By Matt Pearce
10:00 AM EDT, May 31, 2013
As federal officials plunged into yet another investigation over ricin-laced letters sent to public officials, court documents reveal peculiarities about another recent poison-by-mail case.
James Everett Dutschke, 41, a taekwondo instructor, remains jailed in Lafayette County, Miss., while facing federal charges of manufacturing the poison ricin. He has previously stated his innocence and is reportedly awaiting the findings of grand jury; his attorney could not be reached for comment.
Officials suspect that Dutschke framed a local rival -- an Elvis impersonator -- by mailing forged letters laced with ricin to President Obama, a U.S. senator and a local judge.
Dutchske's case, and its odd cast of characters, puzzled and captivated the nation. New details in federal court documents that have been filed since the case faded from view show the strange turn of events that ultimately led to Dutschke's arrest, after prosecutors initially implicated and then dropped charges against his rival, Paul Kevin Curtis.
On April 22, as prosecutors were holding a hearing over whether there was enough evidence to charge Curtis with making ricin -- none had been found in his home -- Federal Bureau of Investigation officials were already following Dutschke.
An FBI mobile surveillance team tracked Dutschke as he left his taekwondo studio in Tupelo, Miss., and watched as he threw away gloves, a dust mask and a coffee grinder that could have been used to make ricin from castor beans, according to court documents.
The next day, April 23, officials searched his home, saying later that Dutschke lied to them about visiting his studio, and Curtis was released from jail.
Then things started to get weird.
On April 24, at 3:30 a.m., Dutschke and a woman identified in a warrant as his wife, Janet A. Cayson, left their home in Tupelo in a green van. "Surveillance teams followed the van to two different banks, where they appeared to be retrieving money from an ATM machine," a federal warrant said. (Cayson couldn't be reached for comment.)
When the couple got home, according to the warrant, Dutschke "waved at the mobile surveillance team."
Concerned that they'd been spotted, investigators moved their vehicles and lost track of Dutschke and his van, according to court documents.
For the next 12 hours, Dutschke could not be found.
In the afternoon of April 24, Dutschke and his van reappeared at his taekwondo studio, but he wasn't done perplexing investigators, who discovered that day that he'd previously bought castor beans over eBay, according to court records.
At 8 p.m. outside the studio, Dutschke "entered an acquaintance's truck and crouched down in the rear seat of the truck and was covered by blankets," investigators said in a warrant.
"The aquaintance and Dutschke appeared to attempt to elude law enforcement," the warrant continued. The warrant does not specify if authorities followed the truck but added, "The two individuals took an evasive route, taking two hours to drive the approximately 22 miles from Tupelo to Mantachie, Miss."
Investigators then saw Dutschke walk into a house 10 p.m. -- and never walk out.
His acquaintance, Kirk Kitchens, later told local media that the pair entered, turned on the TV, left through a back door and beat a trail toward a waiting car. Kitchens told the AP that he was helping Dutschke escape the media, not the cops.
Mysteriously, Dutschke reappeared almost 16 hours later -- and 70 miles away -- in Ashland, Miss., on the afternoon of April 25.
"The manner in which he arrived" in Ashland, investigators dryly noted, "is unknown."
Also unknown is what Dutschke was doing there. But by that evening, he was back in Tupelo and pulled into the driveway of his home.
The next day, on April 26, federal prosecutors filed charges against Dutschke on suspicion of making the poison letters. They'd found traces of ricin at his studio, court documents say.
Dutchske was arrested April 27. Investigators found him at home.
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