By HOLBROOK MOHR
Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department deputies finish inspecting a home and property in the Ozark community, northeast of Tupelo, Miss., Thursday, April 25, 2013. The officers were looking for Everett Dutschke, a person of interest in connection with the investigation into the recent ricin-laced letters mailed to President Barack Obama and others. No charges have been filed against Dutschke and he hasn’t been arrested. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
SALTILLO, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi man whose home and business were searched as part of an investigation into poisoned letters sent to the president and others has dropped out of sight in order to escape the news media spotlight, but is cooperating with authorities, a friend and his attorney said.
Everett Dutschke, 45, had his home and former business in Tupelo, Miss., searched in connection with the letters, which allegedly contained ricin. They were sent last week to President Barack Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and earlier to an 80-year-old Mississippi judge, Sadie Holland.
Charges were initially filed against an Elvis impersonator but then dropped. Attention then turned to Dutschke, who has ties to the former suspect and the judge and senator.
Dutschke (pronounced DUHS’-kee), who previously had kept in touch with reporters from The Associated Press, did not answer or return calls to his cellphone Thursday, a day investigators spent searching a different home where he had spent time a day earlier about 20 miles from Tupelo.
He just needed to get away from all the news media attention, his friend Kirk Kitchens told the AP. “I just helped him get out of the spotlight,” Kitchens said at his home in nearby Saltillo.
Kitchens said he and Dutschke stayed at a home for a while Wednesday before slipping out through the woods to rendezvous with someone who drove Dutschke elsewhere.
Earlier in the week, as investigators searched his primary residence in Tupelo, Dutschke had remarked to reporters, “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”
Dutschke has not been arrested or charged in the letters case. The FBI has said nothing about the building searches or Thursday’s developments. Dutschke’s lawyer, Lori Nail Basham, said there is no arrest warrant for her client, who she said continues to cooperate with investigators.
Investigators spent much of the day Thursday investigating the second home as a plane circled overhead. Earlier in the day, Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson said agents told him Dutschke had been under surveillance, but authorities weren’t sure where he had gone.
The case has taken a couple of twists and turns since charges were initially filed last week against Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, an Elvis impersonator, but then dropped after authorities said they had discovered new information. Curtis’ lawyers say he was framed. Attention then turned to Dutschke, who has ties to the former suspect and the judge and senator.
Hal Neilson, another attorney for Curtis, said the defense gave authorities a list of people who may have had a reason to hurt Curtis, and Dutschke’s name came up. He said prosecutors “took it and ran with it.”
Dutschke and Curtis were acquainted. Curtis said they had talked about possibly publishing a book on an alleged conspiracy to sell body parts on a black market. But he claimed they later had a feud.
Judge Holland is a common link between two men who have been investigated and both know Wicker.
Holland was the presiding judge in a case in which Curtis was accused of assaulting a Tupelo attorney in 2004. Holland sentenced him to six months in the county jail. He served only part of the sentence, according to his brother.
Holland’s family has had political skirmishes with Dutschke in the past.
Her son, Steve Holland, a Democratic state representative, said he believes his mother’s only other encounter with Dutschke was at a rally in the town of Verona in 2007, when Dutschke ran as a Republican against Steve Holland.
Holland said his mother confronted Dutschke after he made a derogatory speech about the Holland family. She demanded that he apologize, which Holland says he did.
Steve Holland said he doesn’t know if his mother remembers Curtis’ assault case.
Associated Press writers Emily Wagster Pettus and Jeff Amy in Jackson, Miss., contributed to this report.