday. Dutschke reportedly came outside to tell reporters that the FBI was questioning him.

Calls to Dutschke went unanswered Tuesday afternoon.

In proceedings, Curtis' attorney had reportedly pointed to Dutschke, a former candidate for the Mississippi statehouse, as a possible suspect in the case. According to the Daily Journal, Christi McCoy said Dutschke had an email feud with Curtis, who had pestered public officials about a conspiracy theory involving organ harvesting.

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