x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Mississippi man charged in ricin-laced letters case

Federal authorities have arrested a martial arts instructor for sending poison-laced letters to Barack Obama and other US officials after almost first pinning the blame on his rival.

BRANDON, UNITED STATES // Federal authorities have arrested a martial arts instructor for sending poison-laced letters to Barack Obama and other US officials after almost first pinning the blame on his rival.

James Everett Dutschke, 41, was arrested on Saturday at his home in Tupelo, Mississippi. He was charged with "knowingly developing, producing, stockpiling, transferring, acquiring, retaining and possessing a biological agent, toxin and delivery system, for use as a weapon, to wit: ricin".

Mr Dutschke was expected to appear in US district court today.

The hunt for a suspect revealed tie after small-town tie between the two men and Sadie Holland, 80, a judge who, along with the US president and the US senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, was a target of the letters.

The letters, which tests showed were tainted with ricin, were sent on April 8.

Charges in the case were initially filed against a 45-year-old Elvis Presley impersonator, Paul Kevin Curtis, and then dropped.

Mr Curtis was arrested on April 17 at his Corinth, Mississippi, home, but the charges were dropped six days later and Mr Curtis, who said he was framed, was released from jail.

The focus then turned to Mr Dutschke, who had ties to the former suspect, the judge and the senator. As investigators searched his home in Tupelo last week, Mr Dutschke said: "I don't know how much more of this I can take.

"I'm a patriotic American. I don't have any grudges against anybody ... I did not send the letters."

Some of the language in the letters was similar to posts on Mr Curtis's Facebook page and they were signed, "I am KC and I approve this message". Mr Curtis's sign-off online was often similar.

Mr Dutschke and Mr Curtis were acquainted. Mr Curtis said they had talked about possibly publishing a book on a conspiracy that Mr Curtis insists he has uncovered to sell body parts on a black market.

But he said they later had a feud.

Ms Holland also was a common link between the two men, and both know Mr Wicker.

Ms Holland was the presiding judge in a 2004 case in which Mr Curtis was accused of assaulting a Tupelo attorney a year earlier. Ms Holland sentenced him to six months in county jail. He served only part of the sentence, according to his brother.